As legalization surges across North America, the DIY entrepreneurs and criminal networks that supplied weed during prohibition are slowly fading out. In their stead, massive, well-funded corporations are taking charge of the adult-use retail market.
Legally licensed cannabis producers “are highly entrepreneurial, which is to be expected, but they will need to quickly organize talent and apply the formality, rigor, and a lens for governance that established organizations do,” EY reports. The combined pressure of having to comply with strict regulations while brainstorming new business practices is convincing many weed startups to hire experienced executives from more established industries.
Adam Dean, founder and president of a Toronto-based executive search firm, is seeing competition for executive talent heat up on both sides of the border. In a recent op-ed for Barron's, Dean writes that the cannabis sector is trying to lure executives “from pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals; greenhouse growers; generic drug manufacturers; biotech companies; consumer packaged goods companies; and more” to take over the reins of this new industry.
Right now, Canada seems like the safest bet for an executive looking for a stable position in the weed world. Not only are Canadian cannabis firms free from the fear of federal prosecution, the country’s adult-use law gives these companies a number of benefits that American competitors cannot take advantage of. The US government strictly prohibits all financial institutions from servicing the cannabis sector, but Canadian firms are free to put their profits in a bank, get loans, and trade on the stock market. This unfettered access to banking has also been a boon to Canadian investment banks.
This is all likely to change radically if the US government were to finally legalize or decriminalize cannabis. Dean believes the security offered by federal legalization would inspire American businesses to poach executives from the other side of the border, “executives who, by then, will have had enough time in the industry to see the challenges, opportunities, and avoidable mistakes, making them invaluable to emerging US cannabis players.”
Cannabis banking reform in the US could also kick off a hiring wave, with US banks seeking out Canadian bankers with pot industry experience.
Countries outside North America are also beginning to recognize the value of cannabis reform. Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics predict that global spending on legal weed will hit $57 billion by 2027, and as more countries legalize medical or recreational marijuana, the competition for industry executives is expected to heat up exponentially.