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Weed Ed | For High-er! - Growing medical ganja industry recruiting top talent

Published:Monday | January 14, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Cannabis business and marijuana industry concept as the shadow of a dollar sign on a group of leaves in a 3D illustration style.
Murray Powell

Jamaica's employment rate has had a slight increase over the past few years, spurred by the booming business process outsourcing sector. But another growing sector has quietly been creating new career opportunities - and you don't have to come in contact with the plant to work in the medical ganja industry.

"As the industry matures, there will be more reliance on quality and standards, and there will be ancillary opportunities for accountants, marketers, physicians, IT specialists, and lawyers," said Scheril Murray Powell, an attorney and cannabis entrepreneur.

The in-demand plant-touching roles include processing manager, master grower, cultivators, and bud tenders. Given the technical nature around today's marijuana cultivation and processing, prospective employees with a science background have an edge in securing employment.

"Companies are looking for growers with an applied science background," said Dr Machel Emanuel, horticulturalist and principal investigator at the Life Science Cannabis Research Group at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

"Today's marijuana-growing style is different from traditional farming. You need that technical expertise."

He added: "Biotechnologists are also in demand for the extraction process, and analytical chemists are needed to do chemical profiling."




The increasing career opportunities are a global trend. United States-based research firm New Frontier Data say that by 2020, the industry is expected to create 250,000 new jobs, while jobs in other sectors such as manufacturing and government will be on the decline in that country. also reported a 445 per cent increase in marijuana business job posts in 2017, and average salaries in the industry grew 16.8 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

The marijuana industry is also creating an ecosystem with increased commercial activity. Ancillary businesses such as surveillance technology, security, and greenhouse developers have all benefited from the regulated industry.

A local ganja company can easily spend upwards of $1 million per month for 24-hour guard service to meet regulatory requirements. Twenty-four-hour CCTV surveillance is another regulatory mandate that runs ganja businesses millions in installation costs.

There has also been an emergence of local consultancy companies offering their services to navigate the tedious application process on behalf of investors.

"It also creates a whole new area of medicine for physicians to recommend cannabis treatment," Murray Powell added.

"This drives revenue for recommending physicians as they are going to see the patient several times for the year compared to once a year for an annual check-up."

While employment opportunities are great, Murray Powell said it is also important for Jamaicans to pursue entrepreneurship. That's exactly what she did when she formed Canna Head Hunters, an employment-recruitment firm for cannabis businesses, as well as Green Sustainable Strong, an agriculture and cannabis consulting firm.

"It's very important to pursue the entrepreneurial opportunities, otherwise all we have is a plantation-type industry," Murray Powell pointed out.

As the local marijuana industry takes shape and the pieces fall into place, Murray Powell had this advice for companies currently recruiting talent.

"This industry was built on the backs of activists, patients, and Rastafari, and those persons should be incorporated in your staffing plans. It will keep you accountable and grounded," she said.

"We got to have respect for the plant and the early pioneers. It also makes good moral and business sense, and it reflects your organisation's diversity.If you focus on just the commercial aspect, then you are being short-sighted."