Canada’s cannabis industry is experiencing a labor shortage. In the five years since there has been a large-scale legal market for medical cannabis, and the October 2018 legalization of adult-use sales, companies have had trouble finding candidates who can deal with the sometimes punishing and difficult conditions required in large-scale greenhouse labor.
Temporary foreign workers can be drawn from select countries that have made agreements with the Canadian government, including: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Mexico, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Temporary foreign workers from participating countries can work only for a maximum period of eight months, between January 1 and December 15, provided they are able to offer the workers a minimum of 240 hours of work within a period of six weeks or less.
One Ontario licensed producer, Aphria, with a large greenhouse facility in Leamington is doing just that. According to a Dec. 2, 2018, report in Bloomberg, the SAWP allowed Aphria to hire about 50 temporary workers from the Caribbean and Guatemala with plans to bring in up to 100 more.
In 2018, Aphria had to dispose of almost 14,000 cannabis plants during the summer fiscal quarter because they weren’t harvested in time, costing the business nearly $1 million in lost product. Since then, the company has doubled the staff at its Aphria One greenhouse using the SAWP and local hires.
Cannabis is not listed as one of the SAWP’s currently approved industries, however, there is a broad reference to “greenhouse” workers, which is likely where Canadian cannabis is finding its footing in the program.