To find out where this past weekend’s Marijuana Job Fair was being held, you had to text a guy—because of course you did.
The crowd lined up outside 15 Mercer Street in Toronto’s Entertainment District early Sunday afternoon suggested hundreds had done so in hopes of landing a job in an industry poised for growth, as pot legalization—part of the Liberals’ platform in the last federal election—eventually approaches.
Inside, anyone expecting kiosks and brochures would have been disappointed. Although if the absence of resumes in the hands of attendees and the smell of pot wafting down the street were any indication, it’s doubtful many were upset by the laid-back setup.
Rather than a conventional job fair, Chris—founder of the Marijuana Information Bureau, a weed dispensary, who didn’t want his surname published—threw a stand-up show at comedy club Second City, where he also revealed details about his new business venture: Og Gog Magog Cannabaristas Inc.
For a little over three years, the Marijuana Information Bureau has been hosting pot-themed events including marijuana go-kart tournaments, movie nights, and bowling sessions. But now, foreseeing a seismic shift in the drug trade as a result of legalization, Chris is putting together a cadre of independent contractors he calls “marijuana brokers” or “cannabaristas.” The goal is to make sure the government doesn’t monopolize weed sales when the substance hits retail.
“If you want to try and get rid of the black market then you are going to have to integrate the black market and allow them to become legalized, ’cause they’re not going anywhere,” says Chris, wearing one of the green Toronto Marijuana Leafs jerseys he’s made up for the event. “They were there when it was illegal, you think they’re going away when it’s legal?”
Chris takes issue with plans to sell marijuana out of the province’s LCBO locations, an idea Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne floated late last year. “It should really be jobs that’s created—not more government jobs, but more private-sector jobs for people to pay their rent,” argues Chris. Job creation, he figures, is a way to gain political bargaining chips that will let him continue his dispensary operation, too. “I can easily go to the government and say, ‘I represent 100,000 people, what kind of bulk volume discounts do you have for group rates?” he adds.
Chris also notes that there’s strength in numbers—something he says the industry should use to its advantage. “It’s very simple. Having thousands of people that are working and making a living is a lot tougher to be able to stop, just like Uber,” he adds during his presentation at Second City.
Hence the job fair, during which Chris pitched attendees, many of whom are already involved with his Marijuana Information Bureau, on his budding business after they rummaged through the surrounding area on an Easter egg hunt (colourful eggs could be redeemed for marijuana lollipops, candies, and edibles).
Chris sees parallels between marijuana legalization and the deregulation of the telecommunications and energy industries. “Lots of us got rich when the government deregulated natural gas, and then we all got richer when the government deregulated long distance, and there’s been nothing like this for 25 years,” he tells the nearly 300 in attendance Sunday. “There’s never been a gold mine worth getting into until this.”
The marijuana brokers, a title Chris favours over “bud-tenders,” will sign up clients for a monthly marijuana delivery, which arrives in a box filled with different weed strains: “Indicas, sativas, cheesus, hybrids, exotics—a real selection for people to be able to try out and see what works for them,” lists Chris. The packages are to be marketed innocuously as educational materials and will retail for $300 a pop. As with his current Marijuana Information Bureau, Chris plans to send Og Gog packages to clients via courier.
His dispensary, which Og Gog will replace, already counts more than 3,000 members among its ranks, but the new business model will share the wealth. “So, let’s say that you brought a client to our agency and they paid $300 every month to the agency. You would receive $30 every month that that person remained a client,” Chris explains.
On April 20, the company’s first downtown Toronto office will open, and soon, brokers—those who came Sunday have first dibs on these positions and will be contacted shortly—are to be given uniforms with badges and encouraged to start canvassing events like the Terry Fox Run, where medical marijuana users might be. “I just want people to approach people and not feel like, ‘Oh, I sell pot, I’m a drug dealer,” says Chris, who claims the majority of his current clients have a medical marijuana prescription. “It needs to be respectable and presentable so that people can dress up in a nice suit [and] tie, go to nice events, and give a business card with something on it that is legitimate,” he adds. “You’ll be like a real estate agent.”
Following the event, Nathaniel Hamilton, who came out after hearing about the fair from a friend, says he’s interested in the work, but adds, “I probably need to do a little more research.”
An insurance salesman by day, the flexibility of being a marijuana broker appeals to him. “It seems like something I would be able to do at my own pace,” he says.
Meanwhile, Nick, who buys weed from Chris’ dispensary service and didn’t want to divulge his surname either, wasn’t sold. “It seems like a pyramid scheme, to be honest,” he says.
“You can buy it and sell it for more yourself,” he says.