‘It’s going to hurt’: Canada’s cannabis industry struggles to find footing in age of COVID-19

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Canada’s economy added 245,800 jobs in August but the cannabis industry remains on shaky ground.

The country’s cannabis product manufacturing sector lost one-third of its jobs from the beginning of the year, according to Statistics Canada, a reduction from 3,483 positions in January to 2,282 in June. The dismal numbers have been fuelled by substantial layoffs in the hard-hit industry, including the hundreds that were announced by Canopy Growth a few months ago. The company is reportedly bracing for another round of cuts.

“For a long time, Canopy has prioritized doing things first, but going forward, we’ll be focused on doing things the best in the markets and in the product formats that show the greatest promise,” said David Klein, CEO of the Smith Falls-based company.

The pain has been spread across the country as Aurora Cannabis was forced to shut down production sites and uproot its Mountain facility. “It’s going to hurt,” said Tim Hagen, mayor of the small town of Cremona. “A few people thought it may happen but didn’t think it’d happen this quickly.”

And earlier this year, Sundial Growers began trimming positions at its Olds plant that had grown dramatically along with the number of production rooms.

Those setbacks are particularly hard to absorb by smaller centres, which host most of the production in Alberta, said Nathan Mison, chairman of the Alberta Cannabis Council representing growers and retailers.

“This disproportionately falls on rural areas and when you’re talking about hundreds of jobs lost, that is very real,” said Mison.

In the last six months, he said, the province has shed as many as 1,700 cannabis industry jobs.

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