Ontario plans to have 150 publicly owned marijuana stores open across the province by 2020. They’ll be staffed by people with what provincial employees’ union chief Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas calls “good union jobs.” (Hourly wages for Ontario liquor store workers top out at over $27 an hour.)
And, as chance would have it, part of the province’s work force with years of experience in selling marijuana is about to come on the job market, as a promised shutdown of semi-tolerated dispensaries takes place.
The problem, of course, is that dispensary workers’ experience with pot wasn’t acquired legally, which places them in a strange dilemma.
The more law-abiding you’ve been with marijuana, the less you’re likely to know about the product you’re hoping to be hired to sell, and the more you know about it, the less law-abiding you’re likely to have been.
“They are going to say ‘Why do you know this product so well?,’” says Toronto lawyer Paul Lewin, who specializes in marijuana cases. “Because it’s only being legalized now, it’s very difficult to discuss this product without admitting criminal activity.”
To complicate things further, many dispensary workers have been arrested in police raids since a crackdown began in mid-2016.
“When you consider that there have been over 250 raids that have happened since last May, since Project Claudia, there have been a lot of these young people with criminal records,” says Jenna Valleriani, a University of Toronto graduate student who studies dispensaries.
Much depends, then, on how tolerant Ontario’s liquor store bureaucracy decides to be about the fact that many people who will want to sell marijuana legally in the future have experience selling it illegally in the past, and that in some cases that’s led to entanglement with the criminal justice system. (Dispensary workers have found themselves facing charges including possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of property obtained by crime.)
In most fields, if your job interview starts spending time on your plea deal for possession of property obtained by crime, things aren’t going well.