Clocking in with Cannabis at Work’s Alison McMahon
One of the leading human resource professionals in Canadian cannabis, Alison McMahon founded Cannabis at Work with hopes of helping bridge the industry’s education gap. In the three years since she set out with that earnest goal, her role in cannabis has grown, like the sector around her, to include both a medical and recreational arm. In addition to educating employers about workplace impairment, Cannabis at Work is quickly becoming a top staffing agency for the Canadian cannabis industry.
What first drew you to the cannabis space?
I may be different than most human resource practitioners, in that I’m also an entrepreneur. Being presented with an HR challenge in cannabis legalization, it was definitely something that was interesting to me, and compelling to dig into, because it wasn’t the same old, same old. Having a career in human resources can, frankly, get a little bit routine.
Can you define Cannabis at Work’s primary role?
We started out educating employers in Canada, generally, about cannabis – their main concern being workplace impairment and how to manage it. That took the form of online courses, on-site training, conferences, and drug-and-alcohol-policy consulting, which remains a line of business for us today.
Did most of that initial work centre on medical cannabis?
We started our business largely around the conversation of medical cannabis. Employers are beginning to deal with the subject more and more today. So we really try to help employers understand a bit of the science behind cannabis, in terms of how people are using it for medicine and that there’s some legitimacy behind that, and then help develop their internal process, so that they can properly deal with medical cannabis disclosures.
Is that discourse particularly important in Alberta?
A lot of employers in safety-sensitive sectors – some of the oil and gas companies – they want to tow a pretty hard line against cannabis. They tend to take a zero-tolerance perspective to the issue. What we’re trying to do, in terms of bridging that education gap, is bringing a more balanced perspective to the table by educating people about the fundamentals of cannabis, and what impairment truly means.
How has Cannabis at Work’s mandate evolved since you founded the company?
As someone with a background in human resources, starting the business with a medical focus made sense, because of my expertise and the demand that I saw. But there was always an eye to the future, and we wanted to help with everything related to cannabis and work. Once we had a date set for legalization, we launched the staffing division last spring, and that side of our business is responsible, specifically, for finding staffing for the Canadian cannabis industry.
As Canada readies to welcome cannabis reform, what are the most exciting prospects for Cannabis at Work?
Over time, we’re going to figure out the workplace impairment piece a little bit, and employers are going to start to realize that the sky hasn’t fallen with cannabis legalization. What we’re really excited about, when we look a couple of years down the road, is the ongoing growth in the Canadian industry on the job creation side, and internationally.
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