Contributed Former SunRype employees Stefan Sarachie (left) and David Lynn have moved into the cannabis industry.

Kelowna food workers make the switch to cannabis

Two employees from Sun-Rype are finding jobs in the pot industry

Those in the pharmaceutical, food, and alcohol industries may benefit from expanding their expertise to cannabis.

Norton Singhavon is the founder and CEO of GTEC Holdings, a Kelowna cannabis company that started in 2017.

He recently hired two former Sun-Rype employees, former CEO David Lynn who is now the senior chief operating officer for GTEC and Stefan Sarachie, director of quality assurance, who is the former food safety and regulatory affairs specialist.

Sarachie said the position at the cannabis company is a “huge risk” but it offers a new challenge.

He gets to build his position from the ground up, as there are no previous regulators who have defined how to regulate the industry.

Related: Legalizing cannabis a monumental shift

As more cannabis companies pop up around the Okanagan, Sarachie isn’t worried the market will become oversaturated, comparing cannabis with wine.

“Is there going to come a time where there’s too much wine being produced?” he asked.

Lynn expects not all the cannabis companies will survive.

“I think there’s going to be a shakeup in the industry, I don’t think a lot of them will be around five years from now,” he said. Canada has 105 licence producers representing 73 companies.

Lynn chose to work at GTEC to remain in Kelowna.

There’s a higher risk, but also a higher reward to work in the cannabis industry, he said.

With the increasing interest of cannabis in the Okanagan, Singhavon’s challenge has been finding individuals in the Okanagan that are fit for the jobs, especially for quality assurance positions.

“You don’t even know where you want to draw from,” he said.

He cold-called the two Sun-Rype employees after finding them on Indeed, a website which provides job listings.

He said there are three companies he can recruit from in the Okanagan for quality assurance positions.

Growers have been fairly easy to find, “but we kind of have to groom them moving from grey or black market moving to fill legalized framework,” he said.

He isn’t worried about market saturation, as the company sells medically on a nation-wide level.

“Because we’re based in Kelowna, we can sell medically across the country and we can supply to every province for recreational.”

However, recreational laws vary from province to province, which is a little concerning, he said.

If the province doesn’t execute an effective strategy, it won’t mitigate the black market, he said, using Ontario as an example as cannabis is completely government regulated.

B.C. has not rolled out its regulations.

The company produces 7,100 kilograms of cannabis a year, half of which is distributed to wholesalers and the other half is shipped to medical or retail locations, he said.

Health Canada has developed regulations on the production side and public safety education initiatives to deal with legalizing marijuana, and has agreed to a 70-30 split with the provinces and territories on marijuana tax revenue sharing, said Mike McGuire, director of operations for Health Canada cannabis legalization and regulation branch.

Access will be restricted from youths under the age 18, although some provinces have raised that age to 19, and legal possession will be defined as 30 grams for an individual and up to four plants in a residence.

He said policy on edibles and public consumption is expected to formulated over the next year.

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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