February 14, 2020 – Legal marijuana is now a more than $10 billion business in the U.S. Investors poured billions into cannabis in North America last year, twice what was invested in the last three years combined. In addition, the overall North American market exceeded $16 billion in 2019.
While talent deficits are a problem in every industry, the marijuana field is exceptionally short on senior-level leaders who can come in and cross-pollinate their functional and industry skills-sets. So it is that recruitment firms are focusing on bringing talent to this smoking hot sector.
LifeSci Search, a life sciences-focused executive search firm, recently broke into the marijuana industry with the addition of Charles Albert as vice president and head of cannabis. “There is a real opportunity for cannabis companies to grow outside of mom and pop shops,” Mr. Albert said. “At LifeSci Search, we can leverage our parent company platform (investor relations, capital investments, public relations) and existing relationships to quickly identify board, C-suite and senior executive candidates.”
“Banks are starting to hire more cannabis sector specific bankers and analysts, while the pharma and biotech industry is looking to leverage cannabis in their research,” Mr. Albert said. “LifeSci Search will target the regular cannabis company types such as cultivators, agriculture, retail / dispensaries, packaging, and technology. But we can also help PE, VC, hedge funds and investment banks as well.”
“Our expertise in life sciences and our ability to tie in therapeutic industries specifically provides us with a competitive advantage in the medical cannabis market,” said Mr. Albert. “We are also seeing these companies looking to add credibility to their boards, bringing in pharma executives or those that can provide further exposure to capital markets. The growth of these cannabis industries has seen a rise in demand for top talent across the board from master growers to C-suite executives and our expertise spreads across all functions / roles in the industry.”
Knowledge of the Cannabis Market
Mr. Albert has over 10 years of recruiting experience with an emphasis on retained executive search. He helped introduce Korn Ferry to the cannabis market in the U.S. He also spent time running internal executive recruiting processes as well as focusing on broader life sciences and manufacturing retained search. Mr. Albert is one of the solely focused cannabis recruiters in the U.S. levering relationships across cultivators, retail / dispensaries, private equity, banking, venture capital, packaging, cosmetics, technology and more.
LifeSci Search is the global executive and board search division of LifeSci Partners. The firm operates exclusively in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device and healthcare sectors. LifeSci Search leverages domain expertise, deep client relationships, and a client-as-partner approach to fully understand and execute C-Suite assignments for each client company. The firm offers bespoke recruitment solutions leveraging its research and data analytics resources with global relationships to deliver strategic candidate identification and assessment with a seamless, high touch search process.
Mr. Albert recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon to discuss the growing and maturing marijuana industry. He also examines the market for senior leaders in this sector and what the cannabis field will look like for executive recruiters moving forward. Following are excerpts from that interview.
Charles, take us inside the marijuana industry. What’s happening?
Today, the cannabis industry directly employs over 250,000 Americans. If you add all the ancillary industries such as packaging, marketing and technology, the number doubles to 500,000 cannabis industry jobs in the U.S. market alone. This does not factor in the numerous countries that have also fully legalized medical cannabis or recreational in some capacity or the CBD market which has already infiltrated so many industries across the country and world. In 2019, we saw the number of jobs increase by 76 percent and the forecast for 2020 shows no indication of slowing down. Additionally, it is reported that U.S. tax revenues reached $1.6 billion in 2019. A recent poll showed that 91 percent of Americans support legalization of medical cannabis and 59 percent support recreational cannabis. Imagine being able to go back in time to the end of alcohol prohibition and join the likes of Anheuser-Busch, Miller-Coors, or any of the beverage giants. The cannabis industry will continue to grow on both the medical and recreational sides for years to come.
Why do you think it is important for LifeSci to expand into this sector now?
LifeSci is already operating in the cannabis market. LifeSci Partners is a platform which has been developed over the past 10 years, providing strategic healthcare advisory services in the life sciences sector and comprised of seven groups. LifeSci Advisors is the largest life sciences investor relations firm in the world; we have a medical communications and PR group, an internal venture fund, a boutique bank as well as partnering and analytics, and obviously the executive search group. LifeSci has not only invested in private rounds within the cannabis space, but also provided public companies with financing and helped on other transactions. We also are involved in providing investor relations and PR to cannabis firms. So, we are not new to the industry and could safely make the case, that we might be more knowledgeable in the cannabis sector than anyone else. We have a huge opportunity to not only leverage all the relationships and knowledge that we have internally but also help these companies grow strategically. Currently, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis. The market is not limited to the U.S. as countries around the world are legalizing the medical use of cannabis. Canada and Israel are huge markets. There has been a lot of capital being put into the cannabis sector in Israel, and as a firm LifeSci is one of the most respected groups in Israel, and we do have boots on the ground there.
“Cannabis industry companies are maturing alongside with this growth, leading to the introduction of new functional leadership positions across the board.”
Discuss the current market for senior executives vis-a-via the marijuana industry.
The cannabis industry is the fastest growing market in the country right now. Often referred to as the “green rush,” an homage to the California gold rush, the sky is the limit for new opportunities as companies and individuals look to find ways to break into the space. Senior executive positions are being created daily as cannabis companies begin to see revenue rising, funding rounds, mergers/acquisitions and even IPOs; we see the demand for top talent in the industry increasing. The demand for senior executives is higher than ever before and will continue to rise with the growth. Cannabis industry companies are maturing alongside with this growth, leading to the introduction of new functional leadership positions across the board. The industry is obviously not without scrutiny as well, leading to some shake-ups at the top level of some of the larger companies, with scenarios such as founders stepping back and bringing in seasoned CEOs and executives to lead their rapidly growing firms. We have seen several CEOs in the cannabis space depart or step back from their roles in the last 12 months, paving the way for new C-suite and leadership teams.
Are you seeing executives from other more traditional sectors looking for work in this sector?
As mentioned before, there are more and more people seeing the upside of the cannabis sector. Pharma execs have seen the benefits of the use of cannabis in neurodegenerative and mental health disorders. PE / VCs are putting more capital into the sector and seeing the upside, as are the banks. Also, as the cannabis sector gets more corporate, more operational folks are moving from industries such as pharma/biotech, technology and others. As scientific evidence continues to roll out, we continue to see subject matter experts make the transition into the cannabis industry. The timing for this is prime as a vast majority of these firms are still in “start-up” mode, even those with high revenue, meaning potentially high-value equity packages come into play, especially for senior executives.
What do you see the marijuana industry looking like a decade out?
It is an exciting time to be part of the cannabis industry. We are on the ground floor of an industry that could be tremendous over the next 10 years and beyond. There is no end in sight for the growth trajectory that cannabis is on. If the past decade is any indication, we will continue to see cannabis laws introduced state by state until the entire U.S. legalizes and other countries continue to ratify new laws. Since 2010, medical cannabis is legal in 33 states and 11 states have legalized for adult use (plus Washington, D.C. has legal medical and adult use). Over the next 10 years, we see this growth continuing with the eventual federal legalization of medical cannabis followed by recreational. Again, this is a high-growth industry that already has a captivated market on both the medical and adult use sides – “green rush.” The benefits from a tax revenue and medical perspective continue to make the industry appealing to state governments. These benefits are also contributing to individual mindsets shifting away from the stigma that has been over cannabis for so long.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media