CALGARY — When Mack Andrews graduated from university in 2013, oil was worth more than $100 a barrel.
Then 22, the native Calgarian immediately put his chemical engineering degree to work in the city’s anchor industry, oil and gas, enjoying what he described as a “cushy” — albeit short-lived — career.
But the economy would crash just a year later, and like many of Alberta’s oil and gas professionals, Andrews was suddenly faced with an unplanned career detour.
“Seeing the struggle of the industry (in 2014) was a bit of a wake up call for me,” he said.
“It really made me start looking at other industries that were maybe in a different part of the cycle, and more on the emerging side.”
Much of the talent from Alberta’s once-behemoth oil and gas sector needed a new home, and for those willing to make the leap, Ottawa’s promises of a legal, recreational cannabis market presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
A 2016 survey from Deloitte calculated that Canada’s base retail cannabis market alone would be worth $4.9 billion to $8.7 billion annually, and the ancillary market — growers, infused product makers, testing labs, and security, for example — would increase that to between $12.7 billion to $22.6 billion.
Including tourism revenue, business taxes, licence fees and paraphernalia sales, Deloitte estimated the market will exceed $22.6 billion — surpassing wine, beer and spirits.
By recognizing that potential, Andrews became an important voice for entrepreneurs in Alberta’s emerging cannabis industry in just a few short years.
He co-founded of the Alberta Cannabis Collective, which will represent cannabis retailers across the province once Bill C-45 is law. He also co-founded a private retail company called Aylmer & Nelson, which has already secured commercial real estate for