Canada: Security Firms Set To Benefit From Cannabis Legalization, Former MP Says

Photo Credit: Ian Kucerak

Recreational marijuana doesn’t become legal in Canada until the summer, but the lead-up to legalization is already producing unexpected winners.

Take, for example, former police officers who once opposed legal pot getting into the cannabis business.

Another potential winner you might not expect? Private security companies.

A former Conservative MP who became a security industry executive says legalization is set to create big demand for new security guards, in part to protect production facilities and secure shipments of product. The demand could be especially strong in Alberta, which is expected to become a cannabis production hub.

Christian Paradis, who represented the Quebec riding of Mégantic-L’Érable before deciding not to seek re-election in 2015, is now a senior vice-president with private security firm GardaWorld.

He recently returned from a trip to Alberta where he met with “key people about the outsourcing of police services and the future of cannabis production security protocols,” a company spokeswoman said.

“The industry is ready,” Paradis said in a recent interview. “We’re not taking any jobs from police officers, we don’t pretend that we can fulfil core duties. We’re just there to make sure we can (lend) support.”

“You need to see, on the value chain, which kind of duties could be outsourced to the private sector, to make sure that your qualified (police officers) are not distracted” with work that others are trained to do, he said.

Alberta Justice and Solicitor General says the province has around 24,100 licensed security service workers who maintain order at malls, private businesses and public buildings, and also provide services such as executive protection, “loss prevention” and dog handling.

For comparison, Calgary and Edmonton have about 4,000 city police officers between them, according to Statistics Canada figures.

The Edmonton area is poised to become a hub of marijuana production. More than a dozen companies are in the process of setting up cannabis production facilities in anticipation of legalization this summer.

Though he hesitated to give firm job figures, Paradis said legalization would mean new demand for security guards. He said private security can take on jobs like surveillance of production facilities as well as transport of merchandise.

Cannabis shipments worth millions of dollars are already taking place. In early March, INKAS Security Group announced it had successfully transported around 100,000 marijuana plants valued in the tens of millions of dollars between Ontario and B.C.

One outstanding question is whether guards will be armed, and if so, how many.

The chief firearms officers of each province will have to decide whether to allow armed guards for cannabis transportation, Paradis said. Each province has a chief firearms officer responsible for licences and authorizations, according to the RCMP. A handful of Canadian security guards are currently licensed to carry firearms, most notably armoured vehicle guards.

Another question is whether the supply of security guards can meet demand.

In January, Alberta announced plans to speed up its process for licensing security guards. Applicants who do not have a criminal record and are not in Canada on a work or study permit can receive temporary security licences on the same day at certain registries.

Glen Kitteringham, a security industry consultant, said that’s a start, but added there are still bottlenecks in the system.

“You talk about the 20,000-plus guards in this province, but everybody that I’ve talked to is perpetually short of employees,” he said. “They can’t hire enough people.”