Paid to smoke pot: Edmontonian selected as one of eight cannabis connoisseurs out of 25,000 applicants

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Since weed was legalized last fall, many Canadians may fancy themselves as cannabis connoisseurs. As of Monday, Edmonton’s Amanda Bladon can put the title on a business card.

Bladon was one of eight Canadians hired by Toronto-based company AHLOT to sample and evaluate different strains of cannabis and get paid to do so.

“I’m kind of in dream-job land right now,” Bladon said Monday, her first day of a year-long contract as a cannabis connoisseur. “I just thought the opportunity sounded a little bit too good to be true and I’m a bit of a risk taker so I figured why not throw my name in the pile and let’s see what happens.”

The 31-year-old was picked from about 25,000 Canadians who applied last fall for one of five positions on AHLOT’s cannabis curation committee with the task of curating pot sample packs made up of several different strains.

Legal cannabis took Edmonton by storm last October with lines wrapping around shopping centres for weeks with smokers eager to step foot into new retail stores. The overwhelming demand combined with a production backlog spurred a supply shortage, forcing the province to freeze new retail licences.

AHLOT, looking at the market from a national perspective, received an “avalanche of applications” for the connoisseur gig. The company initially expected 3,000 expressions of interest. Chief creative officer Martin Strazovec said the company decided to add three more jobs, for a total of eight, to represent many types of tokers.

“We decided we’d reach out to the whole country knowing that a lot of people who are passionate about the plant were out there, we just needed to find them,” Strazovec said of creating a group of residents to help the public navigate the recent legalization. “Now that Canada’s on a bit of a world stage and spotlight … I think we have the obligation almost to do everything we can to show that it can be done responsibly.”

The eight paid pot samplers will receive $50 an hour to evaluate several strains of cannabis, earning up to $1,000 per month during the year-long contract. Their evaluations on multiple strains to serve different uses — including wellness, casual, creative — will directly shape AHLOT’s sample packs with strains from a variety of producers.

As a casual user who started smoking cannabis to spark creativity and help with anxiety, Bladon said she hopes to assist less frequent smokers looking for a good place to start.

“I think that legalization’s great, but it was probably a bit overwhelming for Canadians,” she said. “I know it was overwhelming for myself.”

Strazovec said Monday was the perfect time to launch the committee because many residents thought they were being pranked when the paid position was first introduced, but this was no April Fool’s joke.

“We had that question quite a bit, is it a real job? Yes, it is. For all the doubters, it is now real.”

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