Stel­lar­ton re­mains op­ti­mistic about Vida Cannabis

Plant re­built for mar­i­juana pro­duc­tion has yet to get Health Canada ap­proval

The News (New Glasgow) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMES RISDON SALTWIRE NET­WORK

It’s been more than two years and the for­mer Clair­tone build­ing in Stel­lar­ton is still empty.

The long-awaited 300 medic­i­nal mar­i­juana jobs haven’t yet ma­te­ri­al­ized. There’s no pot be­ing grown in­side the 315,000-square­foot, fully ren­o­vated build­ing’s walls.

Health Canada, which has the au­thor­ity to is­sue medic­i­nal mar­i­juana li­cences to com­pa­nies in this coun­try, is re­fus­ing to ac­knowl­edge whether Vida Cannabis, the owner of that build­ing in Stel­lar­ton, has even ap­plied for such a li­cence. The com­pany has re­peat­edly claimed it has ap­plied.

But, so far, Health Canada’s web­site still shows the com­pany has not re­ceived that stamp of ap­proval from the fed­eral govern­ment.

And yet — de­spite this lack of ac­tiv­ity at the site and the com­pany’s si­lence — the mood in Stel­lar­ton is still one of hope.

Com­mu­nity lead­ers are cling­ing to the hope of a bo­nanza of good-pay­ing, long-term jobs and the boost to the econ­omy th­ese jobs would pro­vide. Many peo­ple have gone so far as to buy shares in Vida Cannabis.

Mayor Danny MacGil­livray, who does not have any own­er­ship stake in the com­pany, points to Vida Cannabis’s pay­ment of its back taxes on the prop­erty about a year ago as a sign the com­pany is still se­ri­ous about mov­ing ahead with its mar­i­juana op­er­a­tion.

“They were in ar­rears but they paid them up and now they’re up to date,” said the mayor in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day. “It made us think they must be go­ing to do some­thing with this.”

In the com­mu­nity of 4,200 souls, the ru­mour mill has been work­ing over­time. Those ru­mours have pegged the amount of money the com­pany has in­vested in the prop­erty, for which it ini­tially paid $500,000, at up to $15 mil­lion.

But no­body ex­cept the ex­ecs at Vida Cannabis and per­haps its share­hold­ers know the real amount of that in­vest­ment.

Cer­tainly, Vida Cannabis has put a lot of work into Peter Munk’s circa-1960s Clair­tone Sound Cor­po­ra­tion stereo and television plant af­ter buy­ing the empty shell two years ago.

“They put a lot of money into it. It was a di­lap­i­dated old build­ing and they put a new roof on it and ev­ery­thing. They re-did the whole out­side. It’s like a whole new build­ing,” said Mayor MacGil­livray.

“We’re op­ti­mistic that some­thing will hap­pen,” he said.

Cathy Covey, the bro­ker and owner of Sun­rise Bro­ker­age & Sales in Stel­lar­ton, was the realtor who stick­han­dled that real es­tate deal back in 2014. In an in­ter­view, she said Vida Cannabis paid fair mar­ket value for the prop­erty, the full amount of the ask­ing price es­tab­lished by the seller, the Town of Stel­lar­ton.

She’s con­vinced Vida Cannabis still in­tends to go ahead with plans for a medic­i­nal mar­i­juana op­er­a­tion on the site and quickly dis­missed any no­tion that the com­pany might have sim­ply bought the old Clair­tone prop­erty as a land deal, spec­u­lat­ing on fu­ture cap­i­tal gains in the value of the land.

“It’s a busi­ness deal,” said Covey. “They’ve re­built the build­ing. It was ren­o­vated specif­i­cally for grow­ing mar­i­juana.”

The Sun­rise Bro­ker­age owner is also a share­holder in Vida Cannabis and so privy to cor­po­rate in­for­ma­tion pro­vided dur­ing the com­pany’s an­nual gen­eral meet­ings. In the in­ter­view, she would not share that in­for­ma­tion, say­ing it was con­fi­den­tial. But Covey did say that when the com­pany does launch its medic­i­nal mar­i­juana op­er­a­tions, peo­ple will sit up and take no­tice.

“It’ll be big news when it hap­pens,” she said.

Mayor MacGil­livray’s biggest worry about the Vida Cannabis plant isn’t whether it will ever open but its ca­pac­ity to meet a grow­ing de­mand for pot.

“There’s a big de­mand for the prod­uct and the govern­ment won’t be able to fill all the or­ders,” he said. “Recre­ational mar­i­juana is sup­posed to be­come le­gal in July. In Las Ve­gas, when they le­gal­ized it, they ran out.”

FILE PHOTO

Greg Wil­son in front of the Vida Cannabis fa­cil­ity.

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