A path to profit from pot
It’s not just government and major corporations looking to make a buck off bud
Nova Scotia businessman Bill Sanford, very comfortably situated in the later years of his professional life, never envisioned being involved in the cannabis industry at 65.
But here he was, days from selling the first grams of recreational pot in Canada and playing an active part in the whole process.
“I’m on the production floor with people every day, so I’ve done every job and do every job that they do,” says Sanford, CEO of Wentworth Valley, Nova Scotia-based Breathing Green Solutions, the province’s first licenced medical cannabis producer.
“It builds a much better production team when they see the old man sweeping and cleaning, planting and trimming plants, harvesting bud and everything else.”
Sanford came to the budding industry through his youngest son Joe and a business partner who came to him seeking backing. He put his own expertise in the investment world to use, studied the prospect, visited a licenced operation and opted to dive in.
A shade under a year later, Breathing Green is through its fifth harvest, focusing on perfecting four strains to start with: high THC varieties cleverly named Lemon Dory, Mirage, and Nor’Easter, and a mid-range CBD strain dubbed Shelter.
“We’ve got lots of finished product in storage that’s been approved by external labs and the quality is as we hoped it would be, and we’re really just awaiting our licence to sell from Health Canada now,” says Sanford “We’ve gone through all of those hoops, so it’s really just a waiting game now.”
The waiting game
Sanford is just one of countless entrepreneurs looking to join governments and the major cannabis producers in making a buck off bud.
At the water’s edge in Clarenville, N.L., Ralph Duffit is also awaiting approval from Health Canada for CK Farmaceutical, the modest growing facility he’s building in what used to be Thirsty’s Banquet Room and Jon Keefe shows off one of the squish presses and other cannabis consumption paraphernalia he sells at the Dabber Hashery, a specialty shop in downtown St. John’s, N.L. Keefe had initially planned to obtain a licence to sell cannabis products, but abandoned that enterprise when it became clear the eight-per-cent margin paid to cannabis retailers in Newfoundland and Labrador didn’t make for a strong business case for him and his partners. My Rec Room, a banquet room and pool hall he took over from his father.
“I have one room that’s done, about 900 square feet and it’s all wired and it’s only a matter of putting the pots in and starting the growing. The basement is almost done, it just needs the wiring,” says Duffit, who just finished installing a $20,000 vault to store his merchandise.
“If I got a letter tomorrow that I can start, I could be growing in a month or two.”
But Duffit hasn’t been sitting idly by waiting for Health Canada’s approval. He’s also getting into the retail side of the industry and is one of the first 29 independent cannabis retailers conditionally licenced by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation.
His shop, Puff Puff Pass, will be located in the same building as the growing operation.
“My thought was if I’m going to get an LP licence, I may as well grow it in the back of the building and upstairs and sell it out through the front,” he explains. Duffit also recognized an opportunity to offer a onestop shop for his customers, so he’s carrying a full line of growing supplies as well as a wide variety of cannabis consumption products and paraphernalia. “Everything that you can think about, that you need for pot – and a lot of stuff that you would never think about – we have it. From seed to when you butt it out in the ashtray… and we’ve even got the ashtrays.”
While he’s been able to eliminate a lot of costs for consultants and construction by doing much of the work himself or hiring local tradespeople, Duffit is still in it for over a million dollars.
Make a squish
Further east, nestled among banks, unsold condos and law offices in downtown St. John’s, N.L., Jon Keefe and his business partners haven’t invested nearly as much into their cannabis-related business. It’s a shop that specializes in the sale of equipment and supplies for creating and consuming all-natural concentrates and extracts, colloquially known in the community as rosin or squish.