WeedMD se­cures sup­ply deal with prov­ince

Tillsonburg News - - ONTARIO NEWS - DALE CAR­RUTHERS

With a new deal to sup­ply on­tario’s gov­ern­ment-run cannabis retailer, a lon­don-area pot pro­ducer says it plans to dou­ble its work­force within the next year.

Weedmd, a li­censed pro­ducer with op­er­a­tions in aylmer and strathroy, an­nounced thurs­day it has reached an agree­ment to sup­ply the on­tario Cannabis store (osC) when recre­ational mar­i­juana be­comes le­gal on oct. 17.

“our em­ploy­ment count now stands at over 100 people. it has tripled over the past year. it will dou­ble over the year ahead,” chief ex­ec­u­tive Keith merker said thurs­day at Weedmd’s strathroy green­house, where dig­ni­taries gath­ered to cel­e­brate the fa­cil­ity’s first har­vest.

With lit­tle more than a month be­fore recre­ational mar­i­juana be­comes le­gal, a new Health Canada re­port sug­gests there could be a short­age of the drug.

us­ing a 2017 fed­eral sur­vey on cannabis, Health Canada cal­cu­lated that 926,000 kilo­grams of mar­i­juana will be needed to meet de­mand for recre­ational and med­i­cal use. that fig­ure is 41 per cent higher than the es­ti­mate of 655,000 kg by the par­lia­men­tary bud­get of­fi­cer in 2016.

“We’re go­ing to see a sup­ply short­age in this coun­try,” said merker, whose com­pany also has signed sup­ply deals with bri­tish Columbia, al­berta and nova sco­tia.

Weedmd has a con­tract to sup­ply shop­pers drug mart with medic­i­nal mar­i­juana, though the phar­macy chain is still await­ing ap­proval from the gov­ern­ment to be­come a dis­trib­u­tor.

sit­ting on a sprawl­ing 40-hectare prop­erty west of lon­don, Weedmd’s $15-mil­lion green­house is equipped with com­puter-con­trolled light­ing, shades, air-con­di­tion­ing and ir­ri­ga­tion, merker said, adding wa­ter is sourced on the prop­erty that’s out­fit­ted with a so­lar ar­ray.

“this fa­cil­ity has achieved its goals of pro­duc­ing top-qual­ity cannabis with min­i­mal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact,” he said. “this is the fu­ture of tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced cannabis cul­ti­va­tion.”

While mar­i­juana com­pa­nies are ex­pand­ing and hir­ing — one re­cent re­port sug­gested the in­dus­try could cre­ate 150,000 jobs in the next few years — a cannabis con­sult­ing com­pany is sound­ing the alarm on a loom­ing labour short­age.

Few work­ers have the right skills and nec­es­sary experience to work in the emerg­ing in­dus­try, said brian Wagner, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cannabis Com­pli­ance that ad­vises on mar­i­juana pro­duc­tion and re­tail li­cences.

in on­tario, cannabis will be sold le­gally only through the oCs on­line ser­vice un­til april 1, 2019, when pri­vately owned bricks-and-mor­tar stores will be al­lowed to sell. so far, the oCs has made sup­ply deals with 32 com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing seven with op­er­a­tions in south­west­ern on­tario.

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