Marijuana, weed, cannabis, pot, grass, ganja, dope, herb, reefer, Mary Jane, bud—while the drug goes by many names it has an unmistakable smell that we all know well. The drug is highly accessible considering there are even more ways to consume cannabis than there are nicknames for it: Joints, pipes, bongs, vaporizers, hot boxing, oil concentrates, edibles, tinctures and dissolving bath salts. Many users seek out marijuana to ease symptoms of certain cancers, diseases, mental health disorders or injuries. Alternatively, some may simply enjoy the pleasures a toke or two can bring, as well as the task of eating everything in their house before giggling themselves to a sound sleep in front of the TV. Whatever the reason, there are significantly higher levels of people getting high, legally.
As of September 30th, 2016, Health Canada reported that there are 98,460 registered medical marijuana clients in the country—a huge addition to the 30,537 from just one year prior. In Vancouver, where I’m writing from, dispensaries are as common as coffee shops and getting a medical marijuana license is easier than winning anything during Tim Horton’s ‘Roll Up The Rim’ campaign. With demand dominating the current supply levels, more commercial cannabis producing spaces are desperately needed. While U.S groups such as 420 Property Management and the AIR Commercial Real Estate Association assist potential tenants in states where marijuana is legalized, no associations of this nature exist in Canada. This forces Canadian growers to decide on their own whether to build a space from the ground up or reinvent large pre-existing spaces.
Tweed Inc. has converted a deserted Hershey chocolate factory in Smith Falls, Ontario into a medical marijuana grow-op. The facility, which was out of commission for five years, now employs roughly 205 full time and 50 part time workers. British Columbia grower Aurora Cannabis Inc. is starting fresh and going big. The Vancouver based company is underway with construction for an 800,000-square-foot production plant on federal acreage leased from the Edmonton International Airport in Leduc, Alberta. This is appropriate considering ‘airplane’ is yet another pseudonym for marijuana, as it takes airheads on quite the trip.
The transaction was done in the reverse order of what you might’ve expected—several jurisdictions in Alberta reached out to Aurora asking for the company to consider its space for their expansion site. Leduc has been in economic turmoil real-estate wise since oil prices dropped three years ago, so supporting the worlds largest legal pot growing operation will provide a much needed kush-ion. Aurora Sky facility, the name of the plant, will be the size of 16 football fields in order to accommodate 100,000 kilograms of high-quality cannabis to be harvested per year. This expansion is clearly necessary considering that Aurora’s existing $11.5 million facility, located between Calgary and Red Deer, is nearly at full capacity.
“Our objectives are very clear: to build the largest production capacity, with the highest production quality and the lowest production cost,” Steve Dobler, president of Aurora Cannabis Inc., said in a news release.
Construction of the facility’s pre-engineered structure is now underway in the Netherlands, the company said, adding that it expects the greenhouse facility to be completed by October 2017.
Statistics imply that the cannabis industry is only getting started. With so many jobs being lost to AI and technology, budding industries are exactly what today’s economy needs in both Canada and the U.S. Not only can jobs be created for physical workers in the warehouses, there are also several tech industries recruiting for their mission to assist in the responsible legalization of cannabis in North America. They intend to do this through offering things like seed-to-sale tracking platforms for growers and retailers, keeping card holders accountable to regulations through ID scans, handling stocking problems remotely, engineering and distributing dispensary robots and providing special point-of-sale systems for dispensaries. Even Microsoft is consenting to collaboration, though in the background, by providing Azure cloud services for a compliance-focused software push.
Legalization in Canada has the potential to create a $10 billion industry according to a CIBC World Markets study. The U.S alone is expected to bring in $6.7 billion in legal cannabis sales by the end of 2017. Despite the many benefits of a successful new industry, stigma is still an undeniable barrier for those trying to develop a legitimate business in the cannabis industry.
While November brought Nevada onto the team of states with legalized recreational marijuana use, it also brought the Trump Administration’s anti-cannabis (among many other things) Sean Spicer and Jeff Sessions. Looks like Canada’s immigration website may crash again if U.S citizens’ rights to toke up are taken away in the same year its upstairs neighbours blaze ahead.