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Vancouver company applies to create medical marijuana production facility in Nanoose Bay

A Vancouver-based company says it wants to build a medical marijuana production facility in Nanoose Bay. - NEWS FILE PHOTO
A Vancouver-based company says it wants to build a medical marijuana production facility in Nanoose Bay.
— image credit: NEWS FILE PHOTO

A Vancouver-based company wants to build a medical marijuana production facility in Nanoose Bay that could employ more than 50 people.

Wildflower Marijuana Inc. CEO William MacLean says the company has applied to Health Canada to become a licensed producer of pot and wants to build two facilities in the area, one just south of Nanaimo and the other a 68,000 square foot operation in an undisclosed Nanoose Bay location.

"We already have most of the contractors lined up," MacLean said about plans for construction. He said it will take four months to build the facility, with a best-case-scenario start date for construction in late fall of this year.

"We're building from scratch," said MacLean. "We are designing this from the ground up. It's not an inexpensive proposition."

MacLean said the company plans to invest more than $40 million on the two facilities in the next four-five years. He also said the Nanoose facility would employ more than 50 people, working in the lab, harvesting and other jobs.

"It's definitely going to be higher-paying than the average job," he said, adding that the publicly-traded company (CSE:SUN) will offer employees stock options. "We want to make sure employees are taken care of, well paid for their jobs."

Last year, the federal government passed into law Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. The regulations describe the application process for producers and to whom the producers can sell their product. It also includes things like security measures that need to be employed by a producer.

An individual can get a prescription from a physician for marijuana. That individual can then purchase marijuana through a licensed producer. The producers can also sell to other licensed producers and even export their product (read about the regulations online: http://www.laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2013-119/).

The NEWS asked MacLean why he wanted to set up his company's first facilities in this region.

"Mainly because of the temperate climate and the access to skilled labour," he said. This region's climate — not too hot in the summer, not too cold in the winter — will save the company money on heating and air conditioning their facilities, said MacLean.

"We're currently moving through Health Canada's application process for producing and distributing high quality, pharmaceutical grade marijuana," states the company's website (wildflower.ca). "As we complete this process, we focus on our goal of having the smallest carbon footprint of any marijuana producer in Canada."

MacLean said Wildflower has been in contact with both the RDN and MP James Lunney about the project.

"They are aware of what we're doing," said MacLean. "And we haven't heard any controversy at all."

RDN officials initially confirmed only that they were aware this company was planning to submit an application to Health Canada.

"We have definitely been contacted by that company," said RDN's general manager of community and strategic development Jeff Garbutt. "But we don't provide information about individual property enquiries. They (Wildflower) have asked about a variety of properties." Garbutt has sent e-mails to residents who have been calling the RDN with questions.

The RDN called The NEWS with an update Wednesday saying it had received confirmation from Health Canada that Wildflower Inc. had submitted an application to license a marijuana production facility here.

The provincial government, through Agricultural Land Commission, has deemed that medical marijuana production is an agricultural use that's permitted on lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve. The RDN has passed bylaws that basically state any medical marijuana production facility that wants to set up shop in the RDN has to do so on ALR lands.

Therefore, the RDN doesn't have much, if any, involvement in Wildflower's process at this point. The company would have to apply for building permits if it ever reaches that point.

"People need to go to Health Canada if they have questions," said Garbutt.

Health Canada can be reached by phone at 1-866-337-7705.

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