Burns Lake-based Nations Cannabis held its groundbreaking ceremony on April 30 as the company moves forward with its plan to open a production facility near Decker Lake.
The ground-breaking comes just over six months after cannabis was legalized in Canada, an event that added momentum to Nations Cannabis.
Construction inside the plant will begin after structures remaining from the old Burns Lake Specialty Wood business are torn down in a few weeks.
It is hoped the plant can begin growing cannabis as early as mid-summer, company founder and executive chairman Wesley Sam told Lakes District News.
“We’ll be completing five rooms and continuing to build out from there,” he said, adding that construction should be completed in about six months.
“There’s still quite a bit of work to do in regards to finalizing blueprints. We’ve got to finalize them with Health Canada and the regional district and municipality.”
Health Canada also requires the company to obtain a license to grow cannabis.
“You have to do your build out first and it has to meet Health Canada standards and grow two crops to their standards and then you receive your license.”
Once the $12 million facility is operating at full capacity it will employ 40-60 people, with wages starting at $18.50 an hour.
“But we won’t be hiring everyone right away as we’re rolling out. It might be 15 or 20 to start and as it builds out we’ll bring in more,” Sam said.
The 50,000 square foot plant will be able to produce 400 pounds of cannabis per month, which will be grown on three-tiered racks.
The company is among only a few cannabis-growing firms in Canada to be majority-owned by Indigenous people, and has partnered with the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation, which owns the property and land the facility sits on.
In Sam’s view, his company is picking up the economic baton as the historically-dominant forestry industry faces an uncertain future in the region.
“Our local situation with the Annual Allowable Cut is not looking that good and our timber is pretty much not there and if it is it’s dead standing. Seventy per cent pine beetle [killed]. This is a different industry – not based on trees. We’re diversifying.”
Commenting on the opening of Nations Cannabis, Mayor Dolores Funk said, “the Village of Burns Lake Council is excited to welcome Nations Cannabis into our business community. We are looking forward to the jobs they will provide and the positive impact on our efforts to diversify the Burns Lake economy.”
The company will sell most of its harvest to the province of British Columbia, which will then pass it to onto stores that have licenses to sell cannabis.
The remainder will be made into cannabidiol (CBD) oil, and sold to medical cannabis users. Sam plans to sell edible products once they become legal in October.
The prospect of a cannabis growing facility has faced some opposition in the community for at least a year.
Some people have feared the plant would lower property values and encourage the consumption of harmful substances.
Marc Storms, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer with Nations Cannabis, said he understands why some people are confused after cannabis, a substance that was illegal for decades became legal relatively quickly. But many of the myths around cannabis and its production are ill-informed, he said.
“The cannabis that kids have been buying since I was a kid was grown in someone’s backyard shed using pesticides and herbicides and whatever they can do to maximize the growth, with no regulations and no sanitation,” Storms explained. “We get rid of contaminated cannabis, we get rid of organized crime behind the cannabis and we regulate it, control it and make sure you can’t buy it unless you’re of age. So will people get access? Of course. But that’s one thousand times better than it was before.”
With regards to property values, Storms pointed out that Nations Cannabis is “a project that hires upwards of 60 people just on the first project, that’s going to increase land value. There’s no evidence that the value around a cannabis facility has been lowered. These are really benign buildings. People go into work, they leave.”