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Prince George, B.C. cannabis facility a step closer to construction

Grant Cameron
Prince George, B.C. cannabis facility a step closer to construction
TRUE LEAF - An 18,000-square-foot, two-storey medical marijuana facility was built in Lumby, B.C., by Vernon-based True Leaf.

Construction of yet another cannabis growing facility is set to get under way soon in British Columbia – this time in Prince George.

A 15-hectare parcel of land in the BCR Industrial Site park along Willow Cale Road, on the east side of the northern B.C. city just a stone’s throw from the Fraser River, has been rezoned and will soon be busy with construction workers building a large-scale cannabis growing and shipping facility.

City council recently voted to make a minor change to the heavy industrial zoning designation that will allow a cannabis production facility on the property.

Vancouver-based Cannabis West Development Corporation (CWDC), a privately-held development company providing real estate solutions and professional services to the micro-cannabis industry, plans to build two growing structures. The rezoning will allow that to be expanded to as many as eight. It is the first in a chain of craft cannabis industrial parks planned by the company.

The first two facilities will have 4,000 square metres of canopy and two micro-cultivators. According to the company, the project will pump $28 million into the local construction industry, create 80 full-time jobs and $12.8 million in payroll per year, and generate $13.2 million per year in services contracting.

CWDC chief executive officer Sean Maloney said in a statement after city council gave the green light to the rezoning application that his hope is that the Prince George facility will be the first of many.

He said with an estimated 17,500 micro cannabis cultivators in B.C. alone, Cannwest is receiving tremendous response from local governments as well as those in the craft cannabis cultivator community.

“Municipalities are keen to see brownfield industrial sites redeveloped to provide valuable good jobs and new sources of municipal revenue,” he said. “Meanwhile, craft cannabis cultivators and entrepreneurs yearn for the opportunity to bring their world-class product to the legitimate space.”

There were no objections during public hearings to rezone the vacant property and Ian Wells, general manager of planning and development for Prince George, told city council in March that the administration supported the application as it is consistent with the community plan.

At a city council meeting in April, Coun. Brian Skakun had asked about venting procedures and what plans the company has to scrub exhaust for possible odours from the facility and was told by Maloney that emissions are filtered twice, removing more than 99.5 per cent of any odourous air.

Coun. Kyle Simpson said the application from CWDC was very detailed and he appreciates the facilities being built in Prince George because it diversifies industry in the area and will help the economy.

“I think what they’re going to do here is fantastic,” he said.

The proposal by CWDC is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new cannabis plants being built in B.C.

CWDC is also seeking to establish a similar cannabis growing facility in Merritt, B.C. The company made a presentation to city council recently to get a reading on how councilors feel about a facility being built on a small parcel of land currently owned by five First Nation communities.

Last September, B.C. Green Pharmaceuticals begun building a $21.5-million medical marijuana facility on three industrial lots in a business park in the Town of Princeton, B.C. The facility will have a 79,000-square-foot indoor growing facility, 10,000-square-foot extraction lab and 20,000-square-foot research facility.

The plant is expected to open in early 2020 and will employ 95 people when operations begin, with that number doubling the following two years. Princeton council recently approved a 12-month temporary permit to allow a work camp to be set up for workers.

Last year, meanwhile, an 18,000-square-foot, two-storey medical marijuana facility was built in Lumby, B.C., by Vernon-based True Leaf. Now, steel has already been purchased and footing poured for a 16,000-square-foot addition that could produce an additional 1,500 kilograms of high-grade dry flower per year.

Company chief executive officer Darcy Bomford said the facility was designed to be scalable and the facility’s modular, design-phased approach and flexible engineering of the central administration area allow True Leaf to expand easily for future phases and respond to a changing market.

“That philosophy is reflected in the well-thought-out interior and exterior build which includes the use of cutting-edge building materials that promote a sterile grow environment free of contaminants, including state-of-the-art air filtration, hospital grade finishes, and impermeable interior and exterior wall panels,” Bomford said.

Originally, True Leaf had chosen nearby Vernon for the plant but was denied by Health Canada because the city didn’t have the proper zoning in place for the production of cannabis. Bomford said Lumby council basically “rolled out the red carpet” and wholeheartedly supported the application which allowed the company to reapply with Health Canada and eventually receive approval.

Complying with Health Canada specifications was very difficult and a learning experience for the company, he said. Pricetag of the build was also significantly higher, as typical costs for manufacturing builds are usually in the $250-per-square-foot range, but it cost close to $350-per-square-foot.

Bomford said he expects more cannabis-producing plants to be built in B.C. in future.

“The smaller towns are receptive, the land is cheaper than the larger centres and labour costs are reasonable. All this adds up and presents a good opportunity for companies that are willing to go through the application process.”

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