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This article was published 16/9/2014 (2031 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
An unknown would-be new entrant into the medical marijuana production business in Manitoba is looking for a master grower.
The heavy workload and extensive experience required may make it seem like an opportunity for a black-market grow-op grower to go legit, but that would not be the case.
That's because Health Canada requires extensive security clearance for the senior staffers in charge of production and compliance. The list of qualifications to fill the position are as lengthy and as technical as any commercial production facility for the most special of specialty crops.
They include managing everything from cloning, transplanting, feeding plants, defoliation, super cropping, topping, flushing, foliar and preventative sprays, trimming, packaging, waste disposal and inventory management.
And, the ad goes on, "they must give each individual plant the attention it needs one at a time."
The employer is looking for someone with "at least two years' commercial grow experience as a master grower."
As it turns out, there may be thousands of growers out there with legitimate experience growing marijuana. Health Canada says as of December 2013, there were more than 28,000 people in Canada who held a personal-use or designated-person production licence in Canada under the old Marijuana Medical Access Program (MMAR).
That program ended March 31, 2014, and since then only 13 commercial producers have been licenced across the country under the new Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR).
John Arbuthnot's Delta 9 Bio Tech Inc. in Winnipeg is one of the lucky 13 to date. He said it's a tough position to fill.
"There are experienced growers out there, and you can find someone with marijuana-production experience in the legal market place," he said. "But they often don't have the background in good manufacturing practice or good production practice compliance."
Or, he said, you can find someone with experience in pharmaceutical narcotics production but without the botany or horticultural experience.
Arbuthnot said he has a team of three growers as opposed to one master grower.
"Having a team with different levels of experience from different areas was a little easier that finding someone who would be a catch-all."
Jeff Peitsch, the CEO of Bonify Medical Cannabis, a Winnipeg company that has already invested well over $5 million in the hopes of landing one of the highly coveted Health Canada licences, said his company already has two growers on staff.
He said operators' own security scrutiny would weed out anyone with any connections to the non-legal marijuana-production business.
"If you are in violation, you're putting your licence at risk," Peitsch said. "There is too much to lose. That is why it is so important for all these organizations to absolutely be on the straight and narrow."
A Health Canada official said it does not regulate the qualifications of the master grower, but she did say the federal department requires a document signed and dated by the quality-assurance person that includes, among other things, a description of the quality-assurance person's qualifications.
Arbuthnot said Delta 9 has a micro-biologist and an analytical chemist on staff in the firm's in-house lab.
"Health Canada needs to have a reasonable degree of security that that person can handle the quality assurance... and the validation and verification to make sure we can produce products that are certified as pharmaceutical-grade marijuana."
Industry sources say there are more than a couple of other groups, not counting Bonify, still looking to apply for a licence.
Bonify has no assurance it will be granted a licence. It is expecting to have its 260,000-square-foot facility in Winnipeg inspected by Health Canada this fall.
In the past week, Delta 9 started the process of raising $4 million in new capital to fund an expansion. Arbuthnot said the early indication is there is good demand from investors to get a piece of such an operation.
What qualities make a master marijuana grower great? Join the conversation in the comments below.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 6:26 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds question for discussion