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This article was published 16/12/2016 (247 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba’s only commercial producer of medical marijuana wants Premier Brian Pallister to wake up and smell the budding potential for Manitoba to become Canada’s cannabis capital.
John Arbuthnot, who runs Delta 9 Bio-Tech Inc. with his father Bill, says Manitoba’s access to cheap hydroelectric power, cheap cost of living and cheap warehousing costs presents the opportunity for Manitoba to become economic leaders in the production of recreational marijuana.
"Manitoba has an incredible opportunity. This is the Manitoba advantage. When you look at our industry, the major cost centres for any producer are power, labour and warehouse space, and we are blessed in Manitoba," he said.
"The time to act is now. I think that provinces that are being proactive on this, that are actively researching a regulatory framework, are those that will in the best position to capitalize on this rollout."
Arbuthnot was reacting to comments by Pallister earlier this month that the federal government should slow down in its drive to legalize marijuana until the provinces are better prepared to deal with the legal and social implications it will have, particularly drug-impaired driving.
Pallister and Justice Minister Heather Stefanson repeated their concerns Tuesday after a federally appointed task force released its recommendations to the federal Liberal government on how the rollout of legalized marijuana should be handled.
An internal task force on marijuana legalization has been set up by the province and includes members of the finance, justice, Crown services and agriculture departments, along with Liquor & Lotteries. The aim is to come up with a "made-in-Manitoba model" for recreational pot sale and distribution, explained Stefanson, without offering any other details.
Pallister said Tuesday he is more concerned about public safety than generating revenue.
"I’m concerned about the safety of the innocent people who are not using the product," Pallister said. "I don’t see this principally as a revenue generator for government."
The framework report included 80 recommendations, including that cannabis should be sold in storefronts — but not in the same places as liquor or cigarettes — with an age limit of people 18 and older, two measures Arbuthnot applauded.
However, he took issue with some of the recommendations limiting packaging and advertisement, explaining if the intent is to stamp out the black market, commercial producers need the opportunity to brand themselves.
Currently, Delta 9 Bio-Tech is the only private company in the province that cultivates and distributes marijuana under a federal licence from Health Canada. It operates an 80,000-square-foot production space in an industrial park on the east side of Winnipeg.
Arbuthnot currently employs 22 people, but plans to ramp up and expand the production and distribution to 400 to 500 employees by 2020 due to an expected increase in demand. He expects the company’s profits by the end of 2016 to hover around the $1-million range.
If the legislation allows for it, Arbuthnot said he wants to enter into the sales side of recreational marijuana.
Colorado, a state with a population of 5.4 million, had over $1 billion in marijuana sales in 2016, which brought in roughly $150 million in revenue for the state.
"There is a model here for Manitoba to become a very large producer and exporter of cannabis, but it won’t be done with government and business and other groups sitting on the sideline. The time to look at it is now or the opportunity will pass us by," he said
"We will see jobs growth, so for a province currently sitting in deficit, looking for economic and expansion opportunities, look no further than the marijuana industry. We are here, we are ready to grow."
— with files from Mia Rabson