Telkwa could be in the pot business as early as the end of this year.
On May 15, Maple Leaf Green World (MGW), the company building a cannabis production facility just outside the village, announced it had passed a review of its application and had a request to submit evidence of readiness for its plant.
Last week, Health Canada (HC) announced it was changing the rules requiring new licence applicants will have to have a fully-built site prior to submitting their application and would complete a high-level review of applicants already in the queue.
The reason for the change, HC said in a statement was to better allocate ministry resources.
“For example, more than 70 per cent of applicants who successfully passed Health Canada’s initial paper-based review of their application over the past three years have not yet submitted their evidence package to demonstrate to the Department that they have a built facility that meets the regulatory requirements,” the statement said. “As a result, a significant amount of resources are being used to review applications from entities that are not ready to begin operations, contributing to wait times for more mature applications and an inefficient allocation of resources.”
Tammy Jarbeau, a Health Canada media relations advisor, said the ministry would not comment on specific applicants, but MGW said in its release that HC “has no critical concerns with the application at this time.”
Jameson Wellbourne, the company’s vice president of business development, told Black Press this puts MGW in a more secure position in the application process with less competition.
“That’s great news for Maple Leaf,” he said. “Right now we’re just in final talks securing some capital needed to finish the project.”
Welbourne said the latest development is already starting to generate some buzz.
“We’ve definitely seen a bit of a reinvigoration, interest around securing capital for the project, so we’re very excited about that,” he said.
“We’re definitely having some traction and we’re in conversation with multiple groups and we’re hoping to have the financing done shortly so we’re able to get this project over the finish line.”
Once the funding is in place, he said it would take about 60 to 90 days to complete construction as it is already 75 per cent done, and another 30 days to install the cultivation equipment. Once that is finished, they would submit their video evidence package to Health Canada. If they pass that, they would receive a licence to cultivate so they can grow two test crops.
Welbourne anticipates approximately 70 days to grow the test crops, after which samples would be sent to an accreditation lab. If those samples comply with all the HC regulations, the company is in business.
Welbourne would not commit to a timeline, but is confident they are getting close to opening the doors.
“Absolutely production in 2020, and, if things fall into place the way that they could, it could be late this year, it really depends on a lot of things I can’t really speculate on,” he said.
He is optimistic, though.
“We’ve been assured that with the number of applicants and projects being reviewed being cut, hopefully, we believe, in half, that we will get the attention. And the fact that Maple Leaf was one of the original applicants … Maple Leaf is high up in the line of priority as Health Canada has indicated that it’s [based on] when you applied.”
The application for the Telkwa facility was first submitted in 2014.
Welbourne said they have been well-received in the area.
“We’re very excited to be working with the community and we’ve had great support and the Skeena Economic Development Board put out a great video on us and we’re very excited to work with them going forward.”
It’s certainly not a done deal, however. The investment community is divided on and cautious about the company.
Chris Parry, a stock journalist who runs a blog called Equity.Guru has long trashed the company calling it most recently “a bad company that has long attempted to look like a cannabis company, in the same way your drunk uncle thinks he does a great Austin Powers impression.”
On a positive note, Wallet Investor, an online aggregator of stock information says MGW’s “stock is a good long-term (1-year) investment.
Other analysts take a more middle-of-the-road approach suggesting it might be risky, but possibly worth a look.
This week, the stock is trading at around 15 cents (CAD).
Telkwa mayor Brad Layton, said it is good to hear there might be some movement on the project after months of no activity.
“It’s a few more jobs and who knows where it will lead and that’s what we need in our area, is some industry,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s in the regional district so we don’t benefit tax-wise, but it could be people in Telkwa working there, or a few more families coming in and stuff like that, so that’s definitely a positive for us.”
The company has claimed the plant will create 20 permanent positions once in operation and up to 50 temporary or seasonal jobs.
Legal recreational marijuana remains a somewhat controversial topic, but Layton feels like people in Telkwa have for the most part accepted the new reality.
“Telkwa’s probably just a reflection of some of the conversations you’ve seen across Canada,” he said. “There’s pockets of people who think this is the wrong way to go and other ones that think we were wasting a lot of time and money and putting people in prison for minor things, so, I think there’s probably both thoughts within Telkwa but there’s been no concerns brought and no delegations or comments have been sent up to me, at least.”