Edmonton area could became Canadian centre for marijuana industry, executive says

The huge production and processing plant Aurora Cannabis is building beside Edmonton International Airport could help make the region a centre for Canada’s marijuana industry, a company official says.

Aurora is investing more than $100 million into the 75,000-square-metre Aurora Sky project, which should be in production by the end of the year and completed construction by the time recreational pot is legalized in July 2018, Aurora executive vice-president Cam Battley said Friday.

“I think we have the beginnings of what could turn into a cluster, a centre of excellence with respect to cannabis,” he said following a panel discussion with the Leduc Chamber of Commerce.

“Our presence at the airport is going to draw other companies that want to partner with us and our partners. The creation of Aurora Sky, this enormous facility, is going to be a major magnet for additional investment that we haven’t even anticipated yet.”

Aurora Cannabis Inc. executive vice-president Cam Battley following a presentation to the Leduc Chamber of Commerce on Friday, June 9, 2017.

Aurora Sky is described as the world’s largest legal marijuana production facility, going up on 12 hectares of land leased from the federal government.

It’s expected to create at least 200 to 300 jobs. All companies in the cannabis field will likely invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Alberta over the next few years, Battley said.

Aurora reached an agreement this week allowing it to buy control of Hempco Food and Fibre Inc., a Vancouver hemp company that has erected a factory in Nisku and is already planning expansion, he said.

It’s also in a joint venture with Edmonton’s Radient Technologies to use Radient’s process for extracting cannabinoids from dried cannabis.

This could lead to integration in which substances used mainly for medical purposes are extracted from the hemp with Radient’s process, Battley said.

Although the stock exchange lists Aurora as a Vancouver business, he said the company is based in Alberta, with chief executive Terry Booth and chief operating officer Allan Cleiren living in Edmonton.

“We’re the fastest-growing cannabis company … We need additional capacity just to meet the demand in the medical sector, which is now nearly 200,000 patients and growing 10 per cent per month.”

However, the size of the local industry is linked to what happens elsewhere in Canada. Ontario has the country’s largest number of licensed marijuana producers, but may not develop into a major activity cluster depending on government policies and other factors, Battley said.

Panellist Irene Donohue, a patient advocate and educator who owns Medical Cannabis Concierge Services, told the audience this form of medication is becoming increasingly common and is used by people across the country.

“Medical cannabis patients, they’re your mothers, they’re your parents, they could be your neighbours or the kid down the street.”

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