Photo by Drake Lowthers -- Frank MacMaster, president and master grower at Highland Grow Inc. in Ohio East, Antigonish County, tends to his cannabis plants that have recently entered their flowering stage.

ANTIGONISH: Antigonish County is becoming a whole lot greener, thanks to Canada’s newest cash crop.

Highland Grow Inc., nestled in picturesque Ohio East, has sent a request to the federal regulator for a final inspection that’s required to obtain a seller’s license and become Nova Scotia’s first federal licensed producer of cannabis.

Frank MacMaster, the company’s president and master grower, said as long as everything is done properly and answers to all the right regulations, he strongly feels they’ll get a license sooner rather than later, with the legalization date only five-weeks away.

“We are now requesting a seller license inspection, so we’ve got to the point where we went to cultivation on December 1, now we hope to have a seller’s license before long,” he said. “We don’t know the exact date, but I’m sure Health Canada will do it in a timely fashion considering there is not one licensed LP in Nova Scotia.”

This puts Highland Grow Inc. near the frontlines for seller’s among the province’s licensed producers.

Highland Grow Inc. has recently completed two full grows in order to prepare for federal licensing. Each individual grow takes three-months to reach full maturity, and requires samples to be sent to a Health Canada certified laboratory for processing.

“They do their testing on pesticides, metals, THC and CBD levels, if everything is good and nothing to harm the client,” MacMaster said. “Our Q/A will read the test reports and if we see something negative we automatically report it to Health Canada.”

Photo by Drake Lowthers
A mature cannabis plant’s cola that will be harvested within the next couple of days glistens with trichomes at the Highland Grow Inc. facility in Ohio East.

From seed to sale, the cannabis plant is slithered and cut into clones, a rooting compound is applied and then rooted into a plug. After two weeks, the seedlings are transferred into four-inch pots, where in their vegetative state, grow from three-and-a-half-inches to 12-inches in height. As soon as they reach their designated height, the plants are put into a flowering room, at which they flower for 60-65 days. The plants are then harvested, trimmed by hand, and placed in a drying room where the cannabis will dry and cure for a 10-12 day period.

MacMaster said reaching this point has been a long time coming but with the last regulatory hurdle nearly crossed off his hard work and dedication is nothing to blow smoke at.

“I got into this before all the big players were in on it like, Tweed and Canopy. I was in the research and development stage first, that’s when I was watching the U.S. market, that was done before there was ever a large-scale licensed producer option,” he said. “I originally got in with a bad company that thought it was going to push around this little farmer from Nova Scotia. The bottom line is I got two good partners out of it who really know the industry inside-out.”

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. placed its first order for 3.75 million grams of cannabis on August 24, and through 14 Canadian licensed producers, including two from Atlantic Canada, 282 products will be supplied through bud, seeds, pre-rolls, oil and gel caps.

None of the licensed producers are from Nova Scotia because none of the province’s producers have seller’s licenses from Health Canada.

“I’ve had talks with the NSLC on a continuous basis. Once we secure our seller’s license, we hope to close a contract with NSLC.”

Photo by Drake Lowthers
The vegetation room at Highland Grow Inc. was jam-packed with cannabis plants in early stages of production. Recreational cannabis becomes legal on October 17.

MacMaster said Highland Grow Inc.’s parent company Biome Grow, is looking to become one of the big footprints in Atlantic Canada’s cannabis industry.

“We’re looking into the Canadian market, as well as the international market. We’ll follow it and peruse it as regulations allow us to, we’re looking way beyond just Nova Scotia and Canada.”

With its current 6,800 square foot facility already in production, Biome is looking to grow bigger and already has plans for another significantly larger facility for the area.

There are a lot of good opportunities out there and there has been a lot of interest outside of Canada to do business with Biome, MacMaster said.

Biome has been working to establish export contracts to countries where medical marijuana is being adopted like Germany, Israel, and Japan.

MacMaster expects employment at his facility, whom are all local to the Antigonish area to grow from the current 14 people to roughly 50 with the expansion plans that will be laid out in detail over the coming months.