The Headland Cultivation Company has legal rights to 29.7 acres of land in the northwest corner of the Richmond Light Industrial Park

HALIFAX: A former lawyer based in Halifax is working on plans to grow cannabis in Lennox Passage.

David Burton, co-founder of Headland Cultivation Company has been working full-time with his mother and business partner Ann Wilkie since the fall of 2016 to establish a cultivation facility in Nova Scotia.

“We are going through what is a very onerous process at Health Canada. As of January, by way of freedom of information act requests, I know that we are one of just 12 proponents in detailed review,” said Burton.

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Although the Canadian government has recently increased the number of licenses granted to growers as federal legalization approaches, Burton said he believes Headland Cultivation is the only Cape Breton-based project to make it into detailed review.

“We’re talking about what is essentially a pharmaceutical facility in the eyes of health Canada and they’re making sure the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed in an application that’s well over 1,000 pages long,” said Burton.

Burton became interested in growing cannabis while travelling in the northwestern United States and seeing several legal dispensaries.

“I had never been in a jurisdiction like that and it was profound to see how that legal industry had changed the small communities that I was driving through,” said Burton.

Over the past year, Burton has reached out to municipalities across the province to find an appropriate site for the project. With the help of the Cape Breton Partnership, he found support from the Municipality of the County of Richmond. The Headland Cultivation Company now has legal rights to 29.7 acres of land in the northwest corner of the Richmond Light Industrial Park overlooking the Lennox Passage Bridge where Burton plans to set up the facility.

Burton believes the project will contribute positively to economic growth in the area.

“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of plants. It’s a multi-million dollar development project and the returns will be in the tens of millions of dollars if everything is successful and we get licensed and off to the races,” said Burton.

“Right out of the gate we’re looking to employ upwards of 50 or 60 people in phase one, and ultimately when we develop phases two and three we expect to numbers to be north of 100.”

Burton said the majority of jobs his company creates will be accessible to workers without extensive specialized training.

“We’re already in discussions with the NSCC to provide a classroom-based training program before doors open,” said Burton. “These are readily-available jobs with upgrading that’s within most people’s grasp, so you have positions like department coordinators, administration, production, managers, trades, and security.”

Burton says the company has assembled a core team of cannabis experts including a master grower from Holland. They have also commissioned Danish company Larssen Ltd. to design a specialized greenhouse for the facility.

“We’re positioning ourselves right at the highest end of the market, like a French Bourdeaux, or a Scottish high end malt whiskey,” said Burton. “Our markets are outside of the island and outside of Nova Scotia. We’re looking to brand ourselves in all things wonderfully Cape Breton.”

Burton is waiting for from health Canada before he knows exactly when the facility will be up and running, but he says the response from the municipality has been positive.

“Our relationship with the council is great and we look forward to continuing to work together and with our other partners to bring this challenging project to fruition,” Burton added.