Another reason to be optimistic in the economy of the Strait area comes from a trio of companies with exciting plans for the future.

The former Minacs Call Centre building in Port Hawkesbury could soon become the site of an indoor craft cannabis production facility and act as a centre for research and development.

Breton CannaPharms Ltd. (BCP), a Cape Breton owned-and-operated company, has applied to Health Canada to become a licensed producer of cannabis under the Cannabis Act.

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BCP will be primarily focused on the medical treatment of patients suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and maintaining the supply for those patients.

Fabian Henry, along with another Canadian Forces veteran, Mike Southwell, founded the company Marijuana for Trauma – now Canada House Clinics – with a mission to help alleviate the suffering of veterans struggling with their operational stress injuries. Upon exiting the business in 2016, Henry knew there was going to be a real need for licensed producers to secure a supply for medical patients and that’s when he began preparing the idea of BCP.

To have the right cultivators, the right genetics, and advance the quality of those genetics, BCP has partnered with Dr. Darryl Hudson, who has done significant work in this field over the past 10-years, to be the company’s science advisor.

BCP is supported by a national network that supports plant genetics, the analysis of those genetics, and the scientific research around how the product affects patients.

BCP plans to step in to provide their craft cannabis product, which would range from $5-$8.50 per gram.

Since acquiring the building in July, BCP has started demolition and are in the final stages of the design process. Once they finish the design, a full security plan is needed before they apply for a cultivation license this spring.

The company said they can apply for a sales license after they’ve grown two full crops and are planning to obtain a sales license by 2020.

By the time the facility is running at full-capacity, BCP will be looking at upwards of 6,000 kilograms of dried cannabis product grown and shipped each year. The building is currently 75,000 square feet, of which 24,000 will be designated for flowering rooms.

Meanwhile in Richmond County, a company with plans to put the region on the craft cannabis map expects to start the hiring process this summer and have their facility constructed by the fall.

The Headland Cultivation Inc. says that after the Municipality of the County of Richmond completes a road to their facility at the Richmond County Industrial Park in Lennox Passage, and they conduct site clearing on their 30 acres, they hope to award the construction tender early this month.

The timeline is for construction to begin in the spring and finish by next fall.

The company plans to produce 4 million grams annually of Connoisseur Quality Cannabis, then ship to Alberta and Ontario, as well as the rest of Nova Scotia. Headland will also work with medical patients across the country, with the ability to send their product direct from Richmond County via Xpress Post or FedEx.

According to a November, 2018 media release from Headland, the company has a “first mover advantage,” in the marketplace. One of their major assets is an internationally renowned Master Grower who is moving to the region from Holland and will oversee the complicated task of growing exotic strains that will be hand-trimmed, non-irradiated and hang-dried.

Headland said there is a market segment that was identified in the black market which prefers a high quality product, to mass-produced cannabis.

In the meantime, Headland Cultivation is addressing the “stream” of e-mails and inquiries from job-seekers from as far away as Alberta with plans to start recruiting in the summer.

On the other side of the Canso Causeway, Highland Grow Inc., of Antigonish County is awaiting a seller’s license to become Nova Scotia’s first federal licensed producer of cannabis. This puts Highland Grow among the province’s few licensed producers.

Highland Grow 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 to test pesticides, metals, THC, and CBD levels

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.

Highland Grow’s parent company Biome Grow, is looking to make a big footprint in Atlantic Canada’s cannabis industry.

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.

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

Highland Grow expects employment at the facility, all of whom are from the Antigonish area, to grow from the current 14 people to roughly 50 as a result of expansion that will be laid out in detail over the coming months.

While some of these plans could change, the fact that these companies are so far down the road in the burgeoning industries of recreational and medicinal cannabis is certainly a reason to feel hopeful.

If they are successful, this region will quickly become one of Nova Scotia’s leaders in the industry.

That means a tangible foothold and noticeable presence in a billion-dollar industry with millions of consumers and patients from coast-to-coast-to coast.

In years past, this area was economically disadvantaged by geography, now these products can easily be distributed across the province by the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, or delivered directly to consumers all over Canada.

For those keeping score that means a wide-open marketplace, engaged consumers and patients, and the ability to conduct mass distribution.

It doesn’t take a business major to see that these companies and the Strait area are brimming with potential.