By John Miner, The London Free Press
Saturday, February 22, 2014 9:41:40 EST AM
A town in which hundreds of tobacco jobs were snuffed out when its processing plant closed last decade is hoping there’s a future in marijuana.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Malahide Township Mayor Dave Mennill.
WeedMD Rx Inc. is taking over part of the massive Imperial Tobacco plant in Aylmer that was closed in 2007 when processing was shifted to Mexico.
The company is joining a rush of firms across Canada competing to set up medical marijuana production facilities under new Health Canada regulations that kick in April 1.
WeedMD expects to hire as many as 100 people over the next two years for the Aylmer plant.
“That’s good news for local employment and tax revenue. It was going to go somewhere, and why not in Aylmer?” Mennill said.
WeedMD chief executive Bruce Scully said the company has received a pre-approval licence from Health Canada and is completing arrangements for $3 million in financing.
WeedMD had hoped to start production April 1, but there have been delays.
“We shouldn’t be too long after that,” Scully said. The priority will be hiring local people, he said.
“Aylmer itself as a town has been very warm and receptive. We are very fortunate to be in this community,” Scully said.
WeedMD is a private company that was formed when two different groups planning to grow medical marijuana looked at the same Aylmer facilities.
“Instead of competing we decided to join forces,” Scully said.
The WeedMD team includes scientists working to develop new marijuana strains and growers. Scully’s background is in managing long-term care facilities, which he said isn’t as big of a jump as it might appear.
“This is all about . . . providing quality of product and service for our customers,” he said.
As of Feb. 10, Health Canada had received 450 applications for commercial production of medical marijuana.
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THE BACK STORY
- While tens of thousands of Canadians have turned to medical marijuana for pain relief and courts have declared bans on medical marijuana violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, doctors have been reluctant to prescribe pot.
- The Canadian Medical Association maintains there hasn’t been enough clinical research on the risks and benefits of marijuana to justify supporting its medical use.
- New Health Canada rules that kick in April 1 require Canada’s 42,000 medical marijuana users to buy from licensed companies instead of growing their own marijuana, creating a market estimated to grow to more than $1.3 billion by 2024.