The looming legalization of recreational marijuana is helping spur a green rush by more than a dozen companies setting up cannabis production facilities in the greater Edmonton region.
The ganjapreneurs range from multibillion-dollar giants such as Aurora Cannabis and Canopy Growth to a potpourri of local players looking to invest millions where they see massive potential for growth.
“It’s almost like somebody just discovered oil with the amount of jobs, the amount of technology being put into it,” says Aaron Barr, chief executive of Canadian Rockies Agricultural Inc., which plans to build a facility in Strathcona County.
Health Canada has authorized three licensed producers in the greater Edmonton region — Aurora Sky by the Edmonton International Airport, GrenEx Pharms in south Edmonton and Acreage Pharms near Edson.
As well, 10 other firms have described plans to run facilities, while several more couldn’t be reached for comment. Information about what’s on tap came from consulting people in the industry.
Barr thinks another couple of dozen proposals will emerge in the area over the next year once the federal government legalizes the recreational market.
“It’s definitely a race into the market, but at the same time, you need to be able to prove yourself … You have to have the money, you have to have the business (experience) and you have to have the farming aspect,” he says.
“I really feel there will be a lot of companies that get into this and fail … Eventually, there’s going to be a saturation point and, very much like the pharmaceutical industry, there will be three to five players.”
Troy Dezwart, co-founder of Freedom Cannabis, says his locally owned firm is poised for major expansion from the building now under construction in the Acheson industrial area, as long as the market is strong.
“There’s going to be a massive undersupply and we expect that to continue into the future … Not only to serve our demand — we expect there to be a massive export model.”