P.E.I. businessman Edwin Jewell saw an opportunity to expand his 14-year-old garden centre and farmers market when Health Canada announced the MMPR.

Jewell and a number of investors weaved through the complex application process and are now well on their way to completing the first LP warehouse in Prince Edward Island.

Called “Canada’s Island Garden”, the 24,000-square-foot facility, which will contain two floors for growing cannabis and a 3,600-square-foot office, is slated for completion in November. It is in BioCommons Research Park — a business park that caters to the bioscience industry.

“It is more challenging than traditional industrial, institutional or commercial type buildings because you are basically building a greenhouse indoors,” points out Ross Wheatley, mechanical design lead for mechanical engineer MCA Consultants Inc.

“A challenge is ensuring that nothing is released into the surrounding environment from the facility (odours and contaminants). It is a significant biological containment issue,” explained Wheatley, adding that this was just one of the many requirements Health Canada requires of LP applicants.

The mechanical consultant minimizes the amount of duct work going through the building envelope to prevent the opportunity for intrusion into the building.

“Every time we go through the envelope,” says Wheatley, “we have to put burglar bars up. It’s much like the design of a prison.”

Prior to starting construction, Jewell made two trips to legal cannabis farming operations in Colorado in hopes of learning about construction technologies.

“What I learned more about though is how to grow plants than design a building to grow the plants in.”

He says most licensed producers in Canada and the U.S. are not open to offering facility tours.

“It is a very competitive business.”

It is also an industry in its infancy so the best design and construction technologies are still being researched, he adds.

Another key issue has been security. To meet Health Canada’s standards, the facility must include many security cameras, seismic sensors and associated security equipment at an estimated cost of about $300,000.

Once the facility is complete, Health Canada will inspect it before granting the owners a license. The owners will then be required to do a trial marijuana crop (12 to 16 weeks including drying time), which will be tested by an independent lab for such issues as mold, heavy metals, and bacteria.