In late September, Tweed Farms received permission from Health Canada to begin production using all 35,000 sq. ft of their Niagara facility, an increase that makes it the largest legal marijuana growing operation in Canada.
Tweed Farms founder and president Angus Footman said the plan is to expand in small increments, dictated by market demand, before the facility is running at 100 per cent capacity.
The Niagara location is one of three medical cannabis grow operations owned by licensed producer Canopy Growth Corp, and began production in June, 2014.
“We can leverage the production capacity of the greenhouse to meet the needs of an evolving market that will increasingly require scale as we move closer to licensed cannabis oil sales and as more and more patients seek medicinal cannabis as a treatment option,” said Canopy Growth chairman and CEO Bruce Linton.
Since the facility opened, Footman said the farm has gone through a “massive amount of work” preparing the greenhouse and security for the eventual expansion from 35,000 sq. ft. to, eventually, ten-times that amount.
“We’re not going to be growing in the entire greenhouse right away,” said Footman. “We’ll be matching growth to customer demand, slowly graduating to it. But this gives us the capacity to do it.”
Footman said the $8 million facility is 85 per cent complete and, over the next six months, Tweed Farms plans to increase its workforce from 23 to up to 50.
One area of growth is research, necessary in an industry with little established techniques and tools, like pesticides, compared to traditional crops, Footman said.
“We have to do our own research, and so we built a research lab,” Footman said.
A large part of that research goes toward development for educating physicians, who, under Health Canada regulations, are required to prescribe cannabis to patients before they are able to access it legally.
“Doctors as a whole are becoming more accepting, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Footman. “It’s no different than with any new drug that comes along.”
The farm’s output could also depend on the future of cannabis legalization in Canada, something Footman supported, but only under the same controls that apply to growing it medicinally..
“It would make it safer, would take it out of the hands of organized crime,” Footman said. “The government could tax it – just like alcohol.”