| WINNIPEG, Manitoba
WINNIPEG, Manitoba Dec 1 Some Canadian flower
growers are turning to weed, with the country's plan to legalize
marijuana for recreational use expected to spur a spike in legal
sales of the drug.
While medical marijuana is already legal in Canada, the
Liberal government said in April it will introduce a law in 2017
to support expanded legalization, a policy already backed by
several U.S. states.
Canadian legal marijuana sales may climb to C$4.6 billion
($3.44 billion) by 2019 from just C$125 million, according to PI
The potential demand spurred Jeannette VanderMarel and Scott
Skinner, experienced in growing lavender, to plant their first
marijuana crop in September.
The slogan on their Hamilton, Ontario farm, called The Green
Organic Dutchman, is "We're Farmers not Pharma."
"There might have been a perception that it's huge corporate
entities entering this market. We are truly a mom and pop farm,"
Even so, Dutchman aims to go public next year and produce
13,000 kilograms (29,000 lbs) by 2018.
Dutchman's growing facility looks like a farm shed from the
outside, but is more pharmaceutical plant inside, where workers
wear face masks, shoe covers and gloves, and a microbiologist
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the goal of
legalization is to take revenue from organised crime and better
protect young people.
The policy change will create 2018 cannabis demand of
655,000 kilograms, Canada's parliamentary budget officer (PBO)
said. An estimated 4.6 million Canadians are expected to try
cannabis in 2018, according to PBO.
Potential producers have taken notice. Health Canada was
processing 422 licence applications as of Nov. 8. It has only
approved 36 since 2013 when Canada allowed commercial medical
A government report on regulating the expanded industry was
completed this week, but has not become public.
In Prince Edward Island, Canada's Island Garden Inc just
harvested its second crop, and is aiming for capacity of 800
kilograms by June. President Edwin Jewell says running a farm
market has been critical experience to setting up his indoor
But he had worried what longtime customers might think.
"I was thinking, 'will they take a stand that they don't
want to support me any longer?" he said.
"We haven't seen that at all."
Aphria Inc produces six harvests a year in Ontario
greenhouses, using its founder's experience growing poinsettias
"Ninety percent of any plant is the same -- roots, stems,
stalks, leaves," said Chief Executive Vic Neufeld.
But cannabis requires high maintenance, he added, demanding
at times 12 hours of sunlight per day and 12 hours of total
darkness, requiring "blackout curtains."
Aphria and other large producers, such as Canopy Growth Corp
, Mettrum Health Corp and OrganiGram Holdings Inc
, are already aggressively expanding. Canopy agreed on
Thursday to buy Mettrum for C$430 million in stock.
But some potential growers like Ontario-based Kuyvenhoven
Greenhouses are just saying no, with capital and risks not the
only deciding factors.
"I had trouble introducing something I didn't ethically
believe in," said owner Andrew Kuyvenhoven.
($1 = 1.3366 Canadian dollars)
(Editing by Marguerita Choy)