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Medical pot grower ships first product from Nanaimo facility

Brendan Kennedy, chief executive officer of Tilray, makes an opening speech during the official launch of the medical marijuana production facility at Duke Point.  - TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/The News Bulletin
Brendan Kennedy, chief executive officer of Tilray, makes an opening speech during the official launch of the medical marijuana production facility at Duke Point.
— image credit: TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/The News Bulletin

Medicinal bud is now being grown and shipped from Nanaimo’s new marijuana production facility.

Tilray, the face of B.C.-based Lafitte Ventures, celebrated the official opening of its production facility at Duke Point on Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, tours and its first shipment of medical marijuana.

Renovations on the multi-million-dollar building got underway last December after Nanaimo city council approved rezoning. The result is an estimated $15-million investment into an industrial facility that will have the potential to serve up to 8,000 patients a month and store $30 million worth of medicinal pot.

With barbed-wire fence, intrusion-detection devices, cameras and security guards, the vault storing the medical marijuana is virtually a bank inside a prison, according to Brendan Kennedy, chief executive officer of Tilray, who offered local dignitaries and media a peek inside the facility as part of opening-day celebrations.

Kennedy believes the building design and growing technology are among the ingredients needed to keep his company competitive.

Tilray offers 40 strains of marijuana and according to the company, “hundreds” of patients have signed up to purchase pot.

“We’ve invested to produce cannabis on a scale unlike anything that’s currently available in Canada,” Kennedy said, adding that while other facilities he’s seen are dirty and inefficient, this one is the exact opposite. “We wanted everything to be clean.”

The surfaces are disinfected once a day and the company’s 60 employees wear white lab coats, gloves and disposable shoe covers. Behind non-descript doors is where the company grows, cures and stores marijuana. It all starts in the clone room, where clippings are taken from mature plants and put into pods to take root. They grow for two weeks before being transferred into trays and barcoded so everything is known about the plant, from when it was watered to the nutrients it received and rooms it passed through.

From start to finish, it will take an average 80 days to get products ready for patients. Each gram is sold for between $8 to $12 and flowers are hand-trimmed.

“All the competitors in Canada are shipping ground product in baggies more similar to pipe tobacco,” Kennedy said. “Shipping whole flower and whole bud in its natural form is really a differentiator and it’s what patients are used to.”

The company was licensed to distribute in April and made its first shipment of a single box this week.

Philippe Lucas, Tilray’s vice-president of patient research and services, said the next challenge will be bringing the medical community onside with medicinal marijuana.

The company is developing a program to help educate doctors about medical pot. The initiative would include continuing education credits and will be unveiled in the next couple of months.

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