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Former Nanaimo Mountie heads security at marijuana operation

Jake Ryan, a former RCMP criminal intelligence officer, has taken the job as head of security with medicinal marijuana grower Tilray.  - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Jake Ryan, a former RCMP criminal intelligence officer, has taken the job as head of security with medicinal marijuana grower Tilray.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

When 30 grams of medical marijuana costs $300, a producer servicing patients across Canada must think seriously about its security.

Who better to handle the job than a former RCMP criminal intelligence officer?

That qualification meant Insp. Al O’Donnell, operations officer at Nanaimo RCMP detachment, would regret taking Cpl. Jake Ryan, former head of Nanaimo RCMP’s Criminal Intelligence Division, to meet the top people at Tilray when the company proposed starting operations at Duke Point.

“I hated to lose Jake – good member, good, strong guy – but the reality was the company was going to open up here and to take Jake over with such high integrity that he has, it has to leave us with comfort that the company that’s going in there to open up is all above board,” O’Donnell said.

The relationship between Privateer Holdings – Tilray’s parent company – and Ryan grew as he advised staff on security systems and protocols. They finally offered him a job as head of security, but the offer wasn’t a slam dunk for Tilray.

With seven years in criminal intelligence with the federal wing of the RCMP, Ryan knows just about everybody in Canada’s crime world, so everyone involved with the company had to check out clean before he considered working for them. When Privateer Holdings’ principals proved highly credible and the company looked like a good fit for Nanaimo, he got more curious.

“I was really wanting to get a feel for this company and what it was about and that was really the beginning of the journey for me,” Ryan said.

The old marijuana production licensing system was broken, Ryan said. Criminal involvement, drug rips, fires, chemicals, and other associated issues made legal grow ops unsafe for the communities in which they operated. Ryan saw Tilray as a better way to go about it and a chance to build something from the ground up.

Tilray currently grows 25 strains of marijuana at the site. Everything from the call-in centre to growing, cutting, packaging and shipping product is contained within the facility. Construction is underway within the building, which only uses about half of the current space available, to double production.

Ryan has designed a security system using the same camera, scanning and detection equipment found at the White House and the Pentagon. Ryan said he can’t discuss specifics, but the system covers all movements within the site and well beyond the site’s fence perimeter.

As for a former cop helping a company grow marijuana?

“My wife’s a cop here in Nanaimo,” Ryan said. “All my brothers, my brother’s wife, uncles ... I have a real, real cop family and everyone’s supportive. All my coworkers, extremely supportive and everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, this is cool.’”

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