Hicks on Biz: Oil on decline but pot is hot BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, AUGUST 24, 2017 UPDATED: FRIDAY, AUGUST 25, 2017
An industry is being born around Edmonton that will, ever so slightly, offset the decline of Alberta’s oil, natural gas and coal sectors.
The fast-approaching legalization of recreational pot, plus the now-legal production of medical marijuana, will create a Canada-wide industry every bit as big as booze is today.
Greater Edmonton, thanks mostly to the Aurora Cannabis Company’s massive indoor marijuana farm being built out by the Edmonton International Airport, is about to become a major centre of the new, legal, Canadian cannabis industry.
It’s not just about getting high. Medical marijuana has a big market, both domestic and international.
Hemp – essentially marijuana without the buzz – is coming into its own with dozens of non-recreational uses. Edmonton has a thriving hemp industry.
Here are some of the immediate economic benefits flowing into our city and region.
Now publicly traded on the TSX, with shares collectively worth a billion bucks, Aurora Cannabis Inc. is spending $100 million building Aurora Sky. This 800,000 sq.-ft. marijuana greenhouse will be one of world’s biggest (legal) pot operations. Once operational, it will employ 300 skilled bio-technicians and have its own research laboratories.
Canopy Growth – another major Canadian cannabis company – is opening a 160,000 sq.-ft. growing facility in the Morris Industrial Park in southeast Edmonton.
Canadian Rockies Agriculture wants to build a nine-building marijuana facility in Strathcona County near Josephburg.
Acreage Pharms already has a 6,700 sq.-ft. indoor marijuana greenhouse at Peers, about 20 km west of Edson off Hwy. 16, with plans to expand to 240,000 sq. ft.
All this pot is creating a torrent of ancillary economic activity.
Edmonton’s Radient Technologies – extracting chemical compounds from plants through a unique patented process – will make marijuana oil for Aurora.
Aurora likes Radient’s potential, so much so that Aurora is taking a 17 per cent ownership position in Radient.
Because of Aurora, Radient is growing from four bio-chemists and lab technicians to 26 by the end of the year. Radient’s marijuana oil extraction technology is top notch. International markets beckon.
Hempco, a leading Western Canadian hemp processor, is currently headquartered in Burnaby, B.C. Hempco is consolidating all its operations, including its head office, into a new processing centre in Nisku.
Quietly plugging along with $6.6 million in revenues last year, Hempco contracts some 40,000 acres worth of outdoor-grown hemp from Alberta farmers. The harvested hemp is processed into protein powder, hemp heart food supplements and cooking oils.
Aurora likes Hempco too, and is purchasing 20% of the company with the likelihood of becoming majority shareholder down the line. Hempco will grow from 24 employees by the end of 2017, to an anticipated 70 to 80 by 2020.
New jobs and economic activity should buzz around Edmonton, stemming from the growing, distribution, e-commerce, wholesale and retail sales of recreational and medicinal pot.
Investors are keen to jump on the marijuana/hemp bandwagon for other reasons too.
Marijuana and hemp are, as one early researcher put it, “medical treasure troves, waiting to be discovered.”
The two plants have dozens of under-explored and potentially profitable medical benefits, not only from the intoxicant THC, but also from a non-intoxicating compound known as CBD.
CBD has huge potential for pain relief, especially arthritis, and may be a natural treatment for neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. CBD could replace opioids as pain-killers.
Canadian marijuana/hemp companies are uniquely positioned for export. Canada has been a leader in legalizing and regulating medical, and now recreational, marijuana.
Other countries, particularly the United States, are way behind us. Growing medical marijuana is not yet allowed in Germany, but the country allows the sale of medical marijuana from approved countries – i.e. Canada. To that end, Aurora has acquired a European medical distribution company.
So why are pot-growing companies flocking to Edmonton?
We’re a strong distribution centre. A skilled workforce is available. Northern Alberta offers ideal conditions for the outdoor growing of hemp. Provincial economic-diversification programs, company spokespeople say, have been helpful.
With so many pot operations coming down the pike, a host of service and spin-off firms will follow.
One hesitates to be over-enthusiastic, and this column won’t dwell on the social issues of legalizing yet another intoxicant.
But, given the investment and commitments to date, marijuana is an Edmonton sunrise industry where the sun is just a-shooting up into the sky.