Alberta medical marijuana supplier expands sales to Italy

An Alberta medical marijuana company is blazing a trail on the international market, expanding its sales to a second European country.

Aurora Cannabis Enterprises Inc. is the first private manufacturer in Italy

Aurora Cannabis is the first private international medical marijuana manufacturer to sell directly to the Italian government. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

An Alberta medical marijuana company is blazing the trail on the international market, expanding its sales to a second European country.

Aurora Cannabis Enterprises Inc., a medical cannabis producer with an 800,000-square-foot production facility near the Edmonton International Airport, has struck a deal to be the first and only private international pot manufacturer to sell in Italy.

Through its German subsidiary, Aurora was the successful bidder in a public tender to supply medical marijuana directly to the Italian government.

"This is a sign of things to come," Cam Battley, Aurora's chief corporate officer, told CBC News. "As each new medical cannabis market in the EU [European Union] opens up, we're going to be able to participate."

Aurora already operates in Germany through Pedanios, its first foreign marijuana distributor, based in Berlin.

The product will be manufactured in Canada, then exported to Berlin, where it will go through Italy's Ministry of Defence and then into the market.

In 2015, Aurora was the first medical marijuana operation in Alberta granted a licence by Health Canada, originally at a production facility in Mountain View County, north of Calgary.

The company also operates out of Pointe-Claire, Que. and is currently building a fourth Canadian facility in Lachute, Que.

Italian market promising

Until recently, the Italian military would cultivate medical cannabis for public use, Aurora said in a news release. An increase in demand for medical marijuana is now forcing the Italian government to look for new relationships with suppliers.

That puts the country in the position to become one of the largest medical marijuana markets in the world, Battley said.

"It's a very affluent country and so we're very excited to start supplying that market."

Italy gets some government-distributed medical marijuana from the Netherlands, but Aurora is the first private manufacturer to have a direct relationship with the Italian government, Battley said.

He said Aurora has "very big plans" to grow its business in Italy but he couldn't say how much revenue it will generate.

The company will begin shipping product to the Italian government in the spring.

Aurora's international expansion comes as Ottawa prepares to legalize recreational marijuana by July.

With files from Terry Reith