Amid controversy surrounding illegal medical marijuana dispensaries in Canada, one government-approved Manitoba grower agreed to show CBC News how his business operates from the inside.
- Winnipeg's medical pot dispensary reopens despite risk of arrest
- Winnipeg medical pot dispensary questioned over fees for doctor's notes
John Arbuthnot is the vice-president of Delta 9, the only medical marijuana growing facility in Manitoba that's licensed to sell cannabis.
The warehouse in the east end of Winnipeg houses about 1,000 marijuana plants and is licensed to produce about 380 kilograms per year.
"These are some of the most potent and some of the priciest varieties that we have in our product portfolio," Arbuthnot said as he gave a CBC Manitoba crew a tour of the growing rooms this week.
Arbuthnot said he got the idea for starting the business years ago after seeing the benefits of medical marijuana for some of his relatives who had medical conditions.
Arbuthnot has a team of experienced marijuana growers at the facility. The plants are harvested and tested by Health Canada before they are packaged for commercial use.
His business has been operating for about a year and there have been challenges.
"Pardon the pun, but there's always growing pains with any new industry," he said.
All 15 full-time employees at Delta 9 have had to undergo criminal background checks, and the high-security building is inspected by Health Canada every 30 days.
Health Canada's strict regulations have taken time to adapt to, Arbuthnot said.
"It's one thing for them to be words on a page; it's another thing to deal with the challenges that will arise," he said.
Arbuthnot plans to expand the facility next year to meet a growing demand.
Right now, he has 750 registered clients from across Canada, with 1,300 patients on a waiting list.
His government-approved facility stands in contrast to Your Medical Cannabis Headquarters, also in Winnipeg, which has been in the spotlight lately for staying open despite police orders to close.
The controversy has led a Winnipeg doctor, who has admitted to writing medical marijuana authorization letters for select patients in the city, to distance himself from the dispensary.
Vancouver has also had issues, with the number of medical marijuana dispensaries growing rapidly over the past year until there were almost 100 sites. The city responded by approving regulations that made it the first city in Canada to license and regulate pot shops.