With the legalization of marijuana on the way to Canada in 2018, Brad Wither looked at his family farm located just south of Winnipeg and saw a business opportunity.
The 26-year-old labourer wants to become a licenced marijuana producer, hoping to get in on the medical marijuana side of the business to be ahead of the pack when it's legal.
"What we have been seeing is that people who got in on the medical side right before recreation passed in states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon, if you get on the medical side before, the profits behind recreation that follows is exponential," he said.
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Wither isn't the only Manitoban seeing the business side of legalization. A packed Cannabis Canada conference in Winnipeg on Friday and Saturday saw a lot of people looking into how they can capitalize on the emerging industry.
"There is quite a bit of business opportunities if we are going to be legalizing cannabis," said Colette Rivet, executive director for the Cannabis Canada Association. "We want to make sure that people understand what they are getting into as well."
A 2016 report from CIBC World Markets estimated a Canadian pot market could be worth about $10 billion annually. It said the country's federal and provincial governments could reap as much as $5 billion annually in tax revenues from the sale of legal marijuana.
Rivet said before people jump into the business it's important to learn about regulations, necessary supplies and the constantly changing technology.
That's why Wither went to the conference. He has the land but wants to learn about how to rezone, the best cost-saving measures for equipment and other details of the business.
His goal is to be a licenced producer in three years, starting with medical marijuana.
"I'm hoping that we will be the biggest or one of the biggest in Manitoba for licenced producing," he said.
Manitoba's two Health Canada-approved producers of medical cannabis are currently Delta9 and Bonify. As of March 31, Health Canada received 1,630 licence applications to grow medical marijuana. There are currently only 43 licensed producers in Canada.
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Wither may have already crossed one of the largest hurdles — convincing his family to drastically change what the farm is used for.
"At first they were a little bit thrown back. Whether you are a Liberal or a Conservative it's a touchy subject," he said.
"There's still a stigma with it but I would say it's more acceptable than it was four years ago. We wouldn't be having this conversation four years ago."