A $12 million renovation of the old Clairtone building in Stellarton, Nova Scotia is taking shape, as the aging structure is transformed into one of Canada's largest medical marijuana production facilities.
Vida Cannabis, a company led by Ottawa venture capitalist Greg Wilson, bought the building from the Town of Stellarton for $500,000.
Wilson says all the money needed to cover the expensive construction costs has already been raised from private investors seeking to cash in on the burgeoning medical marijuana industry in Canada.
On Wednesday, Wilson touted the security features being installed in the building, and says it will be akin to a medium security prison.
A special security mesh is being inserted between the interior and exterior walls. There will be a thermal imaging system installed on the roof, and more.
Security akin to medium security prison
"We'll have fencing around the whole perimeter of the building that's three metres high and with barbed wire on top, dug two feet into the ground," he says.
"We'll have night vision cameras, we'll have biometrics inside to control access points for employees."
Trenches are being dug in the foundation for the drainage system. And a quality control and research lab is also being built.
Vida Cannabis is one of the more than a thousand applicants across the country seeking Health Canada licences to produce medical marijuana.
If all goes smoothly, Wilson says he hopes to have all Health Canada approvals in place by January, with the first crop shipping out to customers in the spring.
The first phase of the project is dedicating about 93,000 square feet to production, offices, storage and research facilities.
"Right now we don't know of any facility bigger than us in Canada," Wilson says.
Plant could eventually employ 200
This work is happening in somewhat murky environment for medical marijuana in Canada.
The Canadian Medical Association has said there's not enough research into whether medical marijuana treatments work.
Hundreds of users have taken the federal government to court, challenging new rules brought in April 1 that forbid users from growing their own at home.
Even with all that, Wilson maintains there will be no shortage of medical marijuana customers when Vida Cannabis has its operation up and running.
The company says it plans to hire about 40 people locally and if future expansions take place the facility could employ more than 200 people.
Vida Cannabis has also brought in a team of five marijuana production experts from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.