Saskatchewan First Nation invests $8 million in Calgary cannabis company

An $8 million investment by Thunderchild First Nation makes it the largest shareholder of Westleaf Cannabis, a vertically integrated company based in Calgary — meaning it will control its own production and distribution of marijuana.

Thunderchild First Nation now the largest shareholder in Westleaf Cannabis

An artist's rendering of the interior of the Prairie Record location proposed by Westleaf Cannabis in the Palace Theatre building in downtown Calgary. (Westleaf Cannabis)

A Calgary-based cannabis company is partnering with a Saskatchewan First Nation to build a pair of production facilities in the two provinces, along with a chain of retail stores across Western Canada.

An $8 million investment by Thunderchild First Nation makes it the largest shareholder of Westleaf Cannabis, a vertically integrated company based in Calgary — meaning it will control its own production and distribution of marijuana.

"The band has supported Westleaf since its inception over 12 months ago, and helped us bring the Westleaf vision to life by providing a large-scale investment during our preliminary business development phase," said Scott Hurd, president and CEO of Westleaf.

"What's unique about this partnership is really the authentic relationship that we've formed between Thunderchild and Westleaf and it really extends beyond just a business deal. We share similar values, we both have roots in the Prairies and we both want to invest in the communities that we serve."

Hurd says construction began Monday on a 115,000 sq.-ft. indoor production facility in Battleford, Sask., on land owned by Thunderchild First Nation, which will take 10 to 12 months to complete.

Scott Hurd is president and CEO of Westleaf Cannabis. (Westleaf Cannabis)

"At full scale, this project will create approximately 150 ... job opportunities and we're in the process of implementing an institutional-quality training program that will allow for the development and advancement of our employees' careers."

Chief Delbert Wapass will serve as a board member with Westleaf on behalf of Thunderchild First Nation.

Westleaf has also applied to build a 60,000 sq.-ft. indoor production facility in an industrial space in Calgary's southeast quadrant, and the company expects to begin construction in the next 30 days, which will also take 10 to 12 months to complete.

When in operation, Hurd said the facility will employ up to 80 full-time staff members.

A source with the city confirmed the building permit application and said Westleaf is one of a number of companies that have made applications for a production facility in Calgary.

Adam Coates is the vice-president of sales and marketing with Westleaf Cannabis. (Westleaf Cannabis)

Westleaf also plans to open a number of retail stores across Western Canada, once recreational marijuana is legalization on Oct. 17, under the name Prairie Records. Along with producing marijuana flower, or bud, the company will create and sell derivative products.

"There's all different types of products that can be formulated that would be called a derivative, which include edibles, vape pens, topicals, tinctures for oil consumption. We intend to have a fairly wide and diverse product offering," said Hurd.

Stores across Western Canada

Westleaf has made applications to open five stores in Calgary and two in Edmonton, along with a number of other Alberta municipalities under the Prairie Records label. Hurd says the company holds leases on the locations, contingent on being awarded a retail licence.

Westleaf has also applied for a retail licence in the city of Warman, north of Saskatoon, as they were one of 51 companies selected in a recent lottery.

Companies awarded a retail licence in Saskatchewan will also be able to sell online in that province.

B.C. recently released its regulations around retail outlets and Westleaf plans to apply for three to six locations in that province, with at least one likely being in the Lower Mainland area, said Adam Coates, vice-president of sales and marketing.

One of Westleaf's applications in Calgary is to open a business at the Palace Theatre. It will have the look and feel of a record store, but will sell marijuana, Coates said.

"It really fits our concept really well of being relevant locally, then creating a unique customer experience, all tied in with music," he said.

"Music is kind of that universal thing, everyone has a relationship with it. There's music for different moods and different occasions and we're going to bring education … to tie that right along with cannabis, once it becomes legal."

Two other applications have been made for retail stores one block east from that location, however, and there are liquor stores on either side.