Hamilton

'We need you.' Local cannabis suppliers look for help before market explodes

Local cannabis producers, among the 26 approved suppliers who will be providing pot products to the province's online store starting Oct. 17, have a message for Hamilton workers — "we need you."

4 Hamilton area licensed producers won contracts to supply Ontario's only legal pot retailer

Grant McLeod, senior vice president of regulatory affairs at Beleave Kannibis says the company was "so very proud" to win the government bids. (Submitted)

Local cannabis producers, among the 26 approved suppliers who will be providing pot products to the province's online store starting Oct. 17, have a message for Hamilton workers. 

"Whether you're an accountant or a contractor or whatever it is, there's a cannabis angle to what you're doing. And we need you. We need people with those skill sets in the cannabis industry," Grant McLeod, senior vice president at Beleave Kannabis Inc. said. 

"We're looking to hire administrative people; we're looking to hire technical people, we're looking to hire growers — the entire industry is ramping up," he added.  

The hiring team at Radicle Inc., another production facility in the city with government contracts, is also gearing up for a busy year. 

They currently hire over 20 full-time Hamilton-based employees. But "with the successful Ontario Cannabis Store bid, the company is on track to build the business to over 200 full-time jobs," Radicle Inc. said in an email. 

"Hamilton has an educated and a strong labour pool near a lot of colleges and universities," McLeod said, explaining why the city is ripe for the green rush. 

Relatively cheap real estate (compared to Toronto) is also an incentive, he explained. 

"Agricultural land is being scooped up. It's a lot of property that maybe wasn't being utilized fully, given the downturn in the last couple of decades, now being re-purposed and utilized."
 
Beleave Kannabis is planning to set up a second facility in Southwestern Ontario while Radicle Inc. is looking to "expand to a 150,000 square feet facility," a representative told CBC News. 

Flower rooms at Radicle Cannabis equipped with hydroponics and environmental monitoring systems (Submitted)

The companies learned that they were on the list of 26 suppliers of the Ontario cannabis store — the only legal retailer of recreational cannabis in Ontario — a few days before the official announcement was made.

"We were very happy, so very proud," McLeod recalled.

"Ontario is the biggest market in Canada and likely will be the largest purchaser of cannabis product in the world," he said. "Any time you can access 40 per cent of the marketplace in any sector — that's that's a big deal."

Youssef Reda, Chief Marketing Officer of Radicle says ​his team was "beyond ecstatic" when they learned they won the bid to supply OCS. 

"​This win ​​allows us to begin ​working toward our future and expansion within Hamilton," he added. 

But while the companies' promises are sky-high, there have been some resistance to how they may change local landscapes.

Money 'too big,' councillor warns

 
Radicle's head grower Vincent Villanis examining clones. (Submitted)

Critics have cautioned against allowing large bunker-style cannabis facilities to spring up across the greenbelt, arguing that they'll eat up precious farmland that should be used to grow food.

"It definitely presents a threat to local agriculture," ward 3 councillor Matthew Green said. 

He wants the producers to be classified as industrial or commercial facilities so that they will be on the hook for higher property taxes. 

Unless the change is made, "there would be no incentives for local farmers to grow anything other than weed," he warned. "The money is just too big." 

Licensed pot production factories are currently classified as agricultural, Green says. And that means "they get away with paying the minimum," he added. 

The city councillor wants the provincial government to take the initiative and address the issue.

But in the meantime, come Oct. 17, these licensed producers — including Burlington's Maricann Group Inc and Emblem Corp. in Paris, Ont. — will deliver their products to the Ontario Cannabis store warehouse to be distributed by the government-run company. 

 
Matthew Green wants the provincial government to change the licensing classification for cannabis producers. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

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