Legal pot a boon for local start-ups, say Waterloo region entrepreneurs

Tech start ups in Waterloo region say the legalization of cannabis has the potential to grow their businesses.

As cannabis industry grows, entrepreneurs are looking for ways to cash in

At least six tech start ups in Kitchener-Waterloo are working toward getting into the cannabis industry as recreational marijuana becomes legal. (Carmen Ponciano/ CBC)

Tech start ups in Waterloo region say the legalization of cannabis has the potential to grow their businesses. 

Guard-Ex, SannTek and Grobo are just a few of the local businesses taking advantage of Canada's new rules around the use and possession of pot. 

As the cannabis industry grows, Jay Sha, director of Velocity, said more students at the University of Waterloo are interested in getting involved in the industry.

"Through the pipeline we have on campus — through all the students engagement and entrepreneurial activities — we've defiantly seen lots of other projects," Sha said.

Grobo​, known for its automated hydroponic grow boxes, started tapping into the cannabis business three years ago, when it shifted from a focus on home-grown veggies to home-grown cannabis.

"It was medical patients locally that started coming up and asking us ... 'Hey, can you help us grow our cannabis?'" said Bjorn Dawson, co-founder and CEO.

Now, Dawson said they're playing catch-up with the number of orders they're receiving.

Co-founders Thomas Dunlop (left) and Noah Debrincat (right) are working to create a breathalyzer device that will detect THC levels and hope to introduce it to the workplace and police services. (Carmen Ponciano/ CBC )

Road and work safety 

Another local tech start up that hopes to capitalize on new cannabis legislation is SannTek. 

Co-founders Noah Debrincat and Thomas Dunlop want to develop a breathalyzer device that will detect THC levels using nano-technology.

Debrincat said using this kind of technology will improve the sensitivity of the breath test, allowing it to detect small amounts of THC. 

SannTek is still in the  early stages of development, but Debrincat said they've been in contact with Waterloo regional police and other Ontario police services to better understand what kind of device is needed. 

Guard-Ex, another local company, could soon start testing their drug recognition device with Waterloo regional police.

The GX-420 will be able to detect many different drugs, including cannabis.