One year after legalization, London region economy still high on weed
London's reputation as food and beverage maker puts it in good spot for legal pot's 'second wave'
Over the year since the federal government first legalized the use of recreational cannabis, the London area has seen a windfall of economic development, attracting dozens of cannabis companies and generating hundreds of new jobs.
Since the end of prohibition on Oct 17 2018, southwestern Ontario has attracted 20 new companies and created nearly a thousand new jobs in cannabis production, processing, research and regulation, according to Kapil Lakhotia, the president of the London Economic Development Corporation.
"Just over the last year or so, we've had 10 companies in London alone that have been in the production and processing of cannabis related products." he said, noting they've created at least 200 jobs in the city.
While urban areas have attracted the lion's share of jobs in processing, extraction and research and development, Lakhotia noted that rural areas have also received a windfall in the form of jobs in production and harvesting of cannabis plants.
"Outside London in the broader southwestern Ontario region around us, there are well over 20 companies that we know of that have created a significant amount of employment and economic activity in the region," he said.
London well-placed for legalization's 'second wave'
While Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of legalized pot in Canada, it also marked the start of what many refer to as the "second wave" of legalization, the legal production and sale of extracts, topicals, vaping products, drinks and edibles expected to hit store shelves in December.
Lakhotia said London has a well-established reputation as a food and beverage manufacturer, which makes it an ideal place for cannabis companies looking to create new products for in this newly legal market.
List of known cannabis cultivators and processors in the London region:
- BeLeave (London)
- High Park (London)
- Weed MD (Aylmer and Strathroy)
- AgMedica Bioscience (Chatham-Kent and London)
- JC Green (Thorndale)
- Avana Cannabis (St Thomas)
- Mera (St Thomas)
- MMG (St Thomas)
- Eve & Co (Strathroy)
- Motif Labs (Aylmer)
- MedReleaf (Exeter)
- GreenSeal Cannabis (Stratford)
"There are companies that have already secured spaces and investing in equipment and training to meet the demand on edibles and extracts so we anticipate that to be a growing niche segment in the food and beverage cluster," he said.
"There are several companies that are gearing up from a compliance standpoint, they've already invested in equipment and automation."
Lakhotia noted that London's reputation as a test market city has also created opportunities for firms in research and development, as well as safety testing. He pointed out that Fanshawe College is looking to train the next generation of cannabis scientists with its newly announced program for cannabis applied science to analyze cannabis for quality and safety
Lakhotia said what attracts many of these companies to southwestern Ontario are the same factors that attract other large corporations, such as close proximity to highways, clean water and a well educated population.
In fact, talent seems to be the only thing holding cannabis companies back with many of them holding job fairs and posting ads looking for help in an ever-growing industry.
"There's certainly a lot of hype, a lot of growth and anticipation and upcoming demand the companies are ramping up for," Lakhotia said, noting it remains to be seen whether the industry can keep pace with its initial wave of growth.
"It's still rather new in this area and there's some speculation as to whether this growth trend will continue in this area and to this degree."