Quebec entrepreneur hoping for high times with Liberals' marijuana pledge

Dany Lefebvre has a sleek, modern plant set up outside Montreal with heat lamps and a state-of-the-art ventilation system. All he needs now is the green light from the new Liberal government to grow marijuana in it.

Prospective marijuana growers eager for new federal government to follow through on legalization pledge

Dany Lefebvre, owner of Vert Médica in St-Lucien, Que., is focusing on hemp while awaiting word on the Liberal government's plans regarding marijuana. (Ainslie Maclellan/CBC)

Dany Lefebvre has a sleek, modern production facility set up near Drummondville, Que., with a state-of-the art ventilation system, heat lamps and high security.

All he needs now is the green light from the new Liberal government to grow marijuana in it.

"We know they'll have four years," Lefebvre said from the headquarters of Vert Médical in St-Lucien, 130 kilometres east of Montreal.

"In my opinion, it'll definitely be implemented in that time."

Lefebvre is among many entrepreneurs across Canada eagerly awaiting a Liberal proposal to legalize marijuana become reality.

He has close to 40 hectares of land primed for planting hemp.  In addition, he hopes to grow high-quality marijuana in his indoor facility.

Lefebvre mortgaged one of his restaurants to invest a few hundred thousand dollars of his own money in his operation, and he has financial backing from the company PharmaCan Capital.

Lefebvre says he also has the support of the local mayor, who is hoping the business brings jobs and extra revenue.

Health Canada says medical pot needs met

Like many others, Lefebvre applied for a medical marijuana licence under the Conservatives, but it was never approved.

"We constructed a building, we met all the regulations, and we had good communications with Health Canada," he said.

However, since 2014, he said "discussions have been pretty much none."

Health Canada has said its needs for medical marijuana have already been met.

Lefebvre said he is not upset to have to wait for a license, because he believes Health Canada is right to regulate the industry closely – citing the danger of producing cannabis with mould or bacteria.

"It's not everybody that can be a licensed producer," he said. "It's really professional and really tight."

"It's the best medical cannabis regulation around the world. And I think Canada will launch, in my personal opinion, the best recreational regulations for cannabis worldwide, as well."

Timeline unclear

However, just when that will happen is anyone's guess right now.

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau hasn't given a date by which his government might legalize marijuana. He has stressed in the past that the provinces need to be consulted first.

It's rare in life that you will see a new industry start from seeds,- Dany Lefebvre, founder of Vert Médical

There's already a hint of the boost it could give the fledgling industry — and the wider economy. Medical marijuana stocks soared immediately follow the Liberals' majority win.

At this point, entrepreneurs can only speculate on what legalized recreational marijuana might look like.

Lefebvre said it will be important for people to know exactly what they're getting, "with a product perfectly labelled with a percentage of THC and CBD." (THC  – tetrahydrocannabinol – and CBD – cannabidiol – are two of the active ingredients in cannabis.)

"People will buy product like they buy a bottle of wine or beer," he ventured.

But until that day arrives, Lefebvre and his partner have turned their focus toward producing a line of hemp products, ranging from skin care to what he calls "super food."  

Year 1 of a new industry

At 36, the former restaurant owner says he's in the marijuana business for the long haul.

"We're investing in this," he said, "We year one of a new industry in Canada."

"It's rare in life that you will see a new industry start from seeds," Lefebvre said.

"People need to understand all the good things this plant has to offer that have been hidden."

with files from Ainslie Maclellan