Nfld. & Labrador

Canopy Growth reveals retail and more pot production plans

Major deal between the company and government has the tourism minister defending that the door is closed for other would-be producers.

Prices not set yet, but 4 stores will employ 60 people, says company

Canopy Growth vice-president Jeff Ryan, left, and provincial cabinet minister Christopher Mitchelmore break ground on the site of the company's future production facility in the White Hills area of St. John's. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

It isn't much — or really anything — now, but politicians used matching shovels to break ground on a grassy field in the east end of St. John's on Monday that will house a marijuana production facility that will grow 12,000 kilograms of cannabis a year.

"It's a really great day for Canopy and for St. John's," says Canopy Growth's vice-president Jeff Ryan.

The company, headquartered in Smiths Falls, Ont., signed an agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador government in December to build a production plant to ensure the province has "a safe and secure supply" of cannabis when it is legalized this year.

The location — in the White Hills area of the city — was announced Friday via the government's environmental assessment process, which alerts the public when new projects are registered. The sod-turning on Monday was a go, despite that the project was just being opened for public comments, which are due by June 8.

A decision by Justice Minister Andrew Parsons — who has taken over Eddie Joyce's portfolio of municipal affairs and environment while Joyce is away on personal leave sought after bullying allegations were levelled against him — is due by June 18.

That's the same month company officials and politicians said construction on the 150,000-square-foot facility will start. It is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2019 at a cost of $55 million.

That will make it the biggest Canopy Growth site in Atlantic Canada, according to Ryan.

"It's great to have a flagship like Canopy here in the province," said Innovation Minister Christopher Mitchelmore.

The company, which has operations in seven countries, will supply cannabis products to Newfoundland and Labrador via its existing production facilities in Ontario until then.

Retail stores, too

Canopy Growth said it will employ 145 people at the 60 Eastland Dr. production site.

Another 60 people will have jobs at four of its retail stores located on Water Street and Kenmount Road in St. John's and Broadway in Corner Brook. The fourth retail store will be located at the production facility, which will also include a warehouse and office space.

"As soon as it's legal, we will have those retail stores open," said Ryan.

The company is having a job fair next month to find employees for those retail stores, which Ryan said will offer an education component, too.

"Our goal here is to really be part of the community, to create jobs and at the same time sell cannabis in a very responsible way," he told reporters at Monday's event.

Canopy Growth has operations in seven countries. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

As for the prices for products — which will likely include pre-rolled joints, cannabis oil and flowered cannabis — those aren't quite ready yet.

"Stay tuned for a price list when the time is right," he said.

Ryan said there could even be opportunities for distinctive marketing.

"That's the great thing about Newfoundland. I think that in the future we will be able to sort of mine the cultural aspects of the province and perhaps develop some brands that will be inextricably linked to Newfoundland."

Don't call it a monopoly

The company is already eyeing growth in the province — Ryan said it has applied for two additional retail licences in St. John's, and other regions are being considered, too.

When asked how he would respond to those who say that a deal this big between Canopy and the government doesn't give other companies a fair shot, Mitchelmore insisted that's not the case.

"Everyone has equal opportunity … if they want to establish a production facility in Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.

"We're certainly open for business."

Canopy Growth is also building a plant in Fredericton, N.B., but it's one-third the size of the one that will be built in this province, according to Ryan. 

With files from Terry Roberts