The Current

How Smiths Falls turned a chocolate factory into a marijuana plant

The town of Smiths Falls ran into hard times when a major employer -- a chocolate factory -- left for Mexico. Now, there's a new industry in town. As part of Project Money, we follow 1 Hershey Drive's transition from an old chocolate factory into a medical marijuana operation....
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The town of Smiths Falls ran into hard times when a major employer -- a chocolate factory -- left for Mexico. Now, there's a new industry in town. As part of Project Money, we follow 1 Hershey Drive's transition from an old chocolate factory into a medical marijuana operation.

For nearly half a century, Smiths Falls was known as the chocolate capital of Ontario and home to the Hershey Company's first plant outside of the United States. With large-scale chocolate production anchoring the local economy, this small manufacturing town prospered.



At its peak, Hershey employed 750 people, and brought hundreds of thousands of others through town -- along with their tourist dollars -- to come and see how chocolate was made. Times were good.

But by 2008 it was all over. Like so many other large companies, Hershey closed the factory and moved production to Mexico.

And over the next year, Smiths Falls was brutalized when five other big employers packed up and left, leaving 40 per cent of the town's workforce without jobs. Recovery has been slow.

I know we're nowhere close to recovering 1700 jobs, but...every little bit counts. Every little bit is beneficial in terms of the economic redevelopment.Dennis Staples, Mayor, Smiths Falls

CBC Reporter Julie Ireton checked out the new industry growing inside the old chocolate factory. This is her documentary, The Dope on Smiths Falls. It first aired on March 10, 2014.

Update: Since this story aired, Tweed Marijuana became Canada's first publicly traded medical marijuana company on the Toronto Venture Exchange. It shipped its first orders of the drug to clients in May.

It also announced it will be accelerating its expansion and construction plans to keep up with an already growing demand for medical pot.

What do you think of this idea? How would you feel if a medical marijuana plant opened up in your town or city?

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