Wentworth-based Breathing Green Solutions Ltd. was the first company in the province to receive a license through Health Canada to produce marijuana. Submitted photo

Three companies in the province are already growing marijuana with the hopes of selling it to the local market this summer.

Health Canada handles the licenses for producers in the country, with only three currently licensed to grow marijuana in Nova Scotia for medical purposes. Wentworth-based Breathing Green Solutions Ltd. was the first to be licensed.

Bill Sanford, the chairman of Breathing Green, said it wasn’t a quick set-up.

“It was approximately a four-year process for us to get the business plan together, find property, form an initial operations team, and to attract investors,” he said, adding private investors stepping-up to the plate was part of the reason the company didn’t need to bring its plans to the public eye.

Joint Feature Article Insert

“What attracted us to the industry is the new legislation that’s in place, and federal regulations coming in on top of that,” he said. “It opens the industry to a significant number of new players.”

Along with Breathing Green, which is located in an old military compound, Aqualitas has transformed an old Bowater Paper Products warehouse in Brooklyn, Queens Co., into a growing operation, and Highland Grow Inc. is growing in a converted slaughterhouse in East Ohio, Antigonish Co.

But while all three companies have been licensed to grow marijuana for medical users, none currently have their license to sell the product come October 17, the official date for legalization.

To obtain their retail license, the companies are required to grow two crops of marijuana, which will be sent to an external lab for inspection. The inspection lab must meet Health Canada’s specifications. Once the marijuana is approved, an audit of the producer’s systems must also be completed.

Tammy Jarbeau, acting chief of media relations with Health Canada, said in an email 13 applicants for licensing in Nova Scotia have been rejected. As of May 11, 2018, nine were going through the reviewing process, with one in initial screening, and five going through security clearance. One applicant has withdrawn from the process.

“The entire application process can take up to a year to complete,” she wrote in an email.

There are six stages of the application process, starting with intake and initial screening. Applicants then move into a detailed review and initiation of security clearance process, followed by the issuance of a license to produce. As cultivation begins, companies undergo an introductory inspection, before a pre-sales inspection. The final stage is the issuance of a license to sell the product.

An application can be refused at any stage of the process before a license is issued. Licenses are only issued when information submitted demonstrates compliance with the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations and the facility has been built.

When recreational use has been legalized, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) will sell cannabis at 12 locations – Bridgewater, New Minas, Antigonish, Amherst, Dartmouth, Halifax (two), Lower Sackville, New Glasgow, Sydney River, Truro, and Yarmouth.

Along with those locations, the NSLC will re-open a former store in Halifax that will exclusively sell marijuana.

In a press release issued by the province, the NSLC will comply with federal requirements regarding how cannabis is sold and advertised. Products will be sold in a separate area than alcohol, and won’t be visible from the rest of the store.

Joint Feature Article Insert