‘Wildest Dreams’ — Legalizing Pot Has Benefits and Pitfalls For Windsor Region

Article by Doug Schmidt, Windsor Star

'Wildest dreams' — legalizing pot has benefits and pitfalls for Windsor region Vic Neufeld can't believe how fast and far the health venture he helped launch has grown since a single Leamington greenhouse switched three years ago from flower production to pot production. Aphria Inc. has mushroomed into a $2-billion corporation with 150 local employees. Doug Schmidt, Windsor StarDOUG SCHMIDT, WINDSOR STAR. LEAMINGTON, ON. DEC. 3, 2014. Medical marijuana production at the Aphria greenhouses in Leamington, on Dec. 3, 2014. (DAN JANISSE/The Windsor Star) Marijuana options

“Not in my wildest dreams.”

Vic Neufeld can’t believe how fast and far the health venture he helped launch has grown since a single Leamington greenhouse switched three years ago from flower production to pot production.

Aphria Inc. has mushroomed into a $2-billion corporation with 150 local employees — and Neufeld continues to dream bigger.

The demand for his company’s medical cannabis has exploded, and, in just six months, Ottawa opens the doors wide on the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes to all Canadian adults.

Aphria can currently produce 10,000 kilograms a year of medical marijuana in a 100,000-square-foot operation. That production space, however, will triple in size by January, and the company is hopeful Health Canada will approve the corresponding tripling in pot output by the spring.

But the company is already halfway through construction of its next expansion phase, with another 700,000 square feet in greenhouse marijuana growing space to be ready by July or August 2018. Completion of that stage, and approval by Health Canada for the additional output, would mean jobs for about 400 in Leamington, said Neufeld, the company’s CEO.

And even that isn’t the end of it for Aphria.

“We’re already on the prowl to add greenhouse capacity,” Neufeld said. He’s aware of at least three other established licensed pot producers hunting for greenhouse space in the Leamington area.

Anticipating a surge in pot demand in 2018, the federal government has been racing ahead with the issuing of new medical marijuana production licences, the holders of which will be permitted to sell into the various provincial models of retail distribution.

With Shoppers Drug Mart recently signing a supply deal with Aphria for medical marijuana, Neufeld anticipates continued big growth in that sector.

Just as Aphria and other commercial pot producers are gearing up for a new multibillion-dollar industry, Windsor and another 13 Ontario municipalities chosen to host the province’s first marijuana retail outlets are having to hustle to be ready by the anticipated July 1 start.

The province has asked those municipalities to help pinpoint the most suitable locations for the stores, which will be operated by a new LCBO-controlled cannabis retail agency. A Windsor planning official said the province wants an existing commercial building it can lease in an area not requiring rezoning.

It won’t be easy.

Windsor’s planning department has been tasked with creating a map of the city showing where such a retail outlet might be most suitably located. But here’s the catch: the map must identify “sensitive land uses” such as schools, parks, community centres, emergency shelters and addiction treatment centres near which the sale of pot will be a no-no. That likely precludes a downtown location, at least for the initial retail outlet.

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