Article by Laura Kane, CBC News
In a tree-nestled First Nation community on Vancouver Island, forestry and farming used to be the major industries that kept the economy humming and put food on families’ tables.
But members of the Cowichan Tribes, like people from so many small and rural towns in Canada, have seen jobs driven elsewhere through dramatic changes to those sectors.
So when a medical marijuana company moved next door, Chief William Seymour saw an opportunity for his members to get good jobs and stay in the area.
“It’s their home. It is hard for any First Nation, doesn’t matter where you go, when they grow up in their own community. Having to move is always a huge thing,” he said.
Harvest One Cannabis Inc.’s grow facility is located on land owned by the Cowichan Tribes just outside Duncan, B.C.
The company hopes to employ members of the First Nation once it completes a $9-million expansion, and the band is offering to pay for training courses to get prospective workers up to speed.
‘An entirely new business’
Across Canada, medical marijuana companies have begun ramping up production capacity and staff levels in anticipation of legalization of recreational cannabis on July 1, 2018. The companies need space — and lots of it — to grow thousands of plants, making rural areas or former manufacturing towns a natural fit for their operations.
Canopy Growth Corp., Canada’s largest pot producer, transformed a vacant Hershey chocolate factory in Smiths Falls, Ont., into a grow facility that largely employs locals. In Alberta, suffering since the oil-price crash, Aurora Cannabis Inc. is building a nearly 75,000-square-metre production plant in Leduc, while Invictus MD has moved into the tiny hamlet of Peers.
British Columbia’s Cowichan Valley, which includes Duncan, is an example of a region that’s been supportive of the cannabis industry, said Graham Whitmarsh, chief operating officer of Harvest One and a former industry consultant who once worked on projects in the province’s Interior, including Merritt.