Article by Darren Campbell, The Globe and Mail
Kevin Coft and his medical marijuana startup are benefiting in a big way as the New Brunswick government embraces the job opportunities this budding industry could bring to the province.
On Aug. 23, the government invested $4-million in Zenabis, a company Mr. Coft launched to build a proposed medical marijuana facility in Atholville, N.B. The money comes in the form of a repayable loan, and Mr. Coft says it signals that Premier Brian Gallant’s Liberal government is serious about supporting the sector.
“It’s virtually unprecedented for a provincial government to make this kind of investment in this business,” said Mr. Coft, who hails from Vancouver and is the company’s CEO. “The New Brunswick government has done an excellent job in trying to understand this market, be proactive and look at the future.”
That future could be bright. The Canadian National Medical Marijuana Association reports there are now 70,000 patients registered to use cannabis for medicinal purposes and that number is growing by 10 per cent a month. Couple that with the federal government promise to legalize recreational marijuana , and the market could be worth $5-billion to $7-billion annually in Canada.
New Brunswick has been the most aggressive province in Atlantic Canada in trying to capitalize on the medical pot gold rush. Susan Holt, an economic policy advisor to the N.B. government, claims the industry could create “thousands of jobs.”
That would be welcome news in a province where the unemployment rate was 9.6 per cent in July – only Newfoundland and Labrador had a higher rate at 11.1 per cent. In Atholvile, which lies on the New Brunswick-Quebec border, Mr. Coft estimates the Zenabis production facility will cost about $14-million to build. He said it will be operational in 2017, employ 50 people initially and up to 200 when it reaches full production. If the federal government legalizes recreational marijuana use, that number could reach 600 employees.