Zenabis will be New Brunswick's third supplier of recreational marijuana, the government announced Monday as the province moved to make sure it has ample supplies of the drug by the time it's legal.
A memorandum of understanding with the Restigouche County company has been signed in preparation for the federal government's legalization of cannabis, expected next July.
"The whole world is moving in that direction," Zenabis CEO Kevin Coft said in an interview Monday.
He expressed gratitude for the government's support of his company, which is based in Atholville, west of Campbellton.
Coft said the Zenabis operation is about six weeks away from the flowering process, the first stage of life for cannabis, and about eight to 10 weeks before the plant can go into drying and trimming. Then it can be packaged for sale to consumers.
"This is something that we've been working for for three years," he said.
Agreements have also been signed with two other cannabis producers, Organigram of Moncton and Canopy Growth Corp. of Smiths Falls, Ont.
At the Zenabis announcement, Premier Brian Gallant said some other premiers have worried about whether there would be a supply of cannabis.
"One of the five concerns raised by premiers this summer was supply, so we as a province are not going to sit on our hands," Gallant said.
"We're going to make sure we are going to be as ready as possible for the legalization of marijuana by the federal government."
Gallant said there will be hiccups along the way but he believes the drug business will improve the provincial economy.
"Having licensed, local producers, supply our retail will create jobs in New Brunswick," he said in the statement.
Croft said Zenabis is expanding its plant and has already hired the contractors.
"We are excited to enter into this arrangement with the province," he said. "It will assure that the New Brunswick government has taken the necessary steps to serve market demand once legalization takes place."
It will also allow the company to make the necessary investments in machinery and equipment so it can offer a range of products,
A new Crown corporation, Cannabis Management Corp, will oversee the sale of recreational marijuana in the province.
Up to 20 stores will be established with strict policies in place: they will be located at least 300 metres away from schools, they will only display products under glass, and customers will need to show identification to prove they are of legal age before they can even get in, government officials have said.