Medical marijuana facility to open in hard-hit Atholville

The 400,000-square-foot facility formerly housed Atlantic Yarns.

A plan to manufacture medical marijuana in the northern New Brunswick town of Atholville is underway and that will mean jobs, and spinoffs that could extend to the entire region.

A British Columbia company International Herbs Medical Marijuana set its sights on the town last year and last week purchased a 400,000-square-foot production facility, which formerly housed Atlantic Yarns.

Like many communities in northern New Brunswick, employment has taken a hit in Atholville.

The local mill brings some jobs, but Mayor Michel Soucy says the area has been economically depressed and will benefit from the new venture.

"I was surprised to get the call, but at the same time, we were open to the concept, open to the type of operation and we said, yes, we want to meet and we want to start discussion and look into it," said Soucy.

The town gave a green light at every turn, and each regulatory body has approved the plan, he said.

Over the next few months, the construction and the retrofitting of the building take place, says Angela Cerovic, company spokeswoman.

"Health Canada has very strict guidelines under the regulations and the building needs to meet all those stringent criteria, so they'll be working on that over the next few months with the goal of being able to produce product by September 1."

The company is only using 150,000 square feet of the building to start, but plans to outgrow capacity in future growth phases.

Even if business booms, the company plans to stay in northern New Brunswick, says Cerovic.

That's music to the ears of locals who are familiar with the boom and bust of employment in the region.

Diane Doucet's family business, Paul's Barbershop, has been in Atholville for almost 60 years. She says they hear everything in their shop, and so far, they haven't caught a whiff of apprehension about the marijuana factory.

"Everybody's kind of buzzing and laughing about it. It's kind of a big joke actually, but it's not a big joke. It's going to be nice jobs," said Doucet.

Brad Gallant is studying business right now, but he says he would still apply for a job at the plant.

"If you're of age and don't have a criminal record, why not?"

He said most people want to stay in the northern part of the province.