Medical marijuana production plant coming soon to Montreal's West Island

Medical marijuana production plant coming soon to Montreal's West Island

A nondescript building in Montreal's West Island will be producing close to 4,000 kilograms of marijuana annually — as soon as it gets approval from Health Canada.

Aurora Cannabis is hoping to expand its business and break into the Quebec market with a new medical marijuana production plant on Hymus Boulevard in Pointe-Claire.

"We hope to have production coming out of that plant before the end of 2017, if we can," said executive vice-president Cam Battley.

Aurora Cannabis already has a facility in Mountain View County in Alberta that grows, processes, packages and ships the product across the country. Another, its largest, is being built in Edmonton.

The new Quebec-based plant will allow the organization to expand into new territory, after Aurora acquired the building from a medicinal marijuana producer that went bankrupt while seeking its licence from Health Canada.

"We did want to have exposure in Quebec," he said. "We want to be in the Quebec market, and we wanted to service not just Quebec but eastern Canada."​

Impact on West Island city

In accordance with Health Canada's strict regulations, Battley said the distinct odour of cannabis won't be emitted into the air from the 3,700-square-metre (40,000-square-foot) facility.

"We have very tight filtration of the air before it escapes from the facility to make sure there is no external smell of the cannabis," said Battley.

Aurora has also taken measures to prevent break-ins and theft. The company has blanketed the grounds and the interior of the building with security cameras. 

"To my knowledge, there haven't been any break-ins at any licensed producers in Canada, so far," said Battley.

The bunker-like appearance of the building contrasts with the quiet residential neighbourhood just across the street, but Pointe-Claire Mayor Morris Trudeau is handling Aurora's expansion as business as usual.

"I don't consider it a dangerous thing, having it around in Pointe-Claire," said Trudeau. "I believe the company will be well run."

High-risk expansion

With the legalization of cannabis on the horizon in Canada, Aurora plans to produce and sell recreational marijuana eventually, too.

"We still have to abide by the rules — we still have very tight regulations — but we do see a new market to expand," said Battley.

But economist James McIntosh warns that companies such as Aurora will face stiff competition when recreational cannabis becomes legal.

"My guess is when marijuana becomes legalized — depending on the legislation in Canada — big pharma is going to be very interested in this," said McIntosh, a professor at Concordia University and an expert in the economics of cannabis.

"They are much more efficient, and they have much deeper pockets."

McIntosh said Aurora will then have to face off against both large pharmaceutical companies and Canadians who decide to legally grow their own marijuana plants.

"The competition will be very fierce once marijuana becomes legal. The price of marijuana is going to fall like a stone when people can grow it outdoors or in large greenhouses," said McIntosh.

For now, Aurora will stick to medical marijuana. After the Pointe-Claire facility receives a production permit, it will then have to apply for a permit to sell its product.

Battley predicts the company will create up to 50 positions at its new plant.

"We're projecting about 40 to 50 jobs, and this will range from growers to scientists," said Battley.