Cannabis producers in Newfoundland and Labrador say they're looking forward to the year ahead, despite the challenges of 2020, and they don't expect the recent pullout of Canopy Growth to affect the provincial market.
Oceanic Cannabis and Coffee opened in Burin in December to an overwhelming response, according to Oceanic ReLeaf president and CEO Taylor Giovannini.
Giovannini said the business was built with rural Newfoundland in mind, trying to make cannabis accessible enough to support the entire Burin Peninsula — including a cannabis and coffee drive-thru.
"Whether you're comfortable buying cannabis or not … the stigma does still exist, and I know a lot of people are resistant to go into an actual cannabis store," she told CBC Radio's On The Go last week.
Oceanic is one of several rural producers that has opened its doors since cannabis legalization in 2018. Giovannini said the opening process took longer than expected, as entering the retail cannabis business came with a learning curve.
"Each individual went about it in different ways in terms of the retail," she said.
"It's a learning curve for Oceanic as well, and I think it just took that much time to figure out the perfect path. And here we are."
Part of Oceanic's plan also includes a production facility in Burin. Starting as a cultivator of medical cannabis, Giovannini said the company has expanded to recreational cannabis and hopes to produce it out of the community's old fish plant, which previously employed 125 people.
"It's close to home, and it's very important to me to know that there's an economic benefit to the places in need such as Burin," she said. "We were more than happy to bring employment there."
People are noticing a difference. - Rita Hall
Corner Brook's Beehighve is also continuing to expand in 2021, creating new products and furthering its research and development in the community.
Beehighve president and CEO Rita Hall said she sees the growth of the local market as nothing but positive.
"It's a good thing for the province, because we're able to [create] local business and hire local," Hall said. "That's a really positive thing … It will help drive the economy as local people hire local people."
As business continues to expand, Hall said she's confident in the market for 2021 despite Canopy Growth pulling the plug on planned operations in St. John's last month.
Canopy's facility planned for the White Hill area was expected to produce 12,000 kilograms of dried cannabis per year, create 146 jobs and ensure at least 8,000 kilograms would be available for distribution and sale in Newfoundland and Labrador alone.
The 150,000-square-foot facility, which was to be Canopy's largest operation in Atlantic Canada, never opened its doors.
Hall is confident businesses like hers will still thrive in the local economy.
"What I have to offer is very different than Canopy Growth," Hall said. "They're mass producing … I'm growing in small batches, I'm growing differently, several unique strains.
"People are noticing a difference, I think, in our product versus other companies' products," she added. "We do everything by hand, not even the watering is done by machine."
Giovannini echoed the same idea, saying licensed producers are prepared to continue growing and pushing forward in 2021.
"Our province is increasing in sales every month," she said. "We're set to produce 4,000 kilos … so there's lots of room here."