If things go according to plan, the Back Home Medical Cannabis Corporation will soon be providing medical cannabis — and jobs — to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The company is planning a large, high-tech pot grow operation for Barachois Brook near Stephenville, with hopes of having product available by the time it's legalized later this year.
"We've got, I think, probably as good an opportunity to be a very successful company as any on the globe," said David Callahan, the president of Back Home Medical Cannabis, which is owned by Biome Grow.
'High-tech operation' promises jobs
Renovations are underway on an 18,000-sq-ft building, and a new 150,000-sq-ft building will be built in three stages. The renovation is expected to cost $6.2 million, and each stage of the new building is budgeted at $18.8 million.
Callahan is planning a high-tech operation with automated clipping and watering for plants.
"It will be maybe the most modern facility in North America," he said. "It's going to involve a very definite mix of human effort and robots."
But even an operation that uses automation will provide jobs for humans, he said — hopefully 90 of them moving forward, and 40 to 50 during construction.
The company also plans to eventually expand to Labrador and do a second build there, he said.
The resulting products will be sold both in the province and around the world, Callahan said.
"What we'll be producing is a top quality, very clean, Health Canada-approved, medical-grade marijuana," Callahan said.
"A lot of the misconception about this industry is that there's only room for so many in a province such as ours, but the actual globe is your marketplace."
'We're just about there'
Things are in the late stage of the regulatory process, Callahan said.
"Right now we would be considered final stage. We're through the security stages, and the next thing of course would be the scrutiny on our plan," he said.
"We're just about there but it's taken us four years to get there."
Things should be set to go for national legalization, which is expected to come this year.
Callahan is now developing relationships with retail outlets in the province that will sell cannabis, but contingency plans are in place, including an incubation period.
"As a Newfoundlander, I've always got one ace card in my back pocket," he said.
Getting things set up hasn't been simple, or cheap, Callahan says. But with investment partners and the acquisition by Biome, and then some good planning, he hopes to build something that can benefit the entire province, providing jobs and giving people a reason to stay here — or to return home.
Callahan believes the pot business is a great opportunity for the province.
"The days of the fish plant, the paper mills, our traditional ways of making and sustaining ourselves have left us," he said.
"I'm coming with the new fish plant for every area. I want most areas to benefit from this."