News Local

Tilray on track to have pot production by spring

By Melissa Schilz, Postmedia Network

The greenhouse facility for the former Enniskillen Pepper Company is being refitted to accommodate marijuana production by British Columbia-based Tilray, which last August announced that it planned to spend as much as $30-million on the venture. (Melissa Schilz/Postmedia Network)

The greenhouse facility for the former Enniskillen Pepper Company is being refitted to accommodate marijuana production by British Columbia-based Tilray, which last August announced that it planned to spend as much as $30-million on the venture. (Melissa Schilz/Postmedia Network)

A $30-million medical marijuana facility near Petrolia is well on its way towards becoming fully operational.

The British Columbia-based company has already hired several key leadership roles for the operation on Lasalle Line, and is presently hiring production and facilities staff. The project has projected 250 new jobs in the region over the next five years, increase the company’s production capacity five-fold by the end of this year.

A Tilray spokesperson said the hiring process is expected to accelerate this month and in February, as Tilray is anticipating having marijuana plants in its Petrolia-area facility by early spring.

Currently, the space that formerly held the Enniskillen Pepper Company is under construction. The existing greenhouse is being retrofitted in a first phase with some additions being made to the processing space.

The facility will be Tilray’s second in Canada, located on a 100-acre property in Enniskillen Township. Tilray will operate a 10-acre cannabis greenhouse with approximately 40,000 square feet of processing space. Their flagship operation in Nanaimo, BC opened in 2014.

Last year, Tilray sought a license to grow and process medical marijuana in Lambton County, and was successful in obtaining the necessary local approvals. The Tilray spokesperson said a site plan agreement authorizing development plan was signed on Oct. 10, while building permits were issued on Nov. 9.

“The Township of Enniskillen and County of Lambton staff have all been very thorough and professional,” they said in an email this week. “Communication of the permitting requirements has been very clear; response and processing times have been very good.”

Water for the greenhouse operation won’t be an issue, as it has been for a potential greenhouse development in nearby Dawn-Euphemia Township.

Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott said water is already in place for the former pepper company, and notes that Tilray’s production will require about the same amount of water as was used to grow peppers.

“If they want to expand in the future, it’s much easier for us to supply an existing facility,” he said. “For Dawn-Euphemia… we can supply the first phase volume wise, it’s just the pipes and infrastructure.”

Marriott said he’s looking forward to Tilray’s growth in Lambton County. He noted that he’s heard almost no complaints from residents; he said he can only see benefits on the horizon. And after visiting Tilray’s operations in British Columbia, Marriott said the company is highly professional in what they do.

“It’s first class... it’s just like how you would imagine any pharmaceutical company,” he said. “Quality control, cleanliness, it’s so regulated by the government and they really have to be good at it.”

But one aspect Marriott said could make a bigger difference for the local economy is whether Tilray decides to also have processing operations in Lambton County.

“It’s definitely going to have a positive impact,” he said. “The impact could be minor, or it could be major, and that all depends on what they decide to do.”

Marriott said he’s been pushing to make Sarnia-Lambton the area where Tilray processes its harvest, extracting oil from the plants.

“Eventually they want to build a processing facility in Ontario; the first year or so they’re going to ship the dried plants back to Nanaimo for processing there,” he said. “That’s where the real benefits will come to the community.”

 

mschilz@postmedia.com