‘We Need To De-Stigmatize It’

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Paris – A medical marijuana operation in Paris is planning to start shipping its product by mid-October.

Hundreds of towering plants fill a flowering room at Emblem Cannabis’s 23,000-square-foot growing facility in a former chicken processing plant.

The operation is one of about 35 federally authorized, mail-order medical marijuana suppliers in Canada, including 20 in Ontario.

Medicinal marijuana is only legally available through these federally licensed producers with a prescription from a medical doctor.

About 30 employees are now working at the facility, which will produce 1,800 kilograms of cannabis a year. It will sell for between $7 and $10 a gram and be mailed or sent by courier in plastic containers with detailed labels to customers.

The goal is to have 6,000 patients, mostly in Ontario, in the first year.

And, already, there are plans to grow.

“We’re hoping to expand in January,” said Kirstin Wood, vice-president of marketing and communications. “We want to expand our growing facility to about 100,000 square feet.”

The company also has applied for a licence to produce cannabis oils.

Emblem was established by its CEO Maxim Zavet, a Toronto lawyer and businessman, who has a “passion for cannabis” and its medical benefits for those suffering from pain, sleep issues, glaucoma, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions.

“We need to de-stigmatize it,” said Wood of marijuana use.

“People are afraid of it. But the plant does all these amazing things with hardly any side effects.”

Emblem, initially called KindCann, is a state-of-the-art facility that must meet rigorous standards set out by Health Canada that include security measures, good production practices, packaging, labelling, shipping and record keeping.

Entry to the facility, equipped with dozens of security cameras, is restricted and the property is surrounded by fencing.

Employees, who must pass security clearance, are required to wear sterilized scrubs and face masks in the facility, which is equipped with change rooms and showers.

Water, lighting, nutrients, and humidity in the growing rooms is controlled to exact recipes for each of the plants’ growing stages.

“We are highly restricted as to what we can put into it because (the product) is being ingested,” said Wood. “And everything that goes out the door is tested by a third-party, government-approved lab.”

She said that’s one of the major differences between licensed producers and so-called “medical marijuana dispensaries,” which although illegal, are popping up like weeds in Toronto and other cities.

In May, Toronto police raided dozens of marijuana dispensaries across the city, arresting 90 people and laying 186 charges.

Although she didn’t reveal the exact start-up cost for Emblem, Wood said the general rule is that it “takes a $10-million investment to make your first sale.”

Graeme Montrose, grow operations manager, studied horticulture at the University of Guelph and was a former tomato grower in Leamington.

He and other employees research the various strains of cannabis to determine which are most in demand and most effective for particular ailments.

“Not everybody who uses cannabis is dying,” said Montrose. “It can be used for anxiety, arthritis, depression.”

There are at least two active chemicals in marijuana that researchers believe have medicinal applications. Those are cannabidiol (CBD) – which seems to impact the brain without a high – and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – which has pain relieving (and other) properties.

Wood said Emblem will begin by offering six cannabis strains – including Shark Shock and Girl Scout Cookies – with a goal of producing 15, with five high in THC, five high in CBD, and five somewhere in between.

Wood has been using medical marijuana by prescription as a sleep aid.

“It changed my life,” she said. “I used to be a stressed out executive in Toronto.”

A strong advocate for medicinal cannabis use, Wood said she knew when she heard Zavet speaking about his company that she wanted to be a part of it.

“It has been a lot of work but I love it.”

With reports that the federal government is set to allow recreational cannabis use as early as next year, work has begun on how distribution and retailing will eventually be handled.

Emblem is in the process of hiring about a dozen customer service representatives with medical backgrounds.

“When new legislation is announced we’ll know what we’re dealing with,” said Wood. “We expect significant growth.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: ‘We Need To De-Stigmatize It’
Author: Michelle Ruby
Contact: 519-756-2020
Photo Credit: Brian Thompson
Website: Brantford Expositor