There’s another grower in the medical cannabis field in Chatham-Kent, one that is moving swiftly through the process of gaining security clearance from the federal government.
J.P. Mariwell Inc. last week received approval to build a one-acre greenhouse near Wheatley to produce medical cannabis products.
Tina Furlan, vice-president of marketing and communications with Mariwell, said the company hopes to begin construction in the fall.
Furlan said Mariwell has been working on the project for three years now.
“We have been in the licensing process since 2014,” she said. “It’s really good news for us. It means we can actually start to build our facility in Wheatley.”
She said company is now in the review process with the government. At this stage, Mariwell can build the greenhouse and support structures.
“The facility is a state-of-the-art greenhouse. We’ll be growing under glass using natural sunlight as much as we can,” Furlan said.
Getting to this point was no easy task, she said. There are seven stages in the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) approval process with Health Canada, and the security clearance was Stage 4.
“What’s left is the review of the building and the crop,” she said. “It’s highly regulated. You have to follow a series of protocols and you have to follow them closely in order to receive approval.”
Security on the structure will be very tight, Furlan said, with cameras located throughout the facility, as well as an onsite vault. The greenhouse will also be hermetically sealed.
Health Canada also had to vet staff who will be allowed into the facility, she added.
The Mariwell project will also have a customer care centre and processing facility on site, as well as an in-house lab where quality assurance tests can be performed.
Furlan said Health Canada will also oversee the amount of THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – in the product.
“They literally have to test every element of the product,” she said.
When operational, Furlan said the one-acre greenhouse would be able to produce about 6,000 kilograms of cannabis a year.
Furlan said the municipality has already given rezoning and site plan approval. With the government clearance, Mariwell is ready to build.
She anticipates construction would begin in the fall and hopes to see the first crop in production in early 2018.
Furlan said many other medical cannabis operations are done indoors in a closed environment. For Mariwell, the difference is the greenhouse.
“It’s a plant and they really enjoy the sunlight. We wanted to keep it as natural as possible,” she said. “With a greenhouse, we can reduce our use of electricity and improve the quality of the plants.”
Medical cannabis is used in pain management, as it is much less addictive than an opiate, and there is virtually no risk of a fatal overdose. It can also be used to treat the muscle spasms associated with MS, as an anti-nauseant and appetite-inducer for people suffering from AIDS or going through cancer chemotherapy treatment, to combat epilepsy, bi-polar disorder, Alzheimer’s, and even concussions.