November 18th, 2018

Cannabis industry ready to take hold

By Kalinowski, Tim on July 12, 2018.

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald

Calgary-based Fifty First Parallel has begun construction on its new 50,000-square-foot cannabis greenhouse in the Sherring Business and Industrial Park adjacent to 36 Street North.

When construction is complete the facility is expected to produce 3,500 kilograms of high-quality cannabis for the newly legalized consumer market. The goal of the company is to expand through two additional phases by 2020, doubling the size of the operation to 100,000 square feet and eventually producing 12,600 kg of cannabis per year.

This substantial capital investment by Fifty First Parallel is merely one example of a long list of other such announcements pertaining to Canada’s burgeoning legal marijuana industry, with high-profile companies like Aurora Cannabis, for example, making substantial investments to increase their greenhouse growing capacity in southern Alberta. Southern Alberta cities and counties hold a lot of attraction to companies seeking to expand their growing operations due to the availability of irrigation and the ongoing success of the locally established greenhouse growing industry.

Fifty First Parallel also lists other attractive features of Lethbridge, in particular, in its publicly accessible corporate report. These factors include sunny weather, a supportive city council, a cheap and supportive business environment and an attractive local workforce.

Alberta Cramer, president of the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association, says while the Canadian market is bullish on the prospects of legal pot, there are worrying clouds on that sunny horizon.

“We hear a lot about (growing marijuana) right now because we have a pretty good concentration of greenhouses here in southern Alberta,” he explains. “And B.C., Ontario and Quebec have substantial greenhouses. We’re talking big acreage that went into marijuana.

“There seems to be a lot going into market that has already been filled to this point. You hear about all these billion-dollar deals in that industry right now. It’s actually crazy. I think it might be a bubble, and we’re really worried.”

The Fifty First Parallel report projects there will be 336,000 Alberta cannabis users by 2019, and expects that to rise nearly five per cent to 420,000 (about 10 per cent of the province’s total population), by 2020. The company also expects existing Alberta users to double their intake once the drug becomes decriminalized in Canada.

These numbers might not be far off the mark, says Chris Walsh, vice-president and founding editor of Marijuana Business Daily, but he too feels hype may be driving the market in Canada as much as the metrics.

“Canada is among the pioneers in this (federally legalized marijuana) area,” he says. “There is not a blueprint. There is not a lot of historical data to compare this to and figure out how this is going to work. I can really see it going either way at this point. And the people who fear there is a bubble may very well be right.”

Cramer hopes greenhouse growers of cannabis, like Aurora, Sundial and Fifty First Parallel, just to name a few, have not over extended themselves too far based on market hype, and have built a strong foundation for their companies going forward beyond the first rush after recreational pot becomes normalized.

“In Medicine Hat, where I am from, Aurora is building a 30-acre facility here,” he says. “They are building a state-of-the-art facility. What happens if this bubble bursts? Well, these facilities could be growing vegetables. It could be real disruptive for our vegetable industry, and maybe for our flower growers, too.”

The Lethbridge Herald attempted several times to reach Fifty First Parallel for comment on this story, but did not have its calls or emails returned by company representatives.

Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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