Beleave will hire up to 240 workers for London pot production facility, exec says

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Beleave bought the former Heritage Garden Gallery greenhouse in September, paying $6.7 million for the 34-hectare property at 6867 Wellington Rd. South.

City hall issued a building permit to the company earlier this month to begin renovations on the 23,000-square-metre greenhouse, Beleave said.

The company will spend $30 million on the operation, where up to 240 employees will eventually work, chief executive Bill Panagiotakopoulos said.

“The whole project should last throughout the year,” he said of the construction’s anticipated completion.

Headquartered in Oakville with an indoor growing facility in Hamilton, Beleave selected London for its expansion because of the city’s proximity to Highway 401, large labour pool and welcoming attitude toward cannabis, Panagiotakopoulos said.

“London is very progressive in its view of this industry,” he said. “A lot of other municipalities have been very short-sighted by digging in their feet and scaring off a lot of investment.”

Beleave’s greenhouse, if approved by Health Canada, the federal marijuana regulator, will be the second commercial pot-growing operation in London, adding to the more than a dozen spread across Southwestern Ontario.

Cannabis producer Indiva has an indoor growing facility on Hargrieve Road, where the company is setting up an extraction operation as part of a $13.7-million expansion expected to be completed by the summer.

Beleave is also eyeing the lucrative oils and extracts market – the demand for both products is expected to surge, especially once cannabis edibles are introduced in the fall – with its plan to grow marijuana outdoors on a six-hectare plot at the Wellington Road property.

Outdoor cultivation is seen as a significantly cheaper alternative to growing cannabis in a greenhouse or indoors.

Dozens of cannabis companies, including WeedMD in Strathroy and 48North in Brant County, have applied for outdoor-grow licences since the federal government lifted its ban on outdoor cultivation. With the spring planting season approaching, Health Canada hasn’t yet authorized any to begin growing outdoors.

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