West coast cannabis plant comes a step closer to bringing jobs 'back home'

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The government has released a planned legal cannabis production facility, promising to be the largest in the province, from further environmental assessment.

Back Home Medical Cannabis Corp., a local subsidiary of Ontario-based company Biome Grow, got the go-ahead to move forward with its Barachois Brook cannabis production facility on Thursday. 

"People in Bay St. George now have hope that there's something there, that not only can employ them, but might be there to employ their kids," said Dave Callahan, president of Back Home, which has a mission statement in its name. 

"Back Home cannabis is all about bringing people back home from away and creating work for people back home so we can stay here," Callahan said. 

The company is renovating an 18,000-square-foot facility to produce cannabis, he said, which will now have equipment installed, and grow rooms and dry rooms set up following the environmental green light.

Once that's up and running in about five months, the company will turn to building a new 150,000-square-foot facility, though it's not quite clear when Back Home cannabis will be ready for sale. 

From seed to store

Callahan drove from the west coast to St. John's Thursday morning to check out retail locations for that side of the business, as Back Home will sell the cannabis it produces in five shops across the province, and is eyeing edibles as well.

"So a couple of key points in here that I want to see before they're gobbled up by somebody else," he said. 

Callahan's enthusiasm for their "very high-quality product" comes at a time when marijuana stocks are dropping and Canopy Growth, another Ontario-based company with a production and retail contract in this province, removed its CEO Bruce Linton.  

"The actual demand is worldwide, and not only will I be competing against these other entities, they better remember they're gonna be competing against me," he said of the company's plan to sell beyond this province. 

"This will be a Newfoundland product, and like Purity bread sells in Alberta, I guarantee you Back Home is going to sell in Alberta as well."

Focus on employing women

The environmental release came with two conditions: that the company submit both a women's employment plan to the Office for the Status of Women for approval before starting, and a comprehensive waste management plan for the province's pollution prevention division to OK before introducing cannabis to the building. 

"I have no difficulty with it. I think that women really put their heart and soul into everything that they do," Callahan said of the requirement to have a policy for hiring women.

"So we have an open-door policy, it doesn't matter to sex, colour or whatever." 

Biome Grow has said its contract with Newfoundland and Labrador is the largest cannabis supply agreement in Atlantic Canada, and expects its supply deal to represent close to $100 million in revenue per year staring in 2020. 

Over five years, it can keep up to $52 million of its commission to the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation, responsible for legal cannabis, similar to the highly-criticized arrangement with Canopy.

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