Pubdate: Thu, 06 Mar 2014
Source: Almaguin News (CN ON)
Copyright: Almaguin News 2014
Author: Mary Beth Hartill


MAGNETAWAN - A proposed marijuana facility, if approved by Health 
Canada, will only remain for three or four years as part of their 
expansion plan.

Craig Ferchat president of Herena Maris Health Products Inc. 
addressed the many concerns of residents during the Feb. 26 
Magnetawan council meeting.

Herena Maris is a natural health products company currently operating 
out of Mississauga. According to Ferchat, they were made aware of the 
change to medicinal marijuana legislation to take the growth out of 
the hands of the patients and responsibility went to licensed 
producers under the controls of Health Canada in November 2013.

"We saw it as an amazing business opportunity," he said. "The number 
of people that do take medicinal marijuana right now has grown from a 
couple of hundred in 2001 to 8,000 in 2008. Right now at the end of 
2013 it's 37,000 people taking medicinal marijuana."

He says Health Canada predicts that 450,000 people will be using 
medicinal marijuana in 10 years time.

He says currently there are two proposals for review to Health 
Canada. The first is the conversion of an existing 1,500 square foot 
garage on the property for phase one. He says the conversion of the 
garage, plus security features and power for the facilities is about $200,000.

"That is just there to get our business going, get it growing and 
ultimately it will be a research facility when we get to phase two," he said.

Phase 2 is slated to be around 8,000 square feet. It would be a new 
build that would accommodate a second facility plus office. He 
estimates that construction of the second building will cost about $1 
million. At that stage they would hire administrative staff.

"We're talking less than one-tenth of facilities in other areas," he 
said. "The amount of land usage on our property is .1 per cent. Less 
than a quarter of an acre. We've got 200 acres up there."

Ferchat says the family owns two parcels of land and the 200 acres 
where the marijuana grow is proposed is not on Horne Lake and has no 
waterfront access.

He says within 500 acres of the property there are no homes, no 
schools, and no other buildings other than their own. The lake is 
more than 600 meters away and he says the brown garage cannot be seen 
from either the lake or the road.

"The plan is, by year three or year four, everything moves," he said. 
"This is the start of the business for us."

He says, if the plan is approved by Health Canada, the family will be 
moving up to the property. If the business grows he would relocating 
it to another facility. He says this will be about $5 million.

"If phase one is approved than the likelihood is that phase two would 
be too," he said.

He says phase two will bring a significant contribution to the 
municipality generating payroll in excess of $1 million annually with 
$20- to $30,000 in hydro consumption, and $1- $1,200 daily going to 
the post office.

"There are plus sides to this, not just the taxes and the payroll and 
the jobs," he said.

He says phase three would be comparable to other facilities, such as 
the one in Tweed and cannot be located on their property.

Ferchat says he hopes, if they get to the relocation stage, it will 
still be in Magnetawan and could employ 75 to 80 people.

He says he knows traffic is a concern expressed by area residents for 
the first two phases. He says only staff and the family will travel 
to the facility.

"Consumers don't come," he said. "We grow, we bottle, we package and 
we ship out."

They predict about 20 orders a day. He says every one or two days a 
secured van would leave the site and go straight to the post office 
for Canada Post to deliver.

He says there will also be very tight controls over security. There 
has to be a narcotics level security vault for storage that is 
8-inches thick concrete, steel reinforced with a bank-vault door.

"There's three biometric steel doors to get into anywhere where the 
plants are," he said. "It is a very secure facility."

Ferchat says they would be the least attractive place for criminals 
with their 24/7 security cameras, three levels of biometric doors and a vault.

He says air quality control also is a big part of Health Canada's 
strict guidelines and every room and exhaust ventilation must have 
carbon filters so the only thing leaving the building will be oxygen 
and says there will be no smell. He says Health Canada also regulates 
the disposal of the waste plant after they harvest the bud, which is 
what is sold. They will either have to apply for a permit for an 
incinerator on site or ship the waste plant to a Health Canada 
approved facility for destruction.

He says as part of the Health Canada approval process they do not 
have to a conduct hydro geological study. There were concerns over 
the facility's septic, primarily due to the proximity to the lake and 
a pond on the property.

He says Health Canada does prohibit the use of any herbicides or 
pesticides in the grow operation and is tested before it is sold for 
things such as heavy metals, e-coli and mould.

Mayor Sam Dunnett suggested that a couple of wells be added through 
an engineering study for attenuation of wastewater and have those 
wells tested annually, as is done at the landfill.

Ferchat says it was a suggestion that will be adopted for the site if approved.

"People keep referring to this as industrial, but this is farming. 
You may not like completely what we're farming but we're talking 
about a farm. This is farming," he said. "We're not processing it in 
any way. We are forbidden by law to process."

He says they are limited to growing, harvesting, drying and shipping 
and unable to, by law, to synthesize, concentrate or put the product 
into a baked good and all of the farming must be done indoors in the 
secured, windowless facility.

Concerns were raised at the meeting that a grow operation will 
devalue area properties, increase a criminal element and create 
challenges for local OPP.

Staff Sgt. Stacey Whaley, detachment commander for the Almaguin 
Highlands OPP, was in attendance at the meeting. He stated he was 
aware of the application and was interested in hearing what Ferchat had to say.

The residents also questioned where they needed to turn to stop the 
application from being approved.

Mayor Sam Dunnett says he believes Ferchat is a good corporate 
citizen and has no objection to a pharmaceutical company moving into 
the municipality, however the onus lies with the Federal government 
and Health Canada and is not in the jurisdiction of the municipality 
and does not have to comply with local zoning.

Resident Kay Tod says she has tried contacting Health Canada and 
Parry Sound/Muskoka MP Tony Clement and "nobody is listening" and 
says she doesn't know where the local cottage association is going to 
go moving forward.
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