Pubdate: Wed, 17 Sep 2014
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2014 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Martin Cash
Page: B5


Position Isn't Easy One to Fill

AN unknown would-be new entrant into the medical marijuana production 
business in Manitoba is looking for a master grower.

The heavy workload and extensive experience required may make it seem 
like an opportunity for a black market grow-op grower to go legit, 
but that would not be the case.

That's because Health Canada requires extensive security clearance 
for the senior staffers in charge of production and compliance. The 
list of qualifications to fill the position are as lengthy and as 
technical as any commercial production facility for the most special 
of specialty crops. They include managing everything from cloning, 
transplanting, feeding plants, defoliation, super cropping, topping, 
flushing, foliar and preventative sprays, trimming, packaging, waste 
disposal and inventory management.

And, the ad goes on, "they must give each individual plant the 
attention it needs one at a time."

The employer is looking for someone with "at least two years' 
commercial grow experience as a master grower."

As it turns out, there may be thousands of growers out there with 
legitimate experience growing marijuana. Health Canada says as of 
December 2013, there were more than 28,000 people in Canada who held 
a personal-use or designated-person production licence in Canada 
under the old Marijuana Medical Access Program (MMAR).

That program ended March 31, 2014, and since then only 13 commercial 
producers have been licenced across the country under the new 
Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR).

John Arbuthnot's Delta 9 Bio Tech Inc. in Winnipeg is one of the 
lucky 13 to date. He said it's a tough position to fill.

"There are experienced growers out there, and you can find someone 
with marijuana-production experience in the legal market place," he 
said. "But they often don't have the background in good manufacturing 
practice or good production practice compliance."

Or, he said, you can find someone with experience in pharmaceutical 
narcotics production but without the botany or horticultural experience.

Arbuthnot said he has a team of three growers as opposed to one master grower.

"Having a team with different levels of experience from different 
areas was a little easier that finding someone who would be a catch-all."

Jeff Peitsch, the CEO of Bonify Medical Cannabis, a Winnipeg company 
that has already invested well over $5 million in the hopes of 
landing one of the highly coveted Health Canada licences, said his 
company already has two growers on staff.

He said operators' own security scrutiny would weed out anyone with 
any connections to the non-legal marijuana-production business.

"If you are in violation, you're putting your licence at risk," 
Peitsch said. "There is too much to lose. That is why it is so 
important for all these organizations to absolutely be on the 
straight and narrow."

A Health Canada official said it does not regulate the qualifications 
of the master grower, but she did say the federal department requires 
a document signed and dated by the quality-assurance person that 
includes, among other things, a description of the quality-assurance 
person's qualifications.

Arbuthnot said Delta 9 has a micro-biologist and an analytical 
chemist on staff in the firm's in-house lab.

"Health Canada needs to have a reasonable degree of security that 
that person can handle the quality assurance... and the validation 
and verification to make sure we can produce products that are 
certified as pharmaceutical-grade marijuana."

Industry sources say there are more than a couple of other groups, 
not counting Bonify, still looking to apply for a licence.

Bonify has no assurance it will be granted a licence. It is expecting 
to have its 260,000-square-foot facility in Winnipeg inspected by 
Health Canada this fall.

In the past week, Delta 9 started the process of raising $4 million 
in new capital to fund an expansion. Arbuthnot said the early 
indication is there is good demand from investors to get a piece of 
such an operation.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom