Pubdate: Thu, 26 May 2016
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Page: A4
Copyright: 2016 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Gordon Kent


A new Edmonton professional group wants to help local women rise high 
in the blossoming Canadian cannabis industry.

While mention of someone working in the pot field might bring up 
images of stoners selling dime bags, Women Grow Edmonton chair Alison 
McMahon says the city has medical marijuana clinics, smoke stores, 
hemp shops and the headquarters of Alberta's only licensed grower, 
Aurora Cannabis Enterprises Inc.

"This is an industry that's changing so rapidly and becoming 
mainstream quickly," she says.

"There are a lot of businesses that have started, but aren't common 
knowledge yet."

Women Grow has increased to about 30 chapters in Canada and the 
United States since the organization was started in 2014 in Denver, 
Colo., one of the first states to legalize recreational dope.

McMahon doesn't know how big the Edmonton industry is, but says the 
chapter's recent inaugural meeting sold out, with about 100 people attending.

"The cannabis industry, I think, is huge for Canada as a whole. I 
have heard this referred to as the green rush (instead of) the gold rush."

But the leaders in this area, as in many others, have been predominantly men.

McMahon wants to level the playing field for women by helping them 
make connections and increase their businesses.

She's a human resources specialist who for the past year has been 
consulting with companies that have staff using medical marijuana.

Many of these firms aren't sure what the rules are for dealing with 
people who have the right to take the drug for an illness.

While they can't be fired because of their medical condition, their 
duties might have to be altered or they might need a leave of absence 
because of their prescription, McMahon says.

"We have been taught drugs are bad, marijuana is bad. When you 
introduce (it) to workplaces, there are a lot of policies and 
processes that have to be accommodated."

The industry's Holy Grail is legalization. The federal government 
recently pledged to introduce legislation next year to achieve this 
goal, and McMahon says she has heard projections such a move could 
lead to a $1-billion Canadian industry by 2020.

John Vidmar, a speaker at the Women Grow meeting, is chief operating 
officer of NGK Biologix, which has applied to grow medical marijuana 
at the Strathcona County NutraPonics agricultural technology facility.

If Health Canada's approval comes this year as they hope, the firm 
wants to put up a 370-square-metre building at the site and sell its 
products by fall 2017.

He estimates that could provide annual revenue of $5 million to $10 
million if they get enough customers.

But they could triple their building size and their revenues if 
recreational marijuana is approved, Vidmar says.

"Depending on what the Liberal government does ... we might be in the 
legal marijuana business," he said.
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