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Huntingdon joins forefront of cannabis industry

Sarah Rennie

Nearly 15 years after the closure of the textile mills in Huntingdon, the town now finds itself on the verge of once again experiencing the positive effects of a booming industry as ROSE LifeScience Inc. prepares to open its new cannabis facility before the end of this year. The company plans to hold an information session next week to ensure citizens are well-informed about the new plant.

The initial investment to get Phase 1 off the ground was $31.6 million, “which includes the building, the equipment, and everything else necessary to make this a viable business,” says François Limoges, one of three owners of the cannabis facility located on Ridge Road. The 55,000-square-foot building will include an extraction laboratory as well as a research and development centre, making the Huntingdon enterprise one of Canada’s most technologically advanced indoor cultivation and processing operations. Phase 2, which has already been approved to go ahead, will see an additional injection of $49.3 million to enlarge the place. In total, the two phases of development will create 300 jobs.

All of the cannabis produced in Huntingdon will be grown in tightly controlled conditions, exclusively indoors. “It is a very sensitive plant,” Limoges says of the particular strain of cannabis they will be growing. “Being able to fully control our production from A to Z was super important,” he adds, noting that they need to replicate the same product consistently and that this is very hard to do in a greenhouse environment susceptible to the flux in temperatures experienced here in Quebec.

Huntingdon joins forefront of cannabis industry
ROSE LifeSciences new 55000 square foot facility in Huntingdon will soon be producing as much as 6000 kilograms of cannabis annually making it a major player in the Quebec cannabis industry An information session will be open to all interested on June 11 from 630 pm to 9 pm at Arthur Pigeon High School in Huntingdon photo ROSE LifeScience

An emerging industry
It was five years ago that Limoges and his partners first started to consider cannabis as an emerging industry. Working in tobacco at the time, Limoges found himself questioning the future of that industry. “I was already looking at cannabis as an investment,” he says: the idea of “bringing it into the world as a medicine was exciting.” Of course, back then cannabis was legal for medicinal purposes only. But all of that would change with the election of the federal Liberal government in 2015.
“No one knew how big it would get or how fast it would explode,” says Limoges of the demands on producers after the country-wide legalization of cannabis last fall for recreational use. “We thought we had more time,” he admits, suggesting the whole industry had to react quickly to balance the demands of the medicinal market with those of recreational users. “How often does a brand-new industry develop in your lifetime, and one where Canada is at the forefront?” he laughs. “It’s really exciting to see society move past the stigma to see that cannabis can do such good.”

At home in Huntingdon
When asked what drew him and his business partners to Huntingdon, Limoges explains they were searching for a city that wanted to partner with them on this venture. “The day we came to Huntingdon we found the perfect team that was willing to go through the process with us,” he shares. Other positive factors in their decision to come to the region included the availability of water, a treatment facility designed to accommodate big industry, and the natural gas distribution network. The icing on the cake came in the form of the horticultural program currently offered at the Huntingdon Adult Education and Community Centre, which graduates potential employees with the specific skill sets required to work with this type of plant.

The hope is to be up and running by July, but as with any emerging industry that is as strictly regulated and controlled as cannabis, delays beyond ROSE LifeScience’s ability to control may extend the timeline. “We will be opening in 2019,” Limoges declares confidently. As for a Phase 3, he concedes they have enough land to consider it, and with the edible and concentrates market still to come in Canada, along with the eventual opening of Europe as an export market, they plan on becoming a big player in the industry.

A public information session being organized by ROSE LifeScience to answer any questions or concerns citizens may have about the new facility, including the availability of jobs, will take place on June 11, from 6:30 pm to 9 pm, in the auditorium at Arthur Pigeon High School in Huntingdon. The auditorium has a capacity of 200 individuals. Those interested are advised to come early.

 

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