Port Alberni could be the home of B.C.’s very first “campus” for craft cannabis.
The management team from Wild Coast Canna hosted an information session on Monday, June 24 at the Best Western Plus Barclay Hotel to inform the community about their plans to build B.C.’s first cannapark. The public meeting drew a small crowd of interested residents, who had plenty of questions about the project.
Wild Coast co-founder Brian Harris says “cannapark” is a “coined word” to describe a purpose-built industrial park that can be leased to independent cannabis growers.
“We would like to think of it as a cannabis campus,” he laughed. “It will be a home for some really talented industrial cannabis growers.”
His goal is to form a “collective intelligence” of growers who are trying to get micro-licenses for their operation, but have not yet found a way to be a part of the new, legal industry. When fully operational, the cannapark will offer small-scale cannabis cultivators a turn-key solution for market entry.
Harris, who was the founder and CEO of Russell Brewing Company in B.C., drew some comparisons between the micro-brewery and micro-cannabis production businesses.
“It’s very similar, but also very different,” he said. “There are unbelieveable steps to jump through to open your own craft brewery. This is about double that. It’s so contentious still.”
The project started out as a small, family-run operation to assist Brian’s son, Paul, in getting into the industry. But it has grown into something much bigger.
“It’s turned into something that’s needed in the industry,” said Harris.
The planned facility will be located on a 40-acre industrial site in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, close to the Alberni Valley Regional Airport. Wild Coast plans to build it in three phases over three years and, when complete, it will be home to 34 independent cannabis partners with more than 200,000 square feet of indoor operations and 40 acres of outdoor cultivation.
The company also intends to lease a portion of the facility to a wholly owned subsidiary which will apply for cannabis cultivation, nursery, R&D, processing, sales and distribution licenses from Health Canada.
Harris believes that there is a “real need” for the operation, which will benefit not only growers and consumers but also the community as a whole. He expects that the cannapark, when complete, will provide 100-300 jobs, and his objective is to take from the local talent pool “as much as possible.” Harris also hopes to eventually provide local training in order to get more people involved in the business.
“This would be a great location, and good for the area,” he said. “The benefits from it are going to be eked into the community and the tax base. We want the community to be a part of the success of it.”
Harris is still planning more public engagement with the local community and First Nations communities before any further work takes place.
“We’re opening the door,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re inclusive. We want everybody to be part of our extended family,” he laughed.
“We’ve been working on it for close to a year, and we haven’t lost momentum.”