End of an era as cannabis giant Tilray sells land and leaves Nanaimo

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Nanaimo’s pioneering cannabis giant, Tilray, eventually pulled out of town, taking about 170 jobs with it.

Last week, he found a conditional buyer for his flagship property in the city, listed at more than $18 million.

Canada’s first legal medical cannabis producer opened its Vancouver Island facility to much fanfare in April 2014, a year and a half before the federal Liberal government was elected on a promise to legalize cannabis.

His departure from Nanaimo is a loss for the city.

The president of the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce said Tilray was a major player, contributing $25 million to the local economy in its first year alone.

“There was nothing like it in Canada,” said Kim Smythe. “We were the first. It was all of a sudden at the time.”

The company continues its activities elsewhere in Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia and Latin America. Tilray says its merger with Ontario giant Aphria nearly a year ago makes it the “world’s largest cannabis company” with combined revenues of $685 million.

Tilray did not respond to maintenance requests, but previously said it was consolidating operations to find “efficiencies”.

“It’s unfortunate for the staff and others who would have lost their jobs,” said Deepak Anand, board member of Vancouver-based Medical Cannabis Canada and former executive director of the Canadian National Cannabis Association. medical marijuana. His cannabis business, Materia, operates primarily in Europe.

“Companies are shutting down or shutting down facilities… The bigger producers are not able to keep and sustain their market share.

For Anand, the consolidation of what he called “Big Cannabis” comes as no surprise as the industry evolves amid growing public acceptance and demand for its products. The recreational drug was legalized in Canada in 2018.

But while hundreds of jobs have been lost in recent mergers and closures across the Canadian sector, this is also an opportunity for small, artisanal producers, he said.

This opportunity is one that local governments like Nanaimo could take if they want to replace those jobs, he said.

“The problem is not isolated to Nanaimo, many other small towns have seen this boom and bust,” Anand said.

But it will take more support from the federal government and cooperation between other levels of government to take the economic benefits of the industry more seriously, he argued.

The former CEO of Tilray said there had been a “real shift” in community attitudes towards cannabis four years after legalization. This led to growing pains in a fledgling industry.

“Medical cannabis has gone from having some of the stigma associated with it in the past to becoming a mainstream treatment option for many conditions,” Greg Engel told CHEK News.

With the closure of Tilray’s operations in Nanaimo, British Columbia still has 82 licensed large-scale cannabis growers, according to the federal government. The company still operates a plant in Duncan, British Columbia called Broken Coast.

“Tilray is making changes to optimize operational efficiency,” the company said in a statement last September. “Tilray will concentrate its local culture in British Columbia in the Broken Coast factory, as well as its international production and manufacturing in Portugal and Germany.

At their peak, the company’s operations in Nanaimo employed approximately 300 people and contributed tens of millions to the local economy.

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