BURIN, NL — If Taylor Giovannini’s plans work out, a defunct fish plant in Burin could be used to grow cannabis for the medical market.
Giovannini, who is originally from St. Lawerence, is CEO and founder of Oceanic Releaf Inc.
She hopes to be one of the province’s first licensed producers of cannabis for medical purposes.
Just a month ago in December 2017, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced it had reached an agreement with an Ontario-based company, Canopy Growth Ltd., for the supply and production of cannabis in the province.
Giovannini applied to Health Canada in November 2017 for permission to produce cannabis under the federal government’s Accessing Cannabis for Medical Purposes (ACMPR) guidelines.
“It took about six months (for us) to put an application together,” she told the Southern Gazette, adding, “We’re looking to achieve our cultivation license by July of this year.”
Giovannini said she first became interested in medical cannabis after seeing for herself its positive effects.
“When I helped someone I care about with his pain management and I saw the immediate effects; I just wanted to help more people.”
She also saw a business opportunity.
“I realized there was an economic factor to it as well … to provide jobs.”
Because she’s originally from the Burin Peninsula and wanted to help the local economy there, she began to consider the former processing plant in Burin as the future home of the business.
That plant was once owed by Highliner and employed over 100 people.
The plant shut down in 2012, putting those employees out of work.
The Town of Burin bought the property in 2015.
Giovannini contacted the town about a year ago to ask about purchasing the facility.
“They were supportive from day one,” she said.
Burin Mayor Kevin Lundrigan said when the town took ownership of the fish plant in 2015, it did so with the hope of seeing people in the town gain employment.
“The Town of Burin is looking forward to working with Oceanic Releaf Inc. and the opportunities that they will provide to us,” Lundrigan told the Southern Gazette.
The mayor said the town hopes to have an agreement with Giovannini and Oceanic Releaf Inc. before the end of February to purchase the plant.
Giovannini explained she will be investing personally into the business venture, as well as seeking outside investment.
“It's kind of all three,” she told The Southern Gazette via telephone. “It's personal investment, outside investment and we're in negotiations with the province and the federal government.”
Preparing for the future
Giovannini said to turn the fish plant into a cannabis production business will require extensive retrofitting.
She said the first phase of renovations at the former processing plant will cost approximately $3 million.
“When people think of . . . growing cannabis they don’t really think pharmaceutical. But this is going to be a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical grade facility (for) medical cannabis, so extensive retrofitting will have to be done.”
Her hope is to complete the renovations over the next few months, “…and hoping to have seed in the ground by July.”
She added the facility, once it’s in full production, could employ about 30 people full-time. She also expects to employ a number of people during the renovation phase.
Giovannini said the first stage of the redesign will be to ensure the facility meets federal regulations “from the security aspect of it to the different systems — HVAC systems, environmental control systems, grow rooms, vegetation rooms — all the stuff you need to start up.”
Giovannini’s plan goes beyond growing cannabis. Her company also wants to open stores to sell the product.
She says she’s still in negotiations with the provincial government on that.
If her company gets that license, she said, “we’ll open a flagship store in the area and hopefully one in St. John’s as well.”
She said she envisions an educational experience for the retail aspect of the business.
“If someone comes through my doors, whether they are interested in cannabis for medical, therapeutical or recreational, they will understand exactly what strain they’re getting (and) how it’s going to help.”
Giovannini added the in-store environment would be comfortable for both those seeking cannabis for medical reasons, as well as the recreational user.
“Think a coffee shop where you can sit down and have a coffee, but also talk to a medical professional about alternative medicine.”
For more stories related to cannabis production and distribution in Newfoundland and Labrador, click on these links to past stories: