By Cecilia Nasmith
Finally receiving that all-important sales license from Health Canada is a landmark FSD Pharma celebrated last week with a tour of the former Kraft plant in Cobourg, where the up-and-coming cannabis business is located.
FSD president and co-founder Zeeshan Saeed said the sales license is the last step for their official entrance into the national cannabis market.
“This allows us to accelerate investment in production, add jobs, and contribute to the local economy in a meaningful and responsible way.”
The company has stated publicly that it will be adding 1,500 jobs by 2021, should it be successful in obtaining all the necessary licenses required by Health Canada. Most of these jobs will be sourced from the local employment pool.
FSD Pharma’s wholly owned subsidiary FV Pharma Inc. was awarded the license on April 18. It had previously obtained its cultivation license in October 2017 and its processing license in February 2019.
The company now occupies premises vacated by Kraft in 2008 and purchased by FSD Pharma in 2016. It currently owns the largest indoor facility dedicated to cannabis production, at 2.8-million sq. ft.
Waiting can be frustrating, Northumberland-Peterborough South MP Kim Rudd allowed after the tour, but doing these things properly does pay off.
“I've had the privilege of being here before when it was really just in its infancy stages, and I was listening to the dream and the vision,” Rudd said.
“What I know happened between that time and this time is a lot of work, a lot of due diligence.”
FSD Pharma will specialize in providing recreational and medical dried cannabis, capsules and other forms of cannabis, as the Government of Canada makes more forms of the product legal for sale and consumption.
Saeed and First Republic Capital executive VP Anthony Durkacz led a contingent of dignitaries on a tour of the giant warehouse spaces within the facility, including one with rail tracks actually coming inside the building – a pretty unique arrangement, Saeed said.
“We can bring in and load up to three rail cars right here. It's very practical when you want to do things like beverages, which are very heavy.”
The 220,000-sq.-ft. space for hydroponics is special cause for pride, Saeed pointed out - “the biggest indoor hydroponic space in Canada, and probably the world, so far that we know of.”
On top of that, he said, there are 40 acres where they can expand at some future time.
They are reaching the stage of engaging quotations and tenders to get the hydroponics operational, he added.
Saeed displayed an equal enthusiasm for the heritage Certo building on the grounds, which will require a lot of rehabilitative work.
“Whatever it takes, whatever it costs,” he said.
The remark brought a smile from Mayor John Henderson, who said it is one of the last of Cobourg's remaining 1870’s industrial buildings.
“We are very excited with the sales license, being the very first step to up becoming an actual business as opposed to a dream or a research-and-development experiment,” Durkacz said.
Co-chair and co-founder Dr. Sara May acknowledged that the company had promised a lot of jobs but had not yet been able to deliver - “not because we didn't want to, but because you have pieces of the puzzle that have to be in place.
“This new piece of the puzzle opens up jobs in sales, jobs in marketing, all those things we didn't have available before. We will put the right people in the right jobs so that the company is successful.”
On behalf of the Town of Cobourg, Henderson offered congratulations.
“This is a very innovative pharmaceutical product that – Ontario, Canada and internationally – will be welcome. It will address a lot of health issues in a very positive and proactive way,” he said.
“We are entering a new phase of medical care and service delivery in Ontario and Canada and – good news! - it's right here in Cobourg.
“And they have indicated they are going to be very responsible citizens and help us maintain the Certo building. For us who believe in heritage as part of the Town of Cobourg, that's exceptional,” he declared.
“So I'm proud, I'm delighted. I have no doubt it will be successful, that's clear.”
It's not just about a building that is going to have a product, Rudd said – it's about enriching a community with a variety of jobs and paying municipal taxes.
As a resident of the area for more than 40 years, the MP well remembers Kraft Foods – “who doesn't remember Tang and Jell-O?” she said.
“And everyone knew someone who worked at Kraft, and they were generational. When Kraft left, it really took a toll on this community. This partnership that has formed with the Town of Cobourg has been really game-changing for the community. This is a product and a facility and a movement, if you will, that is cutting-edge.
“Sara and I have talked about the jobs from the technical side, the research side. I know you have an agreement for research with a University in Israel.”
“We are happy to support and reach out to other groups in Cobourg,” May added.
“It's an open line of communication, so please reach out.”
“Keep an eye on this place – I think we are going to hear about a lot of partnerships with other businesses in other areas,” Rudd predicted.