Cannabis production facility coming to Rama

Rama First Nation is getting into the cannabis culture.

On Wednesday, when cannabis became legal in Canada, it was announced Rama would be home to a pot-production facility as part of a joint venture with GrowForce.

The facility will create about 100 jobs.

GrowForce’s financing partner, Bridging Finance, is an Indigenous-led company and has been working with GrowForce on establishing partnerships with First Nations.

The Rama facility is just the beginning. Jeannette Harkin, GrowForce’s vice-president of corporate development, said the company is working on establishing a “coast-to-coast cultivation, distribution and retail network” across Canada. Rama is the second First Nation community to join that network. GrowForce is in talks with another six to eight communities.

“We’re hoping to continue to build additional opportunities with Rama across the full cannabis platform,” Harkin told OrilliaMatters.

The “seed-to-sale model” would see partnering First Nations grow and distribute cannabis for retail sale. There could be future retail opportunities in Rama, but GrowForce is waiting to see how that rolls out across the province. Currently, it is only legal to purchase cannabis through the Ontario Cannabis Store website.

“We’re waiting to see how Ontario will work with First Nations and how First Nations will approach retail operations in Canada,” Harkin said.

She cited a healthy economy and the busy Casino Rama as reasons for setting up shop in the community.

The facility will be built near the casino, said Harkin, though she wouldn’t say where, specifically, instead referring a reporter to Rama.

Rama Chief Rodney Noganosh was not available for comment Wednesday.

Design work for the facility has already begun, and Harkin expects the first plants will be budding within 18 months. The size of the building has not yet been determined, “but it will be a large facility,” Harkin said.

“GrowForce is excited about the partnership with Rama,” she said. “We think it’s a win-win.”

Jobs at the facility will include harvesting, trimming, research and development, packaging, accounting and management. GrowForce will bring a “university-training system” to the Rama project, educating the workforce in the uncharted territory that is legal cannabis cultivation in Canada.

In a news release issued early Wednesday, Noganosh said, “We chose to work with GrowForce because of their strong financial backing from Bridging Finance, an Indigenous-led company, along with industry-leading safe cannabis product management practices. This joint venture generates a long-term positive economic impact for our community in an emerging market and adds significant jobs in the region.”