Cannabis exploitation in Cape Breton is a family affair
SYDNEY MINES, NS – It may be a family affair, but it is not a family business.
In fact, at first glance, the 48,000 square foot facility at the Bluenose Labs subsidiary of Highlander Cannabis Corporation seems like an asset to a large company.
But this is not the case.
The business is the brainchild of Tiffany Walsh from Sydney Mines. The 36-year-old lawyer, who a few years ago set up a Vancouver law firm specializing in corporate cannabis law, is also the president of the company which recently saw its first products hit stores. of cannabis from the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.
His employees include his father Doug, who is both co-owner and manager of the Northside Industrial Park facility that once housed a pharmaceutical plant. And while the company has an offsite accountant, Tiffany’s mother, Mary Lee, takes care of payroll and other HR-related duties in a spacious room just down the hall from the corner office of his daughter on the second floor.
“It’s great to be back and working with my parents – Vancouver is far away and it was hard to see family, especially during COVID,” said Walsh, who returned home about six years ago. months to focus on the new business.
“There are pros and cons to living in both places. I find that I can be more focused here as there aren’t as many distractions, but at the same time, it’s not that easy to network here. Cape Breton is a little quieter than Vancouver.
But it looks like the movement is starting to bear fruit. Earlier this month, the first Bluenose Labs product, a cannabis vape cartridge for use in vape pens, was approved for sale in NSLC stores.
According to Doug Walsh, there is still a lot of work to be done to inform and educate consumers about the new product which is made from cannabis product mainly obtained locally in Nova Scotia.
“There is a big difference between a cigarette vape and our product – our products are derived from plants and everything is natural,” he said.
“Our distillate is one of the purest distillates. We run it three times. We have gone to great lengths to get it right. We’ve worked hard to get the right mix of THC and CBD. Our aroma is natural because it comes directly from cannabis. It is purely natural and it is approved by Health Canada.
However, the father and daughter admit that it has taken a long way for the company to get to where it is today and where it plans to go tomorrow.
Sowing the seeds
Tiffany founded Highlanders Cannabis in November 2017, almost a year before cannabis was legalized in Canada. He was named due to the fact that his paternal and maternal grandfathers had been members of the Cape Breton Highlanders Infantry Regiment.
In 2018, the company bought the old plant from StirlingPharma which closed in 2011.
“The building was messy,” said Doug, as he toured the spotlessly clean premises.
“It had just been left vacant and almost everything inside had been removed. It took a lot of work to prepare it. But now we have a lot of space to expand our operations. “
The installation is considered high security. Cameras are everywhere and a vault specially designed to store the products has been built in the building itself.
The subsidiary Bluenose Labs Ltd. was created a year after the building was purchased. All the while, young Walsh was busy dealing with the large volume of paperwork that came with the plethora of rules and regulations that demanded strict adherence to the business. In June 2020, Health Canada granted Bluenose licenses for medical production and sales.
The fledgling company then began to get to work. Equipment has been purchased and employees have been hired. And a deal was made with a Newfoundland-based retail business that needed help getting started.
“We bought the cannabis for them, brought it in, packaged it and delivered it to their five stores,” said Doug Walsh.
“We did this for over six months last year and we were able to have about 20 people working there. And that has taught us a lot. It was a good introduction for us. You have to remember that the cannabis industry is a little different in Newfoundland.
The NSLC Agreement
Then, two weeks ago, the NSLC approved the company’s request to sell its products through the crown corporation’s cannabis retail outlets.
The first products, the two cannabis vape cartridges, are now sold in NSLC stores. One is called Grape Breton and the other is sold under the name Islander’s Mint. The former contains the natural citrus terpenes found in cannabis, while the latter is inspired by the aroma of wild mint found in the Cape Breton highlands.
Doug Walsh said these products are just the start.
“Sales have been strong so far,” he said, adding that he expects the current staff level of eight employees to increase as the company adds new products to its line. .
“We have big ideas and I hope we get there before too long. We plan to produce topicals and edibles, so we’ll see what comes next. “
As for working with his daughter, Doug laughs and gives her top marks as a boss.
“It’s great to work with Tiffany,” he said.
“I take care of the day-to-day practicalities, while she takes care of what she knows, things like contracts, regulatory issues, legal issues. It works well. And we have another daughter who works for a big pharmaceutical company and she gives us advice every now and then. And, of course, my wife is here too, so it’s a family affair.
In the meantime, Tiffany Walsh continues to re-acclimate to Cape Breton’s slower pace of life compared to her time in Canada’s third largest city.
“It’s obviously very different being right in downtown Vancouver where I was,” she said, looking at the wooded area surrounding the facility.
“But it’s exciting to be involved in an emerging industry and to do it here in my hometown.”
Meanwhile, the latest figures from the NSLC show first quarter cannabis sales (April 1 to July 4, 2021) reached $ 2.7 million, a 42.7% increase from the same quarter in 2020. Cannabis grown in Nova Scotia accounted for 19.7% of cannabis sales. in the province during the quarter.
David Jala is an economics reporter for the Cape Breton Post.