What is projected to be one of Canada’s leading cannabis production and research facilities continues to overcome regulatory and zoning hurdles.
City council last week supported a rezoning application from agricultural to industrial designation for the Flowr Corporation project on two McCarthy Road lots, situated along the border of Lake Country and Kelowna.
And the company started a public hiring blitz last week to fill various positions in the cannabis cultivation, processing and research areas.
Flowr is operating an 84,000 sq.ft. space set aside for cultivation, processing and office space, and introduced designs to Kelowna council last week for an additional 50,000 sq.ft. research and development building component.
Lyle Oberg, chief policy and medical officer for Flowr, said five cannabis harvests have already been done, the end product currently being stored in a vault as the company carries through on completing its regulatory requirements.
Flowr is awaiting final approval from Health Canada to be a licensed producer of cannabis products for the Canadian medicinal and adult use markets, and has made a deal with the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch as a legal wholesale supplier of non-medical cannabis.
Oberg said the company’s goal is to be a leading supplier and developer of cannabis products as opposed to engaging in the retail side of the burgeoning industry.
The research and development aspect will expand the potential for cannabis use involving consumer product and therapeutic purposes, he said.
“There is a lot of science behind it. It is about more than just having some plants and creating a harvest,” said Oberg, a medical doctor and former minister of finance for the Alberta provincial government.
“We are at the forefront of a brand new industry that will have many layers to it. I think it will evolve very much like alcohol and medicine before it, where there will be different products and different price levels. Like with alcohol, where there is a difference between a $150 bottle of Scotch and a $20 bottle of Scotch.”
|Design plan for cannabis research and development facility in Kelowna. Photo: Contributed|
The proposed three-storey research and development facility has been designed by Kelowna architect Cal Meiklejohn. It will combine laboratories, indoor and greenhouse grow suites, training areas and genetics breeding areas under one roof.
“The building exterior draws its aesthetic inspiration form local wineries, complete with screened windows, large overhangs and a trellised screen. Large glazing portions face the street providing animation to the sidewalk and a less industrial look at the front and side elevations,” said Meiklejohn in a submission to city council.
“The building contains rooftop greenhouses, softening the roofline and providing a non-industrial backdrop to the architecture.”
Oberg said the building design plans reflect a desire to be both positive addition to the neighbourhood and be a presentable asset feature to the Okanagan Rail Trail located adjacent to the property.
“That is a huge bonus for us to have that rail trail there, so we want to be sure we are not viewed as an eyesore by people using the trail,” Oberg noted.
As Flowr’s plans continue to unfold, Oberg said more jobs will be created, reinforcing the Okanagan’s potential as a North American hub for cannabis research and development.
“It’s a new industry, but to be honest and fair, this is an old industry for the Okanagan as a lot of people have experience with it already. It’s just part of the transition that will take place for an illegal industry becoming legal,” Oberg said.
The job potential is reflected by the company’s design inclusion of a 33-stall parking lot on-site and another 75-stalls located off-site.
Tony Giorgi, former CEO of Flowr, said last year Kelowna will be flagship operation for the company, which has entered a partnership with the Hawthorne Gardening Company, a subsidiary of The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company.
“Our alliance with Hawthorne gives us a unique opportunity to combine their deep expertise in cultivation products and systems with our industry-leading expertise in cannabis grow facility construction and cannabis cultivation techniques,” Giorgi said in an interview last December.
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