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Stellarton remains optimistic Vida Cannabis will get marijuana production OK

Greg Wilson in front of the Vida Cannabis facility.
Greg Wilson in front of the Vida Cannabis facility.

It’s been more than two years and the former Clairtone building in Stellarton is still empty.

The long-awaited 300 medicinal marijuana jobs haven’t yet materialized. There’s no pot being grown inside the 315,000-square-foot, fully renovated building’s walls.

Health Canada, which has the authority to issue medicinal marijuana licences to companies in this country, is refusing to acknowledge whether Vida Cannabis, the owner of that building in Stellarton, has even applied for such a licence. The company has repeatedly claimed it has applied. But, so far, Health Canada’s website still shows the company has not received that stamp of approval from the federal government.

And yet – despite this lack of activity at the site and the company’s silence – the mood in Stellarton is still one of hope.

Community leaders are clinging to the hope of a bonanza of good-paying, long-term jobs and the boost to the economy these jobs would provide. Many people have gone so far as to buy shares in Vida Cannabis.

Mayor Danny MacGillivray, who does not have any ownership stake in the company, points to Vida Cannabis’s payment of its back taxes on the property about a year ago as a sign the company is still serious about moving ahead with its marijuana operation.

“They were in arrears but they paid them up and now they’re up to date,” said the mayor in an interview Wednesday. “It made us think they must be going to do something with this.”

In the community of 4,200 souls, the rumour mill has been working overtime. Those rumours have pegged the amount of money the company has invested in the property, for which it initially paid $500,000, at up to $15 million.

But nobody except the execs at Vida Cannabis and perhaps its shareholders know the real amount of that investment.

Certainly, Vida Cannabis has put a lot of work into Peter Munk’s circa-1960s Clairtone Sound Corporation stereo and television plant after buying the empty shell two years ago.

“They put a lot of money into it. It was a dilapidated old building and they put a new roof on it and everything. They re-did the whole outside. It’s like a whole new building,” said Mayor MacGillivray.

“We’re optimistic that something will happen,” he said.

Cathy Covey, the broker and owner of Sunrise Brokerage & Sales in Stellarton, was the realtor who stickhandled that real estate deal back in 2014. In an interview, she said Vida Cannabis paid fair market value for the property, the full amount of the asking price established by the seller, the Town of Stellarton.

She’s convinced Vida Cannabis still intends to go ahead with plans for a medicinal marijuana operation on the site and quickly dismissed any notion that the company might have simply bought the old Clairtone property as a land deal, speculating on future capital gains in the value of the land.

“It’s a business deal,” said Covey. “They’ve rebuilt the building. It was renovated specifically for growing marijuana.”

The Sunrise Brokerage owner is also a shareholder in Vida Cannabis and so privy to corporate information provided during the company’s annual general meetings. In the interview, she would not share that information, saying it was confidential. But Covey did say that when the company does launch its medicinal marijuana operations, people will sit up and take notice.

“It’ll be big news when it happens,” she said.

Mayor MacGillivray’s biggest worry about the Vida Cannabis plant isn’t whether it will ever open but its capacity to meet a growing demand for pot.

“There’s a big demand for the product and the government won’t be able to fill all the orders,” he said. “Recreational marijuana is supposed to become legal in July. In Las Vegas, when they legalized it, they ran out.”

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