Five questions with Tilray, B.C.'s largest licensed medical pot producer
Tilray CEO Greg Engel poses for a picture in front of the facility's early flower grow room. (Scott Cunningham/CTV News)
Published Wednesday, April 20, 2016 1:22PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 20, 2016 3:30PM PDT
Tilray, one of Canada's largest medical marijuana producers, has opened the doors of its 65,000-square-foot, $30-million Nanaimo facility to give a rare glimpse of its production process. Company CEO Greg Engel answers five questions about the facility, its employees, legalization, and lessons for the industry.
In a nutshell, what does Tilray do?
Tilray is one of Canada’s leading licensed producers under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes regulations, and we’re also a global leader in the medical cannabis space. We have a 65,000-square-foot, $30-million facility here in Nanaimo. We’re just around 135 employees.
What are the biggest misconceptions about what you do?
I think there’s two misconceptions. One is that there’s still a lot of concerns and stigma associated with medical cannabis as a medicine. We treat it as a medicine, we produce it as a medicine and we test it and release it as a medicine. So that’s one. I think the other is, in terms of the market, this isn’t about a big corporate company coming to take over the marketplace. This is about investing the science and the research and developing the marketplace which historically, medical cannabis has been used for thousands of years, but we haven’t researched it to the same level and I think that’s one of the key things we’re doing that’s going to advance the science.
Where do the people who work for Tilray come from? What training is necessary?
We have a really diverse mix of people, from PhD scientists and researchers, to internal legal counsel, to a team of horticulturalists and production people. A lot of those people have come to us with knowledge, but we have an intensive training program, especially in the horticulture and production area
How will legalization change how you operate as a business?
I think there are tremendous opportunities. In the medical space, we’re going to continue to see an evolution. For example, we’re now producing medical extracts in oil form for ingestion, we’ll continue to see changes in the medical marketplace first of all. The adult recreational marketplace, I think, really opens up where we’ve heard consistently from the government they’re looking to have a regulated, controlled system producing under good production practices similar to what Tilray is doing today.
What lessons do you think Canada can learn from the U.S. when it comes to legalization?
There are a lot of lessons from that. First of all, there’s a lesson from our medical marketplace in terms of making sure that we have production dialed in and are in a position to supply the market when it starts, because that was a big learn from the U.S. When the adult recreational program started in the U.S., they didn’t have enough product supply and people were pushed back to the black market. The other learning is that we have a very fragmented system in the U.S. It’s different in each state, there’s not oversight at a federal level, and I think one of the things Canadians are looking for in an adult recreational program in Canada is consistency at a federal level. And there will be differences from province to province, but keeping a separate medical program from the adult recreational program in terms of how the product’s distributed I think is important as well.