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Weed need may not be met

Cannabis executive says producers unlikely to meet demands of consumer market

An official with a large Canadian producer of medical cannabis is confident consumers will be adequately supplied come next July, but says production will need to be increased.

“Right now, the existing capacity and what is already envisioned will not be sufficient to meet the needs of the adult consumer market,” Cam Battley, executive vice-president of Aurora Cannabis Inc., said in an interview Monday.

He has urged other companies to ramp up their production ahead of next July 1, when recreational marijuana is expected to be legalized.

“We need to expand our capacity right away simply to meet the demands of the rapidly growing medical cannabis system,” Battley said. “When the demand of the adult consumer system is layered on top of that, it’s a rush to build as much capacity as possible.”

Battley made the comments on the same day that Aurora (TSX:ACB) began trading common shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Alberta-based Aurora, one of several producers now listed on the TSX, is building what it describes as the world’s largest cannabis production facility at Edmonton International Airport.

Battley said Canada has a well-developed and successful medical cannabis system.

“This is a coming of age, not just for Aurora, but for the cannabis sector and what we’re seeing now is that Canada has established itself as the world leader in a brand new emerging industry that we are literally inventing in real time,” he said.

Battley added that officials from around the world have been coming to his facility in Alberta to visit and to learn how Canada has been so successful both on the medical side and on the consumer side.

“There’s something very big happening and it’s a global movement and it is being led out of Canada.”

Jordan Sinclair, director of communications for Canopy Growth Corp. (TSX:WEED), another major medical cannabis producer, agrees.

“There’s no doubt that we already are …that Canada is the global leader in cannabis on the medical side certainly,” he said.

“The demand doesn’t seem to be slowing down on the medical side of things and then with recreation, obviously that’s a massive market opportunity.”

Sinclair pointed out that Canopy, whose headquarters are in a former Hershey chocolate factory in Smiths Falls, southwest of Ottawa, was first listed on the big board of the TSX in July 2016.

“We’re very proud to have done that before anyone else in the country,” he added. “It does seem like now the pace is speeding up with other companies following in our footsteps (and) it signals that there is credibility across the sector.”

On its website, Health Canada says there are 52 authorized licensed producers of cannabis for medical purposes.

Ontario has issued 29 licences, followed by British Columbia with 12.

Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press