Canada: London-area marijuana producer WeedMD strikes export deal with Australian firm

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Southwestern Ontario is now a trailblazer in pot-growing.

London-area marijuana producer WeedMD is believed to be the first company in Canada to sell cannabis seeds abroad, a deal that puts the region at the forefront of an emerging international market, says the head of a marijuana trade association.

WeedMD, an Aylmer-based grower with a greenhouse operation in Strathroy, said Thursday it has exported seeds to Australia’s Medifarm, the country’s first-ever licensed medical marijuana producer.

Allan Rewak of the Cannabis Council of Canada, an industry group representing WeedMD and some of the country’s largest marijuana producers, called the Australia deal a “smart play.”

“What WeedMD did is, they literally provided the seed of growth,” he said. “All these companies doing the international deals position Canada and Ontario and London as the leading tip of the spear on this new industry.”

Southwestern Ontario already is shaping up to become a major pot producer, serving both the medicinal marijuana market and the coming new recreational market once the federal government makes that legal starting in October.

But there’s another key aspect to the pot business — producing seeds to grow the crops — that could become a major part of the business in the region. Keith Merker, the chief executive of WeedMD, says the Australia deal is the first of more to come.

“We’re now expanding our footprint globally.” Merker said, noting it wasn’t easy getting the necessary export permits for the sale of seeds abroad. “This is opening the door for further similar deals. We’ve helped the regulators wrap their minds around what we’re trying to achieve.”

While Canada will soon become the second country to legalize recreational marijuana, at least 30 others have sanctioned medicinal cannabis or are in the process of doing so, fuelling an international market expected to reach $57 billion by 2027, according to a report by Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics.

“As more countries follow Canada’s leading example, we’ll see more development of international supply chains,” Rewak said. “At this point, what we can export is knowledge.” Health Canada has taken a strong stance against servicing the global demand for cannabis.

“This bulletin clarifies that the department does not support facilitating a regime premised on servicing global demand given the associated public health, safety and security risks. For the above reasons, importation and exportation would be permitted under very limited circumstances, such as, importing starting materials for a new licensed producer or exporting a unique marijuana strain for scientific investigation in a foreign laboratory,” the regulator says on its website.

WeedMD’s new Australian partner praised the deal as a way to bring consistent and high quality cannabis products to the country’s prescription pot users.

“Ensuring that our patients have access to clinically-validated and cost-effective medicine for their therapeutic use is paramount for Medifarm,” Medifarm managing director Edward Harris said in a release  Thursday.

“We are honoured to be making history alongside WeedMD – together we are amongst the very first LPs (licensed producers) to secure respective export and import licenses for cannabis seeds.”

WeedMD employs about 100 people at its operations in Aylmer and Strathroy, where it grows medical and recreational cannabis, with plans to double its staff within the next year. The company has secured deals to supply recreational cannabis in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia when the drug is legalized on Oct. 17.

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