Fire hits licensed Alberta cannabis grow operation on eve of first shipment

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It’s not the kind of smoke that cannabis producers want to see anywhere near their product.

The newest supplier to Alberta’s shortage-plagued cannabis retailers recently suffered an electrical fire, leading to the destruction of multiple plants just before it delivered its first shipment.

On Dec. 10, smoke was seen pouring out of a building at Sundial Growers’flagship facility at Olds, north of Calgary, said company spokeswoman Claire Buffone-Blair.

“Nobody was hurt and everybody was safely evacuated,” she said.

But the incident led staff to dispose of all cannabis plants contained in four rooms at the facility, though Buffone-Blair couldn’t say how many were uprooted.

“We have a no-compromise approach to quality, so we had to destroy plants in the affected rooms,” she said.

“It’s a reportable incident that we’re learning from.”

It’s not clear what caused the fire and a report has yet to come from local fire officials, she added.

The incident occurred just before the company completed its first shipment of pot two weeks ago to provincial distributor Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC), which has halted issuing licenses for cannabis stores until the marijuana supply improves.

Sundial is one of 15 licensed producers supplying the Alberta market.

No major disruption in production was caused by the Dec. 10 mishap, which didn’t affect the most mature plants, said Buffone-Blair.

“It’s nothing major . . . every business builds buffers into their contingency plans,” she said, adding the plants typically have a 14- to 18-week growing cycle.

“(The lost plants) were part of the process.”

The fire hasn’t extinguished the company’s excitement and relief at entering the market after many months of regulatory hurdles, she said.

“We’ve got our product on store shelves and we’re finally generating revenue,” said Buffone-Blair.

She said the company, which also has growing operations in Airdrie, hopes to be producing 100 million grams of dried flower from the Olds operation by the end of this year.

Alberta is the company’s priority market, but it plans to expand into B.C. and Saskatchewan, said Buffone-Blair.

Before recreational marijuana was legalized on Oct. 17, 2018, the province said there could be as many as 250 cannabis stores throughout Alberta by the end of 2019.

But a moratorium on issuing licences announced in November has limited the number of stores to 65, with 20 of those in Calgary.

The AGLC has been seeking to add more licensed producers to the ones it currently has in a bid to fill supply gaps.

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