Vancouver Island’s Tilray is one of 30 companies that can legally produce medical marijuana in Canada.
It’s been quietly producing pot in Nanaimo for two years, with scientists and horticulturalists working side-by-side in a 60,000 square-foot facility that somewhat resembles a maximum security prison.
But behind the concrete and fencing, is a company that was named a top employer in the city in 2014 — bringing an $46-million economic windfall to the city.
“The market is continuing to grow at a rapid pace and we can see a lot of opportunities in the medical marijuana space,” Tilray CEO Greg Engel told Global News.
Engel’s company has its sights on expanding its business even further, with hopes of building a second facility and selling its pot worldwide.
Canada could be poised for a green rush, with Health Canada weeding through hundreds of applications from aspiring growers who want to cash in on growing industry and the federal government set to announce legislation to legalize pot next year.
WATCH: Feds announce timeline for marijuana legalization legislation. Mike Le Couteur reports.
Sales of both medical and recreational marijuana could amount to as much as $10 billion a year, according to a recent study from CIBC World Markets.
The cannabis industry is sparking an interest among investors.
Connor Cruise, CEO of Brassneck Capital Corp., invested in a licensed cannabis company and helped take it public.
“There’s a lot of upside to this,” he said, adding spin-off industries could also thrive as Canada’s cultivates its pot industry and the government moves to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
“Everything from lighting to fertilizers to technology companies,” he explained. “A lot of larger companies haven’t touched this space because it’s been a grey or black market. But now with it getting legalized, you’re going to see more of that come into it and I think that’s great.”
Marijuana growing companies are also proving to be a safer bet than some more traditional resource investments.
“If you take a look at the stock markets, oil has gone down, but all the marijuana stock have held steady .. last six months,” said Justin Dhaliwal.
Dhaliwal, son of former Liberal cabinet minister Herb Dhaliwal, has also applied to build a greenhouse in suburban Vancouver to provide medical marijuana.
He thinks there’s plenty of room in the industry for more competition — especially once pot is legalized for recreational use. “Recent reports state that, once it’s legal for recreational [use], the demand is upward of 100 metric tonnes.”
But Dhaliwal said it’s not just a matter of investing for a profit, but investing that profit back into society.
“This being a medicinal product… I think we can use our profits to also invest into research and development, which will only benefit the entire industry as a whole.”
WATCH: More coverage of Canada’s plan to legalize marijuana