Care to buy some ‘Reef?’

by Scott Costen

Although none of the first suppliers providing the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) with cannabis products are from Nova Scotia, Queens County's Aqualitas Inc. fully expects to get in on the action sooner than later.

The company anticipates selling both medical and recreational cannabis products by the end of 2018.

"We're in the homestretch now," said CEO Myrna Gillis. "We're working hard and excited about our progress."

Aqualitas, which operates out of Port Mersey Commercial Park in Brooklyn, was licensed to cultivate medical cannabis Jan. 19. When recreational weed becomes legal across Canada Oct. 17, Aqualitas will "automatically become a recreational cultivator" under the Cannabis Act, she said.

Gillis expects the company will be licensed to sell cannabis to both markets by December. Two crops from its cultivation facility have already passed government tests for pesticides, microbials and fungi, she said.

"Everything was clear." A physical inspection of the plant by Health Canada officials still needs to be completed, but Gillis is confident that will not be a problem.

The NSLC, which will sell cannabis products on behalf of government, announced its first orders from suppliers Aug. 24. And while currently none of those suppliers is based in the province that is expected to change. According to an NSLC news release, "Nova Scotia products will be added as soon as local producers have licenses from Health Canada to both produce and sell recreational cannabis."

Gillis is confident Aqualitas will be on liquor store shelves in the not-too-distant future. The company's NSLC offerings will be branded differently than its medicinal products, however.

"'Reef' will be the forward-facing recreational brand," she said. Over time, the company expects to offer everything from dry smokable cannabis to other products such as cannabis oil, beverages and topicals. It has already applied for a license allowing it to extract oil and is expecting delivery of extraction equipment in October.

Whether intended for medicinal or recreational use, all Aqualitas plants will be produced using the same pesticide-free aquaponic growing system, Gillis said. On its website, the company says this platform, which combines fish farming and plant cultivation, uses less water and energy than traditional soil-based cultivation or hydroponic growing.

In recognition of this environmentally friendly approach, Aqualitas recently became the first Canadian company to receive Clean Green Certification from a prominent authority on socially responsible cannabis growth. According to a company news release, Clean Green's Chris Van Hook is "the number one certifier in the United States for cannabis cultivation using international sustainable, biodynamic and organic practices."

Gillis, who previously indicated Aqualitas would employ 60 people by the end of 2018, said the company is on track to reach that mark. "We are already at almost 50 employees, both full-time and part-time," she told LighthouseNow. Over the next three to five years, the number of employees at the Brooklyn facility could grow to 300, she said.

"We've literally invested tens of millions of dollars in that park," she said. "That's permanent infrastructure, right here. We plan to continue to grow our footprint locally."

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