An organic farmer has cleared the first hurdle in receiving $1 million to build a greenhouse to grow organic cannabis in southern Ontario.
Mike Matthews, a farmer and founder of Bella Vista Cannabis, said if everything works out, the money would be used to build a 465 sq. m (5,000 sq. ft) greenhouse to grow organic cannabis. With the investment, he said he hopes to have the first crop harvested by early 2019.
“Negotiations for any potential partnership will be coming up,” he said after being selected. “The future is unknown but hopefully bright.”
Matthews won the best pitch Monday at an event hosted by Canopy Rivers, which invests in cannabis companies around the world. It works with Canopy Growth, a cannabis and hemp company based in Smiths Falls, Ontario. Last year, the U.S. alcohol company Constellation Brands invested $245 million in the company, the Financial Post reported.
Matthews made the pitch at the International Cannabis Business Conference at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver.
Matthews said he thinks one of the reasons his pitch won over the other three was because he explained how he’s continuing the tradition of farming started by his great, great grandfather.
He said his farm, located two hours east of Toronto, was certified organic in 1999. Matthews said he’s sold organic oats to Quaker and organic soybeans to Japan for tofu. He has grown medical cannabis since 2008.
“We look to work with nature not without,” he said during his pitch. “At Bella Vista, we know that in terms of work and input, nature has been doing a pretty good job for countless millennia. We look to embrace these natural systems and processes, amplify them and put them to work for us.”
The other pitches were for expansion of a company that tests cannabis to meet federal health standards, another to develop technology that controls all aspects of cannabis growth, and a third for branded craft cannabis in retail stores in locations across the country.
Hilary Black was one of four judges who listened to Matthews make his pitch. She is director of patient education and advocacy for Canopy Growth.
In making her choice, Black said she looked for businesses that combine environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
“I really believe that the cannabis industry needs to become the most socially responsible industry in the world,” she said.
Black has a history in cannabis advocacy. She is best known for starting the B.C. Compassion Club, the country’s first medical cannabis organization, 22 years ago at 14th and Commercial.
“We have come a long way from the days of civil disobedience,” she said.
“We are just on the verge of being one of the first countries in the world to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes. I would say the cannabis industry is about to take off and we have the potential to do a lot of good for the world.”
Black said the potential risks of cannabis can be managed with evidence-based education.
“The prohibition of cannabis causes great harm to families, and to countries. People are being jailed, children are been taken away, people’s lives are being ruined, they’re not allowed to travel, they can’t get jobs,” she said.
“The harms of prohibition far, far outweigh the little risks around cannabis that need to be managed.”
She said “the sky is not going to fall” once legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes takes effect Oct. 17.
“There are great economic benefits to the country and communities and we will lead the world in repealing this tremendously harmful prohibition that we have been living under for 100 years,” she said.
Just under 1,000 participants attended the conference, which is aimed at businesses rather than consumers, said Alex Rogers, International Cannabis Business Conference’s founder and CEO.
He described the conference as the world’s leading international business cannabis event.
“I’m a hippie. I live in Oregon. It’s all Cascadia for me, bro,” he said.
“The vibes are just really good in Vancouver. Toronto didn’t have nothing to do with weed years ago. B.C. had everything to do with weed.
“That’s what this conference is based on — it was formed by activists. Then we started making money and becoming real business people.”
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