It may be a long way from Vancouver, Canada to Casino, northern NSW but if all goes according to plan the “beef capital of Australia” may be set to rename itself the nation’s cannabis capital.
In a statement on 27 September 2017 the listed Canadian company PUF Ventures Inc announced it would enter into a strategic partnership with Richmond Valley Council to construct a 1 million-square-foot (9.3ha) greenhouse operation that could become the southern hemisphere’s largest cannabis operation.
Along with growing some 100,000 kilograms of high quality cannabis a year - not to be confused with the low-THC hemp for fibre - the operation will include large-scale manufacturing, processing and office facilities for producing “medicinal cannabis and associated products”.
The term ‘associated products’ hints of the company’s ambitions beyond the newly emerging world of medicinal cannabis prescribing.
Near the end of its lengthy statement the company adds, “Assuming recreational cannabis becomes legal and with a population of more than 24 million people, roughly two-thirds of Canada's population, it is suggested that the cannabis market in Australia could grow to $9 Billion over the next 7 years”.
Hence the relevance of its amusing moniker ‘PUF’ - no need for a final ‘f’ - and other names in its stable, including Weed Points Loyalty, which is in the process of developing Weedbeacon, a marijuana vape technology, Canopy Growth Corp, CraftGrow, “a collection of high-quality cannabis grown by a select and diverse set of producers”, and the online medicinal marketplace Tweed Street (silent ‘t’?) one of whose dried marijuana offerings is named ‘Sun-Grown Boaty McBoatface’.
Back in the sober corporate world, the project announced it will operate through a new subsidiary named PUF Ventures Australia (PVA) led by Sydney based Michael Horsfall who has a background in business development and information technology, and Australian government programs.
“Assuming recreational cannabis becomes legal and with a population of more than 24 million people, roughly two-thirds of Canada's population, it is suggested that the cannabis market in Australia could grow to $9 Billion over the next 7 years” - PUF Ventures
"We are continuing our strategy of global expansion by building a state-of-the-art, 1 million-square-foot facility which, when complete, will be the largest cannabis cultivation operation in the southern hemisphere and one of the largest in the world," the statement said.
“At full scale, the new facility will have the capacity to support annual production of 100,000 kilograms of high quality cannabis, which equates to an associated annual revenue generation potential of between C$800 million and C$1.1 billion (C$1 = AUD1.03) based on current pricing metrics in the Australian cannabis marketplace.
"We plan to leverage the expertise we have gained from the Canadian cannabis marketplace and the Health Canada ACMPR licensing process, to achieve our goal of becoming a large-scale cannabis producer in Australia as well as worldwide.
“Our analysis shows that the cannabis market in Australia is approximately where the Canadian market was 4 years ago. By entering this market through a strategic partnership with the local land owning government, we are positioning PUF to become a leader in both Australian and global cannabis production.”
PVA said it had agreed to a purchase option agreement with the Richmond Valley Council for a 27-hectare parcel of land near Casino. The Council will provide the land for five years at no cost, with an option for PVA to purchase the parcel on favorable terms after that time.
Richmond Valley Mayor Richmond Valley Mayor Robert Mustow said Council would be supporting PVA’s applications and while the project was still subject to Federal Government approvals, in particular from the Office of Drug Control, Council would be doing all it could to make sure it got across the line.
He said that at a closed Council meeting, all councillors were supportive of the company’s “strategy and vision”.
Council General Manager Vaughan Macdonald called the project “a game changer” that could create around 300 direct new jobs in the local economy.
Mr Macdonald added: "We are very excited by the prospect of working with an international company like PUF to support the development of this important new industry which will significantly add to our gross regional product, create approximately 300 direct new jobs in our local economy, and lead to other follow-on local and regional employment opportunities.
"This locally supported project will go a long way to meet our commitment to reduce unemployment through economic development and improve the prosperity of our community. We look forward to working closely with PVA to bring this project to reality and working to create a new agricultural industry of medicinal cannabis in our region and across Australia."
PVA said the largest medical cannabis facility in the southern hemisphere could draw other investments in research, education, manufacturing, tourism and more.