Cannibas Wheaton welcomed at IDP Group
The IDP Group hosted the North Dundas Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting at their Chesterville plant, on Wed., Feb. 21, where Chuck Rifici, the CEO of Cannabis Wheaton Income Corp., was introduced to Chamber members as IDP’s partner in vertical cannabis production for the legal market. Shown from left are Rifici and IDP principals Hamed Asl and Mike Dagenais at the event.    Vetter photo

Candice Vetter
Record Staff
CHESTERVILLE – The IDP Group hosted the North Dundas Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting at their Chesterville plant, on Wed., Feb. 21, where Chuck Rifici, the CEO of Cannabis Wheaton Income Corp., was welcomed. His venture has become partners with IDP Group, and will be producing marijuana at the facility.

Rifici said the recently-announced venture will start by taking over 100,000 sq. ft. of the facility, a former coffee factory which was empty for a few years, until the IDP Group purchased it. IDP partners Hamed Asl and Mike Dagenais led tours through the facility last year, which they were in the process of remodelling extensively, including replacing some infrastructure, such as wiring.

Since then the facility has been used for IDP Group’s own furniture construction, project management, design, delivery, installation, and asset management business. The space IDP doesn’t require has been leased for varying uses, including construction of the National Arts Centre’s new roof trusses. Now Cannabis Wheaton will be using hydroponic vertical growing techniques to produce cannabis for the new legal market in 100,000 sq. ft. to start, with plans to expand into additional space in the 373,000 sq.-ft. plant when needed.

“When it’s going well there will be lots of capacity,” said Rifici in an interview at the reception prior to the AGM. He praised his new partners and the former coffee-producing plant itself. “We’ll work with a great team and we’ll work with a great facility, but here we have a great team and a great facility in one place.”

Although the final paperwork is not quite complete, Rifici said the partnership is definite. “We’re just finalizing the last papers,” he said, “but we are committed through an interim binding agreement.”

Cannabis Wheaton’s website states, “It is pleased to announce that it has entered into a binding strategic alliance and streaming agreement with IDP Group Inc. and HMT Solutions Inc. whereby IDP, via a newly formed subsidiary (“CannabisCo”), will become a significant streaming partner to the Company, and the newest participant in the Wheaton Licensing Program.”

The website also states that Cannabis Wheaton Income is a collective of entrepreneurs. “Our mandate is to facilitate growth for our partners by providing them with financial support and sharing our collective industry experience.”

Cannabis Wheaton is already involved in many large-scale cannabis production facilities in the world and is a substantial supplier of medical marijuana to many markets.

He expects that the market the Chesterville facility will be selling to will be provincial governments and the international market, but he rated Ontario as one of his anticipated least favourable markets. “In Ontario sales will all be government controlled,” he said. “In Manitoba retail is privatized. There we sell to the principal distributor, who is the government, and directly to retailers.”

Direct to retail sales are more profitable, he said. Cannabis Wheaton can also sell to medical markets in some jurisdictions, such as Germany.

He and his many partners anticipate a demand that will be hard to fill. “There will be a lack of product. Every legal gram produced will be sold.” He said that sales of marijuana produced in Canada are about 50-million grams per year in the medical market, but he expects sales of 900-million grams per year will be needed to supply the recreational market.

Will that affect the black market? “I think the black market will disappear over time,” he said. “but it will fill the gap until producers are up and running.” That is one of the reasons he and his partners are passionate about getting as many facilities up and running as quickly as possible. He compared anticipated sales to buying legal alcohol over illegal alcohol, and how the end of prohibition meant the end of almost all illegal alcohol production over time.

Regarding value-added, or processed products such as oils and edibles, that area is still a little more hazy. “For now it’s flower products and oils,” he said. The trick is homogenization of product, because the effects of a drug that are swallowed are different than that which is smoked, so getting a consistent result is essential for customer’s safe enjoyment. “There is also the food safety element,” he said, and added that Health Canada will be legalizing edible products next year.

The venture is expected to start hiring about 100 employees with the possibility of hiring up to 300 within a few years.