By Colin Burrowes
For 7Acres, Oct. 17 has become a day of celebration. It’s the anniversary of cannabis legalization, and it also marked the second phase of legalization with the addition of cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals all becoming legalized under the Cannabis Act. But don’t expect to see them available right away, as there is a 60-day period before they will be on the market.
The celebration also marked their own milestones. Since they first broke ground five years ago with a dozen employees, they now have over 230,000 square feet of licensed space, with more to come, and over 700 employees, making them the second largest private employer after Bruce Power.
“We knew infrastructure would grow to this scale,” said Jenny Posthumus, communications manager at 7Acres. “In regard to our staff required, our original projections were 400, then we increased to 500, 600, and now we’re over 700 employees … we use the power of the people to have quality cannabis for the recreational market coast to coast.”
Posthumus said that with the lottery system the Ontario government rolled out, there has been a disappointment.
“Health Canada is our partner and we look at them as our ally,” she said. “They are just navigating through this new industry as well right now … In time, good things will happen.”
Health Canada has stringent regulations on what 7Acres can do to support local communities.
“We can’t hang a banner,” said Posthumus. “We can’t advertise or promote so we try to entice the staff to support the community through volunteerism.”
At the celebration on Oct. 17 they were giving out lots of swag to employees and Posthumus said they hope when employees are out in the community, they will wear these toques, shirts and hoodies to represent the company.
“Some people say, why do you give money if no-one can recognize you for it,” said Margaux Bucher, communications assistant for 7Acres. “Because, we live here too. It’s important for the people who work here to have amenities, to live here happily with their families, so it’s really important to us that we can show support and volunteerism whenever possible.”
General manager Ram Devloor, said they were optimistic about finishing off the greenhouse five years ago but this has surpassed their expectations.
“At the beginning, it was a twinkle in my eye,” he said. “I didn’t know whether it would ever happen … In Bruce County, we’re the second largest private employer … to do that in a very short amount of time, I feel very good about it.”
Devloor said their parent company, Supreme, is allowed to have one Cannabis store, but it may not be in Bruce County.
“It could be in B.C. or Toronto,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what the plans are for that.”
Bucher said the opportunity that 7Acres has brought to the area is that they fill a gap somewhere between minimum wage jobs and the jobs Bruce Power provides.
“7Acres has really given a lot of opportunity for people who may not have been in a position to be in a management role in their careers,” she said.
They offer school of management training and almost 30 employees are enrolled in the cannabis professionals program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in B.C., a two-year online program.
“We want people to make full-time, life-long careers out of their home here at 7Acres, and give everyone the tools they need to succeed,” said Bucher.
She said learning about cannabis has given her a lot of passion for the industry.
“Learning about these truly amazing plants and what they are doing for people, also dispelling that stigma around who the cannabis enthusiast is,” she said. “It’s someone with a great job, who at the end of the day, maybe they don’t want to unwind with a glass of wine or a glass of scotch. Maybe they prefer to have cannabis … and they put a lot of thought into their selection process of who they want to buy their cannabis from. With the legal market, you can trust the process because if you are buying it from the drug dealer down the street – I’m not saying you are not going to get a great experience, but you don’t always know what’s going into your cannabis.”
Under Ontario’s regulations, before they release a crop, it goes through rigorous testing and a gamut of quality assurance check offs before it can leave the facility.
Bucher said that people being allowed to have a few plants at home is not a bad thing.
“That’s where a lot of the people who work for us, coming out of the black or grey market, have a lot of experience growing and knew what was optimum for this facility,” she said. “They are a resource; they are an asset.”