B.C.’s former health minister, Terry Lake, is moving to the Ottawa area this weekend to become a vice-president of a “luxury” medical marijuana company that is poised for massive growth.
Hydropothecary Corp. is a Health Canada authorized producer of medical marijuana with a 26-hectare facility in Gatineau, Que., that is about to get six times larger. The company was co-founded in 2013 by a stalwart Liberal, Adam Miron, who also helped start ipolitics.ca, a news website is popular with those involved in or following provincial and federal politics.
Miron met Lake in the early 1990s when he got a business degree at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops where Lake lived. Miron helped Lake with his successful mayoral campaign in 2005.
Lake said in an interview that he’s kept in touch with Miron over the years.
Miron was national director of Young Liberals of Canada from 2007 to 2009 and a provincial coordinator for the B.C. Liberals in 2007.
Last week, Hydropothecary — which is traded on the TSX Venture Exchange — announced it has bought a large Dutch-designed greenhouse. Since the federal government is getting ready to legalize recreational marijuana, the company’s expansion means it can capitalize on that emerging market.
The greenhouse will increase the company’s growing capacity from 50,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet. Annual production will increase to 25 tonnes of dried cannabis. Hydropothecary also sells a sublingual product, sprays, pills and oils.
Lake said after he decided not to run again in the last election, he kept his mind open to “new opportunities, things that are in my sphere of interest.”
“The whole medical marijuana business and pending legalization of recreational marijuana is very much of interest to me. I have gone on record as describing this as a positive step for quality assurance, regulating the supply and taking the criminal element out of it,” he said Wednesday.
Last year, when he was still health minister, he attended a cannabis science conference in New York where his daughter was presenting some research and he became more intrigued by the industry. He said he paid his own way but there were B.C. government staff also at the conference whose attendance was sponsored by taxpayers.
Lake said his role at Hydropothecary will be vice-president of corporate and social responsibility and his mandate is to ensure the company’s business practices take into account social, environmental and health concerns of consumers and the public “especially as we move to legalized recreational marijuana.
“This is a huge policy shift and we have to be concerned with protecting the health of young Canadians. We have to abide by the highest possible standards.”
Asked about his own cannabis consumption habits, Lake said: “I wasn’t a big user in high school, I experimented a little. And since then, I can count on one hand the times I’ve tried it. We certainly know it is efficacious for a number of illnesses like epilepsy in children, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and post traumatic stress disorder. There’s growing evidence that it might displace opioids or alcohol. There’s so much benefit that can come from regulating the market properly because there will be less stigma and that should spur more knowledge and research.
“But I agree that we all have to be careful not to oversell it.”
Lake, who has worked as a veterinarian, said there are indications that dogs benefit from a compound in marijuana called cannabinoids.
“There’s some evidence of benefit in neuromuscular disorders. My own dog has a prolapsed disc. I haven’t got him on it yet, but I may do so in the future.”
While he’ll be working near the national capital, Lake doubts it will make him yearn for political life again.
“I’m looking forward to not being in politics, at least at this point. I’ll be interacting with governments and public health people and I like that I will be using my skills and my background in science.”
Lake’s skills will undoubtedly come in handy to help prevent missteps like a recent one when the company had to halt sales temporarily after Health Canada tested its products and found trace amounts of a fungicide not approved for use by cannabis growers. In a story in the Ottawa Citizen, Morin conceded the matter was serious and the company was investigating the source of the chemical called myclobutanil which has been known to be used by producers to control mould on marijuana plants.
A few of the leaders at Hydropothecary are former federal government employees. Dr. Shane Morris, vice-president of quality assurance and scientific affairs, formerly worked for Natural Resources Canada. And Max Cyr, director of customer experience, was the former supervisor of a medical marijuana police and client services division within Health Canada.