It’s been a long road for the two co-founders of The Green Organic Dutchman, Health Canada’s newest Licensed Producer of medical cannabis, and their journey isn’t over yet.
Jeanette VanderMarel and Scott Skinner initially applied for a license to produce cannabis from Health Canada in July of 2013, and last week passed a major milestone with their license to cultivate. The company now has the next several months to begin the process of growing out their genetic stock, producing and storing crops, and passing various quality assurance tests for the final product before being awarded a sale license.
With currently about 5,000 sq ft of approved growing space within an 8,000 sq ft facility on their 25 acre farm outside Hamilton, Ontario, The Green Organic Dutchman is not the biggest Licensed Producer out there, nor do they seek to be.
The company's focus, says VanderMarel, is the type of cannabis she produced for herself and as a designated grower since 2009 under the previous MMAR: small-batch, soil grown and organic.
“We never wanted to be the Walmart of Weed,” says VanderMarel, a registered nurse. “We want to produce for those who want a holistically grown, environmentally minded, craft product from a small farm. I know there’s a big movement in the west with craft growers and the perception that LPs are huge, corporate, conglomerate entities, but we are not that. We are a small farm, privately funded, and it was with a lot of determination that we got through this.”
Skinner agrees. “Perseverance was the biggest word. It’s not a cheap or easy process in any way. It’s quite arduous. It’s a very long and arduous process that I think is fair, just very slow.”
“We worked as the general, we worked as the consultant, we worked as the law firm. We did all three parts. We did not hire a law firm to tell us what the MMPR means and its explanations, that fell on us. The design and buildout was 100% by us, and we acted as general contractors and hired subcontractors to do the necessary work.”
The more than three year process has taught the husband and wife team a lot, including an enormous amount of patience. With a ready to build letter in November 2013 and a finished facility in February 2014, the couple has managed every step of the last three years themselves.
Now that they have finally received a production license, however, they are seeking to bring on more permanent help. They already announced a new manager, and now the company is also seeking a head grower with commercial agricultural experience. While VanderMarel has several years experience growing cannabis for medical purposes, they say they are looking for someone who can help them move from a personal scale to an efficient commercial process.
“We never wanted to be the Walmart of Weed. We want to produce for those who want a holistically grown, environmentally minded, craft product from a small farm." -VanderMarel, co-founder of The Green Organic Dutchman.
Although the last two years have been a considerably arduous waiting game, Skinner also notes that the last 6 months or so have seen a marked improvement in communications from Health Canada.
“We’ve found that things have moved along much quicker since about February of this year once the new government had the ability to organize the Office of Medical Cannabis,” says Skinner. “I think they’ve been much more responsive to our requests, as evidenced by our now being licensed.”
VanderMarel agrees. “We’re thankful to have clarity from the government, especially in this transitory phase, with the new ACMPR, hopefully that will help us get to a distribution model that provides reasonable access for all patients.”