The old Hershey factory in in Smith Falls, Ontario, about 250 miles from Toronto, which churned out Hershey chocolate bars for decades, has been sold to a start-up called Tweed, Inc., which plans to use about a third of the 470,000 square foot plant to grow medical marijuana.
Tweed, Inc. hopes that this will be an opportunity for a turnaround in the local economy that has been hurting since the landmark Hershey plant shut down in 2008, reports Reuters.
“In the last five or six years, we’ve lost 1,700 jobs,” said Dennis Staples, mayor of the town of 9,000 people. He implied that there’s hope that Tweed’s investment could trigger other jobs. He added: “This announcement by Tweed, Inc. is welcome news for us.”
Most of those jobs losses were at the Hershey plant, but the closure of a few other local businesses and a provincial facility also cut jobs.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” said Mark Zekulin, Tweed’s vice president of community engagement. “There is a demand and there’s good opportunity in this market.” Tweed, Inc. has applied to Health Canada for a permit to grow medical marijuana at the factory. It will distribute its product to patients, who have a prescription for the controversial therapy, across Canada.
Canada legalized medical marijuana in 2001. Only 500 people were given the “ok” to grow and smoke the drug. That number has since risen to about 30,000. This incredible rise caused serious issues for those who regulate and police marijuana use. The government responded, earlier this year, with a plan to take legal production of medical marijuana out of private homes and to license private companies to produce medical marijuana for authorized patients.
Therefore, Tweed, Inc. launched efforts to get into the legal growing and distribution game. The company, which expects to hear back from regulators soon, plans to spend about C$1.5 million ($1.45 million) retrofitting the old chocolate factory. Once up and running, the plant will employ about 100 people, which wouldn’t replace all 1,700 lost jobs, would be music to the struggling town’s ears.
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