B.C.’s biggest pot plant planned for Oliver

Co-founder Tony Holler said the 700,000 sq. ft. facility would produce 100,000 kg of pot per year

A South Okanagan winery owner is undergoing a final review with Health Canada, with hopes of setting up what would be the largest medical cannabis facility in B.C.

Tony Holler, owner of Poplar Grove Winery, said his company, Sunniva, is currently building a 500,000 square foot facility near Palm Springs, California. But if all goes well with Health Canada, his proposed Sunniva facility near Oliver would be a whopping 700,000 square feet and produce about 100,000 kilograms of medical-grade cannabis per year.

That facility, he hopes, will be located on Osoyoos Indian Band land, in the industrial park near the Okanagan Correctional Centre.

Related: First Nations look to grow marijuana industry for economic highs

“We’ve got lots of work to do. We have to finish our lease with the band, and we’re in what’s called final review with Health Canada, and before we get started we need a letter from Health Canada, and obviously we’re looking at a number of proposals for financing,” Holler said.

“I’m hoping construction can start in the second quarter in this year. We’re already talking to our suppliers.”

Holler said he has had “no experience with cannabis personally” — not that he objects to it, but he said he gets an asthma-like reaction to smoking substances.

Related: Legal pot may breathe life into small Canadian towns hit by resource losses

“So I really had sort of no knowledge, and about four years ago my cofounder, Leith Pederson, was saying to me, ‘hey Tony, you’re a physician, and you’ve worked in the pharmaceutical industry, you built a huge vaccine company, I can’t believe you aren’t looking at this industry,’” Holler said.

“So I spent a few months reading all the academic literature, talking to a lot of people, visiting facilities that were growing cannabis, and basically educated myself, and what I sort of determine at the end of that period was wow, there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t know. And surprisingly, I concluded that cannabis undoubtedly had a role in medicine.”

Currently, Holler noted, the potential medical value of cannabis is under-researched in North America, and there have been claims to both extremes — that cannabis can cure or treat a vast array of ailments and that it has no medical value.

Related: Green gold rush in the Okanagan

“The most exciting part, though, is with legalization all of a sudden you’re going to get a ton of research done and we’ll soon have some real parameters for treating a variety of disorders,” he said.

“Will it treat everything like some people are sort of intimating? No, that’s just total nonsense. This isn’t something that will be useful for every medical condition, but I think there’ll be a significant amount of data out that points to its value in the treatment of a number of conditions.”

Holler said cannabis can be a solid substitute for some drugs, as it is typically relatively harmless to other drugs, and has fewer side effects, but he added it could also just be a supplement to other drugs.

At 700,000 square feet, Holler said the Oliver facility would be the largest in B.C., adding he wasn’t aware of any other facilities that came close, pointing to a couple of facilities in the 20,000 square foot range, up to about 100,000 square feet.

Related: Vancouver Island marijuana producer bought by Aphira in $230M deal

Holler said going as large as he is follows in his past steps with a flu vaccine manufacturing plant.

“It used all modern technology, very much like our greenhouses, they’re really technology driven, and we were able to produce flu vaccines at much lower costs than traditional facilities at greater quality and at big scale,” he said.

“What ended up happening is that one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world saw our operation and what we could do and bought us for $1.7 billion.”

Holler said the larger the facility, the easier he can meet three major metrics: low cost, high production volume and high quality.

Related: Weed need may not be met

“You only have to look back at the car industry when Henry Ford came into it,” he said, noting that before Ford there were “problems with supplying the market, the cost was outrageous and the quality was poor.”

“My theory on this industry is that it will be just like every other industry, eventually, where low cost, high quality are going to be critical to being successful.”


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Wildfire update: Fires burning in Fraser Canyon, Highway 7 and Skagit Valley

Several fires in the region are under ‘modified response’ meaning no firefighters are attending

Update: Highway 1 reopened after single-vehicle rollover north of Yale

Single-vehicle crash with three occupants happened at Saddle Rock Tunnel at 10:15 a.m.

Highway 7 down to one-lane alternating as crews fight Mt. Hicks wildfire

150-hectare blaze prompted closure of a provincial park

Night patrol on Chilliwack waters leads DFO to seize 48 sockeye and harbour seal from poachers

Charges pending after two poachers arrested for fishing at night

WATCH: Recruitment set to start for the Molson Coors Brewery at Chilliwack

There were about 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and some staff now being sought

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

Hot, dry conditions forces drought rating to highest level on Vancouver Island

The province says Vancouver Island is under Stage 4 drought conditions

Victoria police say explicit calls continue to target women

Over 50 reports of unwanted, sexually explicit calls have come in

‘It’s like a party in your mouth’

B.C. creator’s Milkshake Burger makes its debut at the PNE

Get involved in the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count

Environmental organization develops app to help with the nationwide count

Pesticides linked to bee deaths will be phased out in Canada, sources say

Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are a class of pesticides used by farmers and hobby gardeners alike

Wildfire smoke blankets B.C. and Alberta, prompting air quality advisories

About 25 new wildfires were sparked between Monday morning and midday Tuesday

Most Read