Minister of Agriculture and of Regional Development for the State of Victoria in Australia Jaala Pulford (left) and Minister of Municipal Affairs Shaye Anderson fly on a helicopter to tour the Aurora Sky cannabis project at Edmonton International Airport in Nisku on Thursday, July 13, 2017. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia
Australian delegates are hoping to learn from Alberta’s expertise after visiting the Aurora Sky medical marijuana production facility Thursday.
“We’re now at the point where we need to see what this looks like on a large scale,” said Jaala Pulford, minister for agriculture and regional development for the state government of Victoria. “Our medicinal cannabis industry we can age by weeks rather than years.”
The Australian politician kicked off her trade mission with a helicopter tour of the 75,000-square-metre Aurora Sky facility, which Aurora Cannabis is constructing near Edmonton International Airport.
The facility is expected to be finished before Canada’s legalization of recreational marijuana in July 2018, but the company plans to start production earlier to produce medical cannabis.
“People understand it now, the stigma has gone away, they understand how many jobs there are — high-tech jobs, transportation jobs, security jobs,” said Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson, who also had his first aerial look at the facility. “It’s a huge growth industry, no pun intended.”
Australian politician Jaala Pulford, right, speaks during an interview alongside Cam Battley, executive vice-president with Aurora Cannabis, before touring the Aurora Sky cannabis project at Edmonton International Airport in Nisku on Thursday, July 13, 2017. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia
Pulford said her visit — which will also include a tour of the Aurora Cannabis production facility in Cremona and meetings with federal officials in Ottawa — is a chance to let companies know that Australia is “open for business.”
Victoria’s fledgling industry currently consists of just 1,600 marijuana plants, she said, after the state became Australia’s first jurisdiction to legalize medical marijuana in 2016. But very few patients currently benefit from the legislation — with a handful of children being treated for severe epilepsy among those eligible to receive prescriptions.
“We went from this being very new and quite unusual to broad acceptance in Australia,” she said, noting the shift in public support. “Every step has been a first step.”
State government of Victoria minister Jaala Pulford, left, shakes hands with Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson while Aurora Cannabis executive vice-president Cam Battley gestures. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia
The Victoria government held a ceremony about a month ago to mark the birth of the Australian industry, Pulford said, after company Cann Group Ltd. received the first licence in the country for research and cultivation. It later became the first business to receive a permit to grow cannabis.
“We’ve got plans to scale up quickly, we have two facilities already that are underway,” said Cann Group Ltd. chief executive Peter Crock, who also toured Aurora Sky. “One of the reasons we’re here in Canada … you guys are clearly leading in the world.”
Aurora Cannabis is a key investor in the Australian venture with nearly a 20 per cent stake, said executive vice-president Cam Battley.
“Aurora has only been selling medical cannabis since the beginning of 2016, yet the growth is remarkable,” he said. “We want to share what we’ve learned about expanding this industry responsibly.”
Pulford said there is little debate about legalizing recreational marijuana in Australia because the medicinal industry is so new.
“We are watching with great interest the destigmatization of medicinal cannabis products and seeing legalization in many countries across the world,” she added.
Originally published here: http://edmontonjournal.com/business/local-business/we-are-watching-with-great-interest-australian-politician-tours-medical-marijuana-production-facility