Zenabis is a Canadian privately-held licensed producer of medical and recreational cannabis that is positioned to be a global leader in cannabis production and distribution. The company specializes in the entire process of delivering cannabis to the market including growing, drying, packaging and distribution. With a track record providing Canadians with safe, high quality medical cannabis, Zenabis is actively engaged in patient education, physician counselling and raising awareness around cannabis and its derivatives.
On October 4th, Zenabis announced a proposed merger with public company Bevo Agro Inc., which operates North America’s largest greenhouse propagation facility, through a reverse takeover that will create the new corporate entity Zenabis Global Inc. Once the transaction closes, Zenabis will have the third largest available cannabis production space footprint in the world. Currently, Zenabis has two facilities in with cannabis retail sales licences: one in Delta, B.C. and the other in Atholville, N.B. The facility in Delta focuses on the medicinal cannabis market, and the facility in Atholville focuses predominantly on the recreational cannabis market. For now, the company produces and sells only the dried flower product; however, it will be able to sell oil, derivatives and other cannabis products (including gelatin cannabis capsules and pre-rolled cannabis known as ‘pre-rolls’) after the seventeenth of October.
The third Zenbais facility will be based in Stellarton, N.S. and will be licensed in 2019. That location will likely take on a processing role. The three facilities represent 660,000 square feet of space in total, making Zenabis one of the largest privately-owned cannabis companies in Canada.
As of October 17th, recreational marijuana will become legal for adults to purchase and consume in Canada. Zenabis will be selling its products in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia under the brand name Namaste.
The company was established by a group of entrepreneurs with experience in online pharmacy, horticulture and government relations. The knowledge of online sales from a pharmaceutical perspective, the ability to grow a high-quality product, and the ability to work well within a regulatory environment are three valuable qualities that have allowed Zenabis to grow successfully since its inception.
Currently, 190 employees work at the company, and Zenabis anticipates that those numbers will increase significantly as the market grows. It regularly looks for new ways to broaden its offerings and capabilities by adding more grow rooms and keeping an eye out for new innovative technologies. Adding more grow rooms will allow the company to produce cannabis continually with no downtime between harvests. “The plan is to be fully operational seven days a week and have a harvest every single week,” says Cameron Hawkins, Section Grower at Zenabis. “We take one room down and flip the room in a continuous cycle.”
Cameron brings a great deal of knowledge to the company, and employees like him are particularly crucial at this stage in the cannabis industry, as it’s still a relatively young sector. He received his diploma in horticulture at Niagara College and specialized in greenhouse growing. “My professors brought a lot of cannabis knowledge into my courses, and that’s the education I’m bringing here to Zenabis – to help with all the growing and to assist in growing the plants to their full potential,” says Cameron. Niagara is a hub for horticulture and cannabis knowledge and hosts an annual cannabis conference called ‘Grow Up.’
The company also has talented individuals from the Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) which offers accredited courses in cannabis cultivation and consultation. The program provides students with the fundamentals of growing cannabis as well as those related to the regulatory framework. “It’s one thing to grow cannabis, but it’s another thing to grow within a regulatory framework, so it’s fabulous to have growers with both the science of growing and the understanding of the regulations,” says Karen Parent, Chief Quality and Compliance Officer.
Not only does Zenabis comply with Health Canada’s cannabis regulations, but it is also moving toward conforming to the even stricter European Union (EU) Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Meeting the requirements of the European market is challenging but will allow Zenabis to sell to the international market. The company should be receiving its certification in November, and the team is very proud of the accomplishment. Germany is the first international market where it will be selling, and it has already made some of the necessary arrangements.
Currently in Canada, the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) state that cannabis producers must comply with Good Production Practices (GPP) rather than the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) that Europe mandates. The EU GMP includes absolute traceability and standardization. It ensures that you are able to repeat the process and produce a pharma grade product that is of the highest quality. Since medical cannabis is considered a pharmaceutical product in Europe, all products must be fully GMP certified both in the country in which it is produced as well as from a European Union Authority, says Karen. “Today, there are only six licensed producers (LPs) in Canada who have GMP certification out of the 116 LPs total.”
There is a growing body of information and research related to the benefits of cannabis, and more people are open to using it once they understand that it will now be grown within a regulatory framework and produced at a pharmaceutical grade. It will soon be available for every adult to use, and many individuals will be trying it for the first time to determine if it helps with sleep, pain, anxiety, or various other ailments.
“We are learning a lot more about cannabis as a medicine. We are beginning to understand how and why it works, and it’s really exciting. I think we’ve broken down this ‘Reefer Madness’ perception that everybody’s going to be running around high, and we are now looking at the products from the perspective of its medical properties,” says Karen, referring to the 1936 film that showed the purported horrors of marijuana use.
As recreational use becomes legal, some challenges will appear, and consumers and producers within this new market will have to adjust. Consumers will need to be aware of where they are allowed to use the product. Communities are restricting where any kind of smoking or vaping can take place, and consumers must educate themselves about the regulations within their jurisdiction.
Along with a higher-quality product, the new shopping experience for recreational marijuana consumers will be very different from what they may be used to in the illicit market. “When legalization rolls around next month, I think that the perception is going to change even more than it already has, and it’s going to become normal for people to go out and buy their favourite brand, and I hope that Zenabis’ Namaste is that brand people will tell their friends about,” says Karen.
Much time and careful attention have put into ensuring that Zenabis produces an unsurpassed product. “We’re not just producing for the sake of having supply. We want to have a reputation of producing the best product possible,” says Karen.
A unique feature of Zenabis is that it is actively engaged with the educational institutions and First Nations communities surrounding its locations. In Atholville, it has developed a meaningful relationship with the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation community, and the community has significantly invested in Zenabis. In British Columbia, it has a relationship with Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and in Nova Scotia, with the Millbrook First Nation group.
“The Zenabis senior management team ensures that we have all the tools we need to be successful: top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art facilities, and as many trained and knowledgeable staff as we can access in the busy market, so we can continually be improving our processes, producing a fantastic product,” says Karen.
Zenabis embodies quality in every aspect of what it does to ensure that both adult recreational consumers and medical patients can trust it to provide a consistent level of quality in a very important product.