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Kirkland Lake cannabis producer fully operational

Women’s health and wellness market is focus of female CEO of 48North Cannabis

A newly licensed and fully operational Kirkland Lake cannabis grower is positioning itself to cater to women’s health and wellness products.

Well ahead of the federal legalization date on Oct.17, Alison Gordon, CEO of 48North Cannabis Corp., has been doing some advance work to finalize some partnership deals with major manufacturers in the area of food, cosmetics and skin care.

“Nothing I can announce just yet but we will be announcing very soon about our partnerships with mainstream consumer packaged goods companies who bring the expertise and know-how on formulation, manufacturing, packaging, production, and can be a best in class on those products.”

48North Cannabis Corp. is the Toronto-based parent company of DelShen Therapeutics, which announced in late 2015 that it had bought and was retrofitting a former government tree nursery near the northeastern Ontario gold mining town to be a future producer of pharmaceutical-grade medical marijuana.

It signed a community benefits agreement with nearby Wahgoshig First Nation, which is a shareholder.

On an 800-acre site, their modern 40,000-square-foot indoor growing facility has a production capacity of 2,500 kilograms per year which can be expanded to boost that to 40,000 kilograms annually.

Now in full commercial mode, the company sources its genetic material from a supplier in the Netherlands. Gordon said they’ve done “many, many harvests” since receiving a federal cultivation licence in February 2017. The crop is stored in a vault on the site.

June was a busy month for 48North.

With the rigorous Health Canada inspections and approvals process out of the way, 48North was awarded a federal sales licence for dried cannabis, cannabis plants and seeds on June 25, preceded by a listing on the TSX Venture Exchange on June 11 under the symbol "NRTH."

As Canadian cannabis companies jockey for market position heading into legalization this fall, the company intends to differentiate itself from the herd and promote itself as a trusted brand in the lifestyle category.

“For us, it’s really about creating products, brand, content that speaks to women and their needs, and addresses some of their health and wellness concerns whether that’s menstrual cramps or stress. It’s just about having a platform for women to feel comfortable and safe in what they’re using and trying.”

Using different oil extraction processes, those products can take the form of edibles, vape pens, skin care creams and cosmetics.

They’ll be extracting and creating those products as the government allows them, likely within the next 12 months.

Gordon began with the company as a consultant before being elevated to CEO in May 2017.

Unlike her corporate contemporaries who come from health care, cultivation or technology backgrounds, Gordon is regarded as one of Canada’s top marketing and branding strategists.

She co-founded Rethink Breast Cancer and for 13 years was the creative voice behind the national charity’s innovative messaging and fundraising efforts to tap into a new demographic of young women.

Gordon segued over to the cannabis industry in 2013 after she was exposed to the benefits of medical marijuana when a family member was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer.

Working in California, she witnessed the evolution of that sector from an underground industry, supplying almost half of North America, into a licensed regime with dispensaries and refined consumer products.

Sales of extracted and branded consumer products now exceed those of the actual flower, she said.

“Really, it’s become a consumer packaged goods industry where your value is in what you turn the cannabis into in terms of product and brand. The comparable would be your potato farmer and McCain (Food), who turns it into a french fry…because it’s now a branded product.”

Her vision is to position 48North as a vertically integrated health and wellness company rooted in the cannabis cultivation and extraction space.

Gordon fully intends to capitalize on her status as Canada’s first female CEO of a publicly traded cannabis company to secure their place in that corner of the women’s consumer market.

“Our entire company, in its being, is focussed on women. Therefore, we are going to understand them and have content platforms that speak specifically to them.”

While 48North has stated plans to be a global producer, that won’t mean shipping product into the U.S. where it’s still categorized as a Schedule 1 drug, considered a dangerous substance and cannot be imported, exported or transported across state lines.

But they plan to sign and secure other forms of distribution within the lifestyle and retail cannabis space and are mulling over potential sites for manufacturing and extraction.

The company employs 35 at the Kirkland Lake site and although it’s not holding any job fairs, Gordon anticipates they’ll be needing people in growing-production, quality assurance, trimming, packaging and plant management.

“It always worthwhile to reach out because we could be growing at any point.”

Health Canada recently decided to legalize growing crops outdoors, which reduces electricity consumption for producers, and works well with their extensive acreage in Kirkland Lake.

“Outdoor growing is a huge opportunity for the extracted product because you don’t need the same level of indoor quality, and we have aerated land up there so it’s something we are going to be looking into actively.”

The new rules for growing outdoors should be in place for next year’s growing season.