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The Canadian Senate last week passed Bill C-45, making recreational use of Cannabis legal in Canada. The Prime Minister announced that legal sales of the product would begin by mid-October.  HRAI has alerted members to the potential employment law issues associated with legalization, but less has been said about the potential business opportunities that the pot industry will generate.

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As much as the legalization of cannabis use creates business opportunities for growers and retailers of the product, it also offers ancillary opportunities for service providers to the sector.  For HRAI members who have an interest in meeting the special needs of producers, the pot industry will surely create new revenue opportunities. Accounting firm Deloitte has estimated that the industry will grow quickly to about $23 billion per year, spawning new production facilities that require sophisticated mechanical systems to be designed, installed and maintained by HVAC contractors and other trades.

Canada has allowed medical use of Cannabis since 2001, and some mechanical contractors have quietly benefitted from the resulting demand for help with growing facilities. In the lead up to passage of the new bill, existing producers have been planning the expansion of their facilities and new producers have emerged. According to HPAC Magazine there were 97 licensed medical cannabis facilities nationally by March of this year, more than double the number a year earlier. It quotes a Statistics Canada prediction that companies will spend $778.6 million on new capital goods and land this year.

The potential pluses for contractors are significant maintenance contracts, customer loyalty and steady work through all seasons. The more unusual aspects seem to be heavy duty security measures for facilities, demanding safety procedures, strict confidentiality agreements, and potential social stigma in some quarters.

Industry veterans think the new builds will continue to boom in the next five years, then plateau, but also predict that maintenance contracts will continue indefinitely. Hydroponic growing seems to be more popular than greenhouse-based facilities at the moment, but some USA contractors suggest that this might change over the long term.

Technical challenges are formidable, and those who have been working in the sector talk about a steep learning curve. Buildings operate at about 30% humidity or more. C02 content and room pressurization matter. Cooling and humidity control issues are a major focus, with changeable HVAC demands depending on what stage the plants are at in the growing process. The number of hours during which the lights must remain on also varies during the cycle.  Needless to say, sophisticated controls are a necessity.

One report says that some manufacturers have introduced equipment models specifically designed for the industry. Another commentator noted the changing specs related to the introduction of LED lights in some operations. At some stages the plants consume two litres of water per day, so plumbing and irrigation systems are also key elements.

Some observers have made a connection between cannabis production facility processes and the future of agriculture in general. They hint at the need for more indoor or urban horticulture for food production as world population continues to expand, and as informed consumers seek increasingly controlled agricultural practices.

There are potential opportunities related to this new market and if it fits in with the contractor’s business strategy, prepare to compete.  All signals point to a “high” level of interest in this new sector!