Inside a storage vault in June 2019, a CannTrust employee holds a bag packed with $100,000 worth of cannabis. The vault contained some $50 million dollars worth of product. VOICE FILE

Cannabis producer back up and running

After eight months of being shut down due to federal violations, CannTrust announced May 29 that its cannabis growing licence has been reinstated by Health Canada.

“On February 14, 2020, the company announced that it had completed its remediation activities at the Fenwick facility, and that documentation in support of licence reinstatement had been submitted to Health Canada,” CannTrust said in a statement. “CannTrust will immediately recommence operations at the Fenwick facility.”

Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin views the development as good news during a challenging time economically.

“It was great news to hear that CannTrust had their growing licence reinstated by Health Canada,” the Mayor told the Voice. “With so many of the area’s workers facing dire circumstances due to unemployment, it is anticipated that with the licence renewal, this company will be recalling staff. As always, Town staff will work with CannTrust to help this company to be compliant with the Town’s newly implemented bylaws concerning odour and light emissions.”

CannTrust wouldn’t confirm, however, that all those who lost their jobs in Fenwick during the outfit’s downturn would be rehired.

“The company will match production to the opportunities we see in the marketplace and assess our staff requirements accordingly,” spokesperson Jane Shapiro told the Voice Saturday.

As far as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its effect on operations goes, Shapiro said, “CannTrust has put in place extensive measures and precautions consistent with public health guidelines to ensure staff can work safely and are protected from COVID-19.”

Pelham’s Cannabis Control Committee (CCC) chair Tim Nohara didn’t want to comment directly on the news of CannTrust’s reinstatement, but highlighted that regulations the CCC has been crafting for several months in advance of the July 15 expiry of the interim control bylaw are nearing completion.

“We view the regulations that the CCC is working on as a triple win for the Town, residents and the cannabis industry,” Nohara said. “Everyone wins when neighbours play in a way that is fair, avoiding adverse effects on one another. The regulations will help define fair rules of play.”

Despite the green light to grow in Fenwick, CannTrust still isn’t sure when its product can get back to the marketplace.

“At this time, the company cannot provide an exact timeframe for when its products will be available in the market, which is dependent upon receiving a response from Health Canada to CannTrust’s licence reinstatement submission with respect to its Vaughan manufacturing facility, which was submitted to Health Canada more recently, on April 24, 2020,” the company release stated.

While CannTrust remains hobbled by months of minimal revenue flows, the company reported that as of March 31 it had a cash balance of $140 million. Despite the growing licence being reinstated, CannTrust continues to operate under creditor protection. Last month it undertook a Sale and Investment Solicitation Process (SISP), designed to gauge interest in the liquidation of company assets.

CannTrust’s troubles began last summer, when a former employee blew the whistle on illegal growing at the Fenwick site. The affair resulted in the dismissal of its executive team and the layoffs of a large chunk of plant employees. Last October, it was ordered to destroy $77 million worth of cannabis deemed to have been grown illegally. Company stock, which reached a peak of $10.65 USD per share in 2018, fell almost 90 percent before being delisted by the New York and Toronto Stock Exchanges this spring.