Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

Meet Canada's newest micro-cannabis farmer

Joël Lacelle poses in front of the Hearst Organic Cannabis Products greenhouse in Hearst, Ont. (Supplied)

Joël Lacelle poses in front of the Hearst Organic Cannabis Products greenhouse in Hearst, Ont. (Supplied)

An Ontario cannabis farmer with a brand new micro-cultivation licence says the federal licensing process takes time and money, but it's achievable for independent growers who are willing to start small.

Micro-cultivation licences for cannabis were announced by Health Canada in late 2017, with the goal of bringing small-scale growers into the legal cannabis market. It appears that few micro licences have been issued so far — the first one was granted in May, according to Marijuana Business Daily.

Now, there's a new micro player on the scene. Hearst Organic Cannabis Products, located in the northern Ontario town of Hearst, received its micro-cultivation licence from Health Canada last Friday. Founder Joël Lacelle says it took him nine months to receive the licence from the date he applied, and he's feeling optimistic about demand for his future bud.

"Everybody's looking for craft product… There's companies out there that are waiting for us to crop," Lacelle said.

"I smoke a lot of the (licensed producer) stuff these days, and there's some good stuff — I don't think it's all bad, but there's lots of room for improvement... Me, I have 2,000 square feet of plants to take care of, compared to somebody that's got a couple hundred thousand square feet. The love that's going to go into my plants is different than somebody that's just there to work, right?"

Hearst's freshly licensed cannabis cultivation facility consists of just two buildings: a heated greenhouse measuring roughly 30 ft. by 70 ft., and a slightly larger Quonset hut that will serve as storage space and house the company's drying, trimming and propagation operations.

Media coverage of micro cannabis licences has focused mostly on the complicated application process and the purported costs of financing a micro operation.

"There is red tape," acknowledged Lacelle.

"People seem to forget, though, that it's a federal licence — there needs to be some red tape. I understand that there's a lot of good growers out there, and they're having a hard time transitioning. But all I can say is, don't give up. You just have to jump through those hoops. And (Health Canada) is working with people."

All told, Lacelle estimates about $700,000 has been put into Hearst Organics so far. He didn't hire any cannabis industry consultants to help him apply for his licence, and says he did most of the building work on his own.

"My partner had a shovel, so we dug with his shovel and we saved a little bit of money there. But that's what I tell people — save your money. This is a long process."

Lacelle hopes to plant his first licensed cannabis crop in early August, and harvest this fall. Eventually, he hopes Hearst Organics can grow up to 600 kilograms of cannabis annually.

To other cannabis growers with dreams of a micro-cultivation licence, Lacelle offers this advice: 

"Start small. Start with what you have," he said.

"Because there's a lot of good growers out in B.C., and I'm sure they have nice little set-ups. It's just, in their mind, they're thinking, 'Oh, I've got to be like that (licensed producer).' But I don't think that's what Health Canada's looking for. They're looking for somebody that's going to be able to keep a shop clean, running, no mould, no bugs, and so on. Push out a good quality product. You don't need to have a $10 million LP grow shop, right?" 


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