FLIN FLON, Man. — Flin Flon has lost its title as Canada’s medical marijuana capital.
Prairie Plant Systems, the Saskatoon-based company contracted to produce a supply of medical marijuana for Health Canada, left the northern Manitoba city June 30 after producing pot in an underground mine there for the better part of a decade.
The company did not return a call seeking comment but Tom Goodman, senior vice-president of operations for Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting — the company that rented out part of its Trout Lake mine for the grow operation — confirmed the deal with PPS has ended.
“It’s a contract that reached the end of its life. They’re gone, and we wish them well,” he said. “Our understanding is they moved to another location to accommodate Health Canada’s need for them to move to a larger facility.”
A Health Canada spokesman would not say where the operation has moved “for security reasons.”
The spokesman declined to comment on the move but did say PPS is under contract to provide the pot until the fall of 2011 and noted Health Canada is “reviewing its options to ensure continued access to a supply of marijuana.”
As of June 5 just over 4,000 Canadians were permitted medical possession. Health Canada sells them pot for $5 per gram, plus tax.
PPS was awarded Health Canada’s contract to grow pot in December 2000, a move that was made in anticipation of Ottawa’s introduction in July 2001 of new regulations allowing people with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and other conditions to possess marijuana for therapeutic purposes.
The company chose to produce the pot in an out-of-service mine shaft on the outskirts of Flin Flon.
The announcement prompted at least one Flin Flon retailer to start producing T-shirts touting the city as Canada’s pot growing capital.
But Flin Flon Mayor Tom Therien said that moniker hardly stuck.
“Nobody’s ever been down there. Because it was ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ people weren’t concerned. Most people didn’t even know they were here.”
Therien said about a dozen jobs were lost when PPS left town last month.
Goodman said HBMS is now looking for a new tenant for the space and has already been in discussions with the provincial agriculture department about the possibility of growing food or another crop in the mine.