By VINNIE RODI

A MOVE by cannabis producer and researcher Cann Group to construct a $130million state-of-the-art greenhouse in Mildura for the cultivation of medicinal cannabis has been labelled a huge win for the region.

According to a media release issued to the Australian Stock Exchange, the Cann Group will grow, cultivate and produce medicinal cannabis in Mildura to service both the Australian and international medicinal cannabis markets.

The group has entered into a non-binding Heads of Agreement with Mildura Rural City Council to purchase a $10.75million (plus GST) property to construct the facility.

Once operational, the Cann Group’s expanded production capacity will generate annual revenues of approximately $160million to $200million, and produce up to 50,000 kilograms of dry flower per year.

It is expected the facility will be fully commissioned in the third quarter of 2020. The site’s construction is dependent on a Council planning permit, with more than 170 jobs to be created.

Once completed, the Mildura facility is expected to cover 34,000 square metres, and will be the largest purpose-built medicinal cannabis production facility in Australia.

The preferred location of the Mildura site is being kept under wraps, with Cann currently operating two other medicinal cannabis facilities in Melbourne.

Cann Group CEO, Peter Crock, said the Mildura build means the company can remain on schedule to becoming “a large-scale cultivator of medicinal grade cannabis.”

Cann was previously working on plans to develop a site on land near the Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne, however those plans have since been put on hold. 

“This puts us on the same build start timing as was originally envisaged for Tullamarine and is consistent with our strategy to develop a hub and node model of regional cultivation facilities and a central manufacturing hub,” Mr Crock said.

“The Mildura site offers other important advantages, including a lower total build cost and lower ongoing operating costs, due to the dryer climate and higher sunlight hours resulting in reduced power use.”

Mr Crock said that “specialised components and materials” were currently on its way to Australia, with site works expected to commence “immediately.”

The Cann Group has also announced that it has entered into a five-year agreement with Canada-based Aurora Cannabis for the off-take of medicinal cannabis produced by Cann at its existing and planned expansion facilities. This agreement will see Cann supply dry flower, extracted resin and manufactured medicinal products to Aurora until 2024.

The Cann Group announcement was this week welcomed by Victorian Shadow Minister for Regional Victoria and Decentralisation, and Leader of the Victorian Nationals, Peter Walsh, who described it as a coup for the region.

He said that the new jobs created by the investment would be a welcome boost for Mildura.

“Getting the businesses of the future out of Melbourne and into the regions is exactly what Victoria needs to decentralise our population,” Mr Walsh said. “More job opportunities in Mildura mean more new opportunities for locals, and for new families to move to the area. 

“This sort of decentralisation means more kids in our schools, more families shopping locally and more people in our sporting clubs and community organisations.”

Victoria was the first State in Australia to legalise access to medicinal cannabis for patients in exceptional circumstances in 2016.

In 2018, the Victorian Government unveiled its Medical Cannabis Industry Development Strategy, which set out a plan to grow Victoria’s medicinal cannabis industry into an established sector.

The strategy aims to have Victoria supplying half of Australia’s medicinal cannabis by 2028, along with the creation of 500 jobs.