A medical marijuana company in Gatineau has snagged a high-profile former politician to work for its growing operation.
Terry Lake, who until a few months ago was B.C.’s Health Minister, will take a job as vice-president at Hydropothecary Corp., the company announced Thursday.
It’s another indication of how mainstream the marijuana industry has become as Canada heads toward the legalization of recreational pot.
Lake served eight years in the B.C. legislature, and was health minister in the Liberal government between 2013 and the spring of 2017. He didn’t run in the provincial election in May.
A veterinarian by training, Lake got into politics as a municipal councillor and served a term as mayor of Kamloops.
As health minister he managed the province’s response to the escalating opioid crisis. Lake received the Canadian Public Health Association’s National Public Health Hero Award in May 2017, said Hydropothecary in a news release.
Hydropothecary CEO and co-founder, Sébastien St-Louis, said “having one of the highest profile politicians moving across the country to join us is yet another sign of confidence” in the company.
“His knowledge of the cannabis industry from the political frontlines will play a key role in Hydropothecary’s corporate social responsibility efforts,” said the release.
In a statement, Lake said that legalization of marijuana is the biggest public policy issue Canada has dealt with since free trade.
His goal is to “ensure that the initiation of the framework around recreational cannabis is done in a way that, above all, protects public health, especially as it relates to young Canadians,” the statement said.
Hydropothecary, like many of Canada’s medical marijuana growers, hopes to supply the recreational market.
The company has big plans. Work is to begin this fall on a massive 250,000-square-foot greenhouse on its rural property about 40 kilometres northeast of Ottawa. Company officials estimate the expansion will allow them to produce six times their current yield, to 25,000 kilograms of dried cannabis a year.
According to government estimates, Canadians will consume around 655,000 kg of dried cannabis a year when recreational pot is legal.
There are 56 medical marijuana producers licensed by Health Canada, but Hydropothecary is the only one in the province of Quebec.
Medical growers can now only sell by mail, and their products are restricted to dried cannabis or oils. But the number of customers and types of cannabis products are expected to expand dramatically over the next few years as Canada ushers in legal recreational use.
The government has promised that recreational pot will be legal by July 2018. The provinces still have to decide where marijuana will be sold. Industry insiders say it’s unlikely that stores will be open across Canada by that date, but the federal government has indicated that marijuana will be available by mail.
Lake is perhaps the highest-profile politician to take a job with a cannabis company, but others have served on corporate boards, including:
Mike Harcourt: The former NDP premier of B.C. from 1991 to 1996 and mayor of Vancouver from 1980 to 1986 is chairman of the board at True Leaf Medicine International Ltd., which has applied for a licence to produce medical marijuana.
Ernie Eves: The former Conservative premier of Ontario in 2002-03 became chairman of the board of Timeless Herbal Care, a medical marijuana company active in Jamaica, in 2015.
George Smitherman: The Ontario Liberal Health Minister from 2003 to 2008, he is a director at THC BioMed, a medical marijuana company based in Kelowna, B.C.
John Turner: The Liberal Prime Minister in 1984, Turner was on the board of Muileboon Organics, which planned to establish a medical marijuana facility in Port Colborne, Ont. in 2014. Residents complained, and it never went ahead.