'Strict' security measures needed for cannabis facility
Update Thursday 3.30pm: THE company behind plans to build an $80-100 million cannabis facility in Casino looked at more than 70 potential sites across the Northern Rivers before committing to a deal with Richmond Valley Council.
Michael Horsfall, CEO of PUF Ventures Australia, said Richmond Valley Council's supportive attitude had been crucial to its decision.
"We wanted to go somewhere where we could really make a difference," Mr Horsfall said.
"We looked at areas with high unemployment, and needed a bit of a boost.
"I spoke with Tweed, I spoke with Byron, I spoke with Ballina, and obviously Richmond Valley.
"The council's been very supportive, Vaughan has a great team there, and that was part of the reason for the decision to move there.
"We did strike the right arrangement which could allow us both to move forward."
Mr Horsfall said he anticipated it would be 6-12 months before the Office of Drug Control approved the company's application to grow and manufacture medicinal cannabis, which was yet to be lodged.
"In between then we'll start getting development approvals going so we're ready to hit the ground running," he said.
The "state of the art" facility will be built in stages, with a total estimated cost of $80-100 million.
PUF Ventures has partnered with the largest medicinal cannabis growing company in the world, Canopy Growth Corporation, and its consultants have worked with several other leading organisations in Canada, the US, and the Netherlands.
Strict security measures will be undertaken at the facility to adhere to the requirements of the licence granted under the Office of Drug Control.
Update Thursday 1.45pm: FEDERAL Member for Page Kevin Hogan says he is "exceptionally excited" at the prospect of Casino becoming the country's leading medicinal cannabis producer.
Mr Hogan also said the opportunity came off the back of the Federal Government's legislation last year legalising medicinal cannabis.
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"We knew it was going to be a burgeoning industry," he said.
He also described it as a win for Richmond Valley Council's proactive efforts to secure investment in the town.
"Three hundred permanent jobs is a game changer."
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The nascent medicinal cannabis industry is heavily regulated by the Office of Drug Control and the proponent PUF Enterprises Australia still has several hoops to jump through before the plan becomes a reality.
However, if it is smooth sailing it might take 18 months to two years to be up and running.
That estimate allows 12 months for the medicinal cannabis approval and another six to 12 months for planning approvals, which would require the Joint Regional Planning Panel.
Richmond Valley mayor Robert Mustow said councillors were unanimous in support of the opportunity for Casino.
"It's going to be a big shot in the arm not just for Richmond Valley but the whole area," Cr Mustow said.
"I know they'd been fiddling around with other councils and we came up with the goods for them."
"It's all positive so far, we'll be doing everything in our power to get it over the line."
Thursday 11.00am: IN a stunning coup, Richmond Valley Council is poised to become the centre of Australia's burgeoning medicinal cannabis industry after securing an agreement with a Canadian company to build a $50-$100 million cannabis greenhouse and processing plant in Casino.
The opportunity will bring an estimated 300 plus jobs to the region, and position Richmond Valley at the heart of what is predicted to become a $9 billion industry in the next seven years.
Canadian company PUF Ventures announced overnight it had entered into a strategic partnership with the council to build the 10ha facility on a parcel of rural land on the outskirts of Casino.
When complete, the facility will include greenhouses, manufacturing, processing and office facilities producing 100,000kg of cannabis a year worth an estimated $800 million to $1.1 billion.
Richmond Valley general manager Vaughan McDonald has hailed the deal as a huge win for region, and for the council's proactive attitude to economic development.
The situation has moved very quickly since the council was first contacted by PUF.
"They approached us around three to four weeks ago," Mr McDonald said.
"We were very active in saying we want you to come here, we've got a number of sites we think would be attractive for this type of facility."
The council held a closed door discussion about the arrangement at its council meeting last Tuesday, where councillors voted to delegate authority to the general manager to move forward with the deal.
It involves extending to PUF a five year lease of the 27ha lot with the opportunity to purchase it at a reduced rate after that time.
"The site is perfect for what they're after," Mr McDonald said.
It could also benefit from another agreement reached between the council and Brisbane biogas company Utilitas, to build a biohub power plant near the site.
Biohub plants use sewerage and green waste to create gas, which in turns creates electricity, which could provide renewable-based power to the greenhouse. Utilitas is currently seeking to raise $4.3 million in capital to move ahead with its plant.
"We've basically bent over backwards to make the case as to why the Richmond Valley is the place to have this development," Mr McDonald said.
"They've been really pleased with our responsiveness to put together a deal like this within a four week period."
For the Northern Rivers, the deal represented a huge opportunity.
"This will be the largest (cannabis) greenhouse facility in the Southern Hemisphere," Mr McDonald said.
"A 300 job increase for Richmond Valley is huge."
"Obviously producing this plant does require significant manual labour but there will be other higher end management jobs and they're also talking down the track a potential research facility.
"This a great opportunity to get more people into jobs, to boost economic activity in our town, but with the scale of this facility it will have a regional impact.
"It's something that we need, so the council will continue with what we started in a very positive partnership with this company."
What happens now
PUF Ventures still need to go through the federal Government's Office of Drug Control to get approval to grow medicinal cannabis, which is in process.
"From the planning perspective there will be requirements they need to meet. The site is zoned rural so the activity they're proposing meets what can happen on that site," Mr McDonald said.
"Our role will be to work with them to assist them through the planning process and the red tape that comes with developing an industry like this."
Mr McDonald said there would be "significant security measures" in place for the facility.
"That would involve security fencing, obviously potentially monitoring with CCTV of the site, the people who work within the site would need to go through police checks.
"And also the product when it is transported will go in secure vehicles. Obviously it's a valuable product."
Thursday 8.58am: CASINO is about to become the hub of medicinal cannabis production in Australia with the announcement a Canadian company will set up production within six to twelve months.
PUF Ventures has announced is has agreed to a strategic partnership with the Richmond Valley Council.
The Company plans to construct a one million-square-foot greenhouse operation, with large scale manufacturing, processing and office facilities for the cultivation, production and manufacture of medical cannabis and associated products in Australia.
The construction of the facility will be completed in stages at an estimated total cost of $51 million. The first phase of the project is to cover approximately 300,000-square-feet which upon completion will be the largest medical cannabis greenhouse in Australia.
The first crop, based on current construction timelines, permitting and various Australian approvals, is expected to be planted in the fourth quarter 2018.
PUF will seek financing to cover the costs of the project from both local and international partners.
At full scale, the new facility will have the capacity to support annual production of 100,000 kilograms of high quality cannabis which, based on the current market price for high quality medical cannabis in Australia of between $230 and $322 per ounce or $8000 and $11,300 per kilogram, equates to an associated annual revenue generation potential of between $816 million and $1.2 billion.
Our own internal calculations and analysis suggest these prices will hold or likely increase due the higher margin high quality medical grade cannabis grown. Total operating costs are estimated to be between 20-25% of revenue.
PUF Ventures Australia (PVA) has agreed to a purchase option agreement with the Richmond Valley Council for a 27-hectare parcel of land near the town of Casino in northern New South Wales, Australia.
This is a landmark agreement whereby the council will provide the land for five years at no cost, with an option for PVA to purchase the parcel on favourable terms after year five.
The cost of the parcel at year five will be based on the current value of the land (2017) and not the reassessed value at the future date.
In addition, PVA will be entitled to credits for money spent on land infrastructure.
The Company retracts the statement that PUF Ventures is on the path of becoming one of the largest cannabis companies in the world.
About PUF Ventures Inc.
PUF Ventures Inc. owns a majority interest in AAA Heidelberg Inc., a private Ontario company that is an advanced applicant for an ACMPR license from Health Canada.
The Company has an option to acquire the balance of shares to own 100% of AAA Heidelberg Inc. upon receipt of the ACMPR license.
Through an exclusive joint venture agreement with Canopy Growth Corp., the Company will join CraftGrow, a collection of high-quality cannabis grown by a select and diverse set of producers, made available through the Tweed Main Street website.
While it cannot guarantee nor estimate the timing of the issuance of a license to AAA Heidelberg Inc. it is management's goal to become a leading supplier of medical marijuana in Canada.
Weed Points Loyalty Inc. (formerly Vapetronix Holdings Inc.), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company, is in the process of developing Weedbeacon, a marijuana vape tracking technology and associated technologies.
Weed Points Loyalty Inc. also endeavours to serve as the first loyalty program that targets the emerging cannabis market by leveraging the use of technology and expertise of its management team to create a platform that will allow producers, patients, and consumers to interact and define the future face of cannabis commerce.