Can legal marijuana save small towns?

Smiths Falls train station
CC BY 2.0 Wikipedia/ everybody's tooting in Smiths Falls

Smiths Falls, Ontario, is an interesting role model as cannabis becomes legal in Canada.

The President may complain that Canada takes advantage of the United States in trade deals, but don't tell that to the people of small towns across Canada that lost their jobs as American companies closed their branch plants. That's what happened to Smiths Falls, where the biggest employer, Hersheys, closed up in 2008 and stopped sending their chocolate north from their American and Mexican factories, laying off 550 people and leaving the 500,000 square foot factory empty.

But Smiths Falls is back and the factory now full -- of marijuana plants, operated by Tweed Marijuana, recently renamed Canopy Growth. Ian Brown writes in the Globe and Mail that the town is booming; housing prices are up and cafes and restaurants are opening.

With weed about to become legal, Tweed now employs more than 700 people in the old chocolate plant and hires 20 to 30 more every week.... Younger and better-educated workers have meant “more innovations, more idea creating.” [Cafe owner] Ms. Rensby sees people jogging and biking – she never used to. This summer, Tweed sponsored Smiths Falls’s first Pride parade. More people turned out to watch than anyone predicted. "If you had asked me five years ago if Smiths Falls would have a cannabis plant, I would have said: That’s a crazy idea,” Ms. Rensby says. “And if you said it’ll have its own Pride parade, I would have said: You’re even crazier.”

In the Ottawa Citizen, James Bagnall describes the phenomenon.

Canopy Growth’s vastly increased construction activity and payroll are rippling through the town. Hotels are full of out-of-town tradespeople. House prices are rising. Finding rental accommodations is difficult. Builders are dusting off plans for subdivisions that were scrapped just a few years ago for lack of interest.

Nobody knows how big the industry is going to get. Marijuana just became legal in Canada at 12:01 this morning, October 17. But where there is stock (there is none where I live yet) people are lining up around the block.

Smiths Falls is just one example; many old factories are being retooled across the country. This is truly a growth industry.

It will be interesting to see what happens. It's not just the people out shopping today who are happy. As James Bagnall notes about Smiths Falls:

Along the way something very interesting is happening to Smiths Falls’ mindset. “What’s amazing is the change in the business culture,” says Denise Batson, an official with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development. “There’s a jump in peoples’ steps that wasn’t there before.”

Can legal marijuana save small towns?
Smiths Falls, Ontario is an interesting role model as cannabis becomes legal in Canada.

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