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Canada’s first publicly traded marijuana company has rough first day when pot shipment seized by RCMP

Douglas Quan , Postmedia News | April 4, 2014 7:57 PM ET
Tweed, based in a former chocolate factory in Smiths Falls, Ontario, said Friday it purchased more than 60 new strains of medical marijuana seeds and plants from licensed growers.

Tweed, based in a former chocolate factory in Smiths Falls, Ontario, said Friday it purchased more than 60 new strains of medical marijuana seeds and plants from licensed growers.

Tweed Marijuana Inc. became the first publicly traded medical pot company in Canada on Friday, but behind the scenes the Ontario production facility has apparently been searching for answers after a run-in with the law.

On Monday, the company was hoping to beef up its stock with a shipment of medical marijuana products that it says it acquired from B.C. growers who had previously been licensed to grow their marijuana at home.

Even though the company had received Health Canada’s approval to import such products, the Mounties, who the company said it had invited to inspect the shipment, ended up seizing it at the Kelowna International Airport.

“We felt everything was done absolutely correctly,” Tweed chairman Bruce Linton said from the company’s office in Smiths Falls. “When you call police to say, ‘Come look at this,’ you believe you have everything in order.”

The case seems to highlight an ongoing confusion around the old legal regime, which allowed licensees to grow medical pot in their basements, and the new regime, which restricts production to commercial growers, such as Tweed.

As of Friday, the company — one of 12 licensed so far in Canada — had still not received an explanation for the seizure, Linton said.

Sgt. Duncan Pound, an RCMP spokesman in B.C., refused to comment on the reasons for the seizure.

“We typically do not confirm or deny investigations unless there is an investigational or public safety need. Specific details about any investigation only become known when that investigation results in charges being laid by Crown Counsel,” he said via email.

Before the April 1 switch to the new regulatory regime, individuals who previously had personal-production licenses were allowed to sell what “starting materials” they had, such as seeds and plants, to one of the new commercial producers.

Linton said Friday his company hadn’t originally intended to purchase other medical marijuana products; the initial business plan was to grow about 25 varieties of plant at the company’s 160,000-square-foot growing facility.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, FileAn Ontario company has had significant part of the medical marijuana confiscated after its first day being publicly traded.

But when the company started accepting customers early in February, demand for its products proved much higher than expected, Linton said.

It became clear, he said, that the amounts sought per patient were “several multiples” higher than what the company had planned for. When Tweed pointed this out to Health Canada officials, the company was told that other commercial growers were buying medical pot from growers who had been licensed under the old regime.

The only stipulation was that they needed federal authorization to do so.

Health Canada spokeswoman Sara Lauer confirmed Friday that Tweed received the go-ahead.

Linton said the company collected plants, seeds and “in-production plant materials” from multiple growers across B.C. He declined to say exactly how much product was acquired, but said it provided the firm with an additional 55 varieties of marijuana.

Linton said the company’s purchases from B.C. were a one-time thing and that all future product will be grown in Smiths Falls.

The company invited the RCMP to come inspect the shipment at the Kelowna airport Monday, the last day such transactions could take place.

Our intent was to be transparent

“Our intent was to be transparent,” he said. Plus, having the Mounties around also provided extra security for the precious cargo.

Health Canada officials were unable to say Friday how many other commercial growers had acquired marijuana products from home growers before the deadline.

Linton speculated that the RCMP seizure may have been the result of “confusion” because of overlapping regulations.

Last month, a Federal Court judge granted an injunction for medical marijuana users who had previously held a personal-production license.

The injunction allowed those users to continue growing pot until the court issues a final decision.

On Monday, the same day the Tweed shipment was seized, the federal government announced it was appealing the court ruling.

The closing price for shares in Tweed Marijuana Inc. on Friday was $2.59 on the TSX Venture exchange, valuing the company at $90.7 million (market capitalization).

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