Before Joël Lacelle decided to move into cannabis cultivation, he lived life on the road.
As a diamond exploration driller for Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC), he was working 30 days on site in Labrador City, with 12 days off, travelling back and forth from his home in Hearst.
Though he loved the work, the lifestyle was taking a toll on his personal life.
“I was never home; that’s the problem,” said the 43-year-old, who previously worked as a truck driver. “When I was younger, it wasn’t too bad, but now that I have a family, my kids are getting older and it’s nice to put some roots close to home.”
Reigniting his twin passions for gardening and entrepreneurship, Lacelle started working toward a new goal: earning a cannabis micro-cultivator licence from the federal government.
By June 2018, he had begun construction on a 1,200-square-foot greenhouse where he hoped to eventually legally grow cannabis for commercial sale.
It was just an aspiration at the time, because the federal government hadn’t yet made cannabis legal in Canada. That would come five months later, in October, 2018.
But Lacelle was determined to get ahead of the game.
“I kind of was decided and I said, look, no matter what, if it doesn’t come to anything, I’ll grow cucumbers,” he said. “I was building a greenhouse.”
His gamble paid off.
On July 12, after more than a year of hard work, Lacelle and his business partner, Miguel Lachance, under the name Hearst Organic Cannabis Products, were approved by Health Canada to become one of the country’s first operators to legally micro-cultivate cannabis for commercial sale.
Hearst Organic spent months going back and forth with Health Canada, which closely examined the company’s business plan, site security measures, greenhouse construction methods, and more before giving its stamp of approval.
Cannabis is considered a “craft” product when it’s produced in small batches. Lacelle said each plant gets personal attention – from pest management to watering to harvesting – and so the quality tends to be higher than with large-scale productions.
“The idea is to have that best product out there,” he said. “You don’t have to have a lot of it; you just have to have the best product.”
An estimated $700,000 has been invested to date in the enterprise – a combination of personal capital, a line of…