BC’s Best Bud: Tilray, One of Canada's Top Licensed Producers of Medical Marijuana
Just south of Nanaimo, a city of about 85,000 people on the east coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, is one of the largest and most sophisticated medical cannabis cultivation facilities in the world. Tilray offers pharmaceutical-grade medical cannabis products to patients, pharmacies and researchers in Canada, Australia, the European Union and the Americas. CEO Greg Engel shares a few more details for Maximum Yield readers.
If you want the best, most reliable, consistent and potent medical cannabis available in Canada, make sure you’ve got Tilray on speed dial. The owners of the Nanaimo, BC-based company jumped into the green scene three years ago, after legal conditions became just right for large commercial growers who were able to offer consistent, high-quality supplies of cannabis grown in controlled conditions.
At the time, the Canadian government changed the rules regulating access to medical cannabis, allowing patients to choose from multiple licensed producers. Privateer Holdings, Tilray’s parent company, along with investors from around the world, all of whom believe in access, saw an opportunity to dive into the medical cannabis business.
The company’s name was selected by the Privateer team in collaboration with Heckler Associates—the same branding company that helped name Starbucks. “Til” is meant to represent or call to mind the tilling of the earth and “ray” refers to rays of the sun.
In April 2014, the first order shipped out, and the company has grown in leaps and bounds since then to become one of the country’s largest and most respected licensed producers. Tilray has also begun to offer its pharmaceutical-grade products to patients, pharmacies and researchers in Australia, the European Union and the Americas.
Walk into the company’s state-of-the-art, $26-million facility on any given day and you’ll see roughly 40,000 plants growing in 31 cultivation rooms, as well as three labs and 10 manufacturing and processing areas. Tilray grows more than 50 different strains of medical cannabis.
“We started out with a much broader selection of strains and then in response to feedback from our patients, we reduced the offering to a core group of strains to ensure patients have a consistent supply of the same strains to meet their personal needs,” explains CEO Greg Engel. “Having discreet rooms with controlled conditions enables us to manipulate different variables, such as water amounts, light exposure, nutrient delivery systems and more, on a strain-by-strain basis at different points throughout the plants’ life cycles.”
Growing cannabis in such controlled conditions allows Tilray to offer its customers peace of mind through unparalleled quality and consistency. “Thousands of patients across Canada depend on us for consistent access to safe, reliable, pure and effective medicine every day,” says Engel. “Our team of experts, which includes PhD research scientists, professional managers, manufacturing executives, patient advocates, botanists and horticulturalists, are industry leaders in their fields who are on the cutting-edge of advancing the science, safety and efficacy of medical cannabis for physicians and patients.”
Tilray’s dried flower products include both THC-only strains and CBD strains that contain some THC. With the Supreme Court of Canada’s historic ruling earlier this year affirming Canadians’ constitutional right to possess non-dried forms of marijuana, the company is also able to offer patients alternatives to smoking. The company’s line of extract products—the widest selection available under the federal MMPR program in Canada—is produced using state-of-the art ethanol and CO2 extraction methods to preserve delicate cannabinoid and terpene content.
“Some of our patients, for instance pediatric patients wishing to access our CBD products, do not wish to consume a dried flower product via smoking, and the extracts are an excellent alternative for these patients,” says Engel. “These extracts offer patients and physicians more precise control over dosage as well as a convenient alternative to smoking or vaporizing. Extracts are also critically important for the future of research investigating medical cannabis as a therapy for specific conditions. We currently offer both THC and CBD drops, which are oil-based products.”
Engel believes medical cannabis has enormous potential to support patients and physicians looking for alternate treatment options. To better understand the possibilities, Tilray is funding clinical research to advance the scientific understanding of the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a therapeutic treatment option for patients with various conditions, and is working on several clinical trials in Australia, Canada and Spain. In 2016 and 2017, the company also plans to open additional production facilities in Australia, the EU and the US.
Joshua Eades, Tilray’s vice-president and chief science officer, shares some of the company’s secrets to success in the growroom:
“In a largescale, high-tech cultivation facility like Tilray, technologies that allow for automated, precise control are paramount. For instance, our automated nutrient delivery system allows our horticulture team to easily control and monitor delivery of water and nutrients to plants. These systems allow customized nutrient recipes that can be administered, for instance, to different strains in different rooms. The same is true for automated environmental controls that ensure the temperature and relative humidity in each cultivation room is at the perfect level to promote healthy plant growth. All data from these systems is logged and tracked, allowing for the monitoring of trends that may impact plant growth. The most important investment we made, in addition to bringing in the best employees possible, was our environmental control systems.
In terms of our extract-based products, we have invested in high-tech equipment to maximize the extraction of beneficial compounds found in the cannabis plant. We are able to accurately formulate these products to ensure precise dosing for our patients. This extraction equipment uses supercritical liquid CO2, which evaporates from the final product as a harmless gas, and is thus considered a solventless extraction method.”