By Dan Healing
CALGARY — Canadian cannabis producer Tilray says it will invest about $29.5 million in a medical cannabis operation in Portugal after winning federal licences there to import cannabis seeds and clones and cultivate them.
It says it plans to establish a campus at Cantanhede, about 220 kilometres north of Lisbon, that will grow, process and package medical cannabis products for distribution across the European Union.
CEO Brendan Kennedy says the licences are the culmination of a two-year search for a location from which to serve demand for cannabis in Europe, adding Tilray estimates the market could grow to 10 million patients and generate as much as 40 billion euros per year in revenue.
“We’re seeing massive demand from Germany so we needed to build a large facility to meet that demand and we needed to get it up and running very quickly,” he said.
“And Portugal seemed like the ideal location to grow plants.”
Kennedy said Tilray is the first company — foreign or domestic — to win a licence to grow cannabis containing the active ingredient THC in Portugal.
Tilray says its first phase will feature outdoor growing fields plus 108,000 square feet of greenhouses, 1,600 square feet of processing facilities, and a laboratory and genetics bank, located in and around the BIOCANT Research Park in Cantanhede.
Construction is to start this month and be completed by next spring, creating 100 local jobs.
The Nanaimo, B.C.-based company, which also has subsidiaries in Germany, Australia and New Zealand, says it is currently selling products in six countries and plans to begin exports to five more by the end of this year, without being specific.
The Portugal operation would be its first outside of Canada.
Kennedy said the project will likely not initially serve the Portuguese domestic market.
Tilray is owned by Privateer Holdings, a Seattle, Wash.-based private equity firm.