SUNDRE — As many businesses are forced to lay off staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, Candre Cannabis has slowly but surely been ramping up operations and even hiring new employees.
“The Alberta government has deemed cannabis production as an essential business, so that was encouraging,” said Jesse Beaudry, president CEO.
“We never shut down,” Beaudry said.
“Of course, like many other businesses, we’ve implemented a significant amount of processes at the facility.”
The company’s priority is the health and safety of staff as well as keeping a close eye on the daily developments with regards to the pandemic. But there has to date been no need to neither lay anyone off nor curtail operations, he said.
“Quite the opposite,” he said.
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The company, which has about 30 employees, recently filled a position in sanitation, and posted openings for an irrigation lead as well as a maintenance tech, he said.
Although modest growth, he said Candre has nevertheless been increasing “our head count, even through COVID as we continue to evolve the business.”
Asked how the company has been adjusting during the global health crisis, Beaudry said, “Like many of the challenges that we have faced in cannabis, we’re going to get through it on the strength of our people.”
Similar to other companies, an extremely resilient and committed team is the backbone that carries operations forward. Among the changes have been modified shifts as well as enhanced safety protocols such as physical distancing and isolating when needed, he said.
“Keep in mind that, the kind of joke in cannabis, is there’s no safer place when you’re going through the COVID situation, as there is in the back of a cannabis facility,” he said.
“Because to go into our facility, you’re beyond the requirements of COVID. You’re extremely gowned up, you’re sanitized, you’re air showered, you’re in gloves, you’re wearing a hair net. That’s probably the safest place there is to be, is in the back of a cannabis facility.”
The company, whose facility is licensed, has been busy. Automated packaging equipment has arrived, been installed, and already put to use, he said.
“Our two test batches are completely finished and completely packaged,” he said, adding the product has been submitted to Health Canada.
“We’re awaiting Health Canada’s review of our sales amendment application, and upon them approving, we will be able to put product on the market,” he said.
“We’re fully supportive of the time it takes with Health Canada. It gives you a licence to put a product on the market that people will consume. So it’s very important that Health Canada is thorough, that they ask all the questions that they should ask,” he said.
Meanwhile, he added that Candre has already received licensing through Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis after submitting an application a few months ago.
“That was another big win for us.”
Asked about reports that consumption of alcohol and cannabis have increased during the pandemic, Beaudry said he could not speak directly to that since Candre is not a retail store.
“But what we’ve been told by several of our contacts, many of which are in the retail business, is they’re anxiously awaiting product,” he said.
“There’s a higher demand for good quality cannabis…certainly there appears to be some increases in sales.”
When looking at publicly traded companies and their recent results, “they’ve all seen upticks with respect to how much they're selling at their stores.”
However, while that’s of course good for businesses, he quickly added, “I wouldn’t trade more sales for continued COVID issues.”
Expressing gratitude for the community’s ongoing support, which he’s praised since before shovels were even in the ground, Beaudry said, “No company, that I have ever worked at, is successful unless the community they’re in supports them.”
People’s true colours tend to shine during times of distress, and Sundre — from neighbours and restaurants to the municipality — have really stepped up, he said.
“It’s when the chips are down and when things are very stressful where you really get to see the character of those around you. And the town has been absolutely amazing during this time, making sure that we have what we need to succeed.”