Times are changing. And Marjorie Adams is fine with that.
It wasn’t long ago the 86-year-old from Jackson’s Arm was among the ranks of those who considered marijuana nothing but bad news.
Now, she is among those OK with the good that can come from the legalization of cannabis.
Adams has lived in Jackson’s Arm all of her life, with the exception of having moved away for work for a few short years along the way. Her husband James, who died recently, was a fisherman. She was married for 67 years and managed a variety store in town for 20 years.
The town’s two fish plants have been sitting idle in recent times and, while there are still some inshore and offshore fish harvesters in the area, there’s no sign the plants will be processing sea products any time soon.
Adams was happy to hear the recent news that St. John’s-based company CEPG Consulting and Design is planning to start a hydroponic agriculture and water bottling operation out of the shrimp plant.
Chris Snellen, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said the eventual goal is to obtain three cannabis-related licenses to grow marijuana plants and create some value-added products in addition to producing pot, seeds and cuttings for sale in the fish plant building.
While there's no guarantee those licence applications will be successful, Snellen has committed to growing food such as lettuce, spinach, basil and turnip greens out of the plant. He also hopes to bottle niche infused water products, including the possibility of water infused with cannabis compounds if the licences and the accompanying research and development come through.
“I think it’s nice for people who need the employment,” said Adams. “There’s not many people here now other than mostly senior citizens, but I’m sure they’ll find the people they would need.”
As for the prospect of it becoming a cannabis-growing operation, Adams is fine with that.
“I was always against that stuff,” she said. “But, I suppose, if it’s going to do some good around here and they’re sensible about it, then why not?”
If the fishery isn’t going to grow in Jackson’s Arm, then the town’s mayor says it might as well be something else.
“I think it’s wonderful news for the town,” Randy House said of the proposed repurposing of the shrimp plant. “The plants closed down a few years ago and it has been absolutely devastating to the town. We have had very little (tax) revenue from any industry, so any industry is quite welcome in our town right now.”
Besides the taxes, Jackson’s Arm depends mostly on a municipal operating grant from the province to provide services. House said this enterprise may help alleviate a bit of that burden on the town and generate indirect spinoffs too.
House said Snellen and his company had initially shown interest in the pelagics fish plant in town, but ended up buying only the shrimp plant. He said the town will support helping the business grow and would love to see a use found for the other plant — fishery-related or otherwise — before it becomes dilapidated.
“It may only be five or six jobs starting off, but it could be 20 or 30 at the end of the day,” he said.
While tourism seems to be the common focus of revitalizing rural Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy, House said cannabis just might become Jackson’s Arm’s new favourite buzz word, especially if Snellen’s company’s cannabis licence applications are granted.
“Years ago, cannabis was a bad word to everybody, but the way everything is governed now it should be a great industry to put in the community,” said House. “If we can have anything, we’ve got to go for it.”