OTTAWA — An abandoned factory once owned by Hershey Co. in Canada may soon be making products that offer a bigger buzz than a chocolate kiss: marijuana, under license by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Bruce Linton, chairman of Tweed, one of 185 companies seeking a permit to start making pot next year, said finding a location was one of his biggest obstacles.
"Five years ago, your parents would have disowned you if you thought about doing this," said Linton, 47.
Canada's health department in June said it would end a system allowing people to grow medicinal pot in their homes and instead have companies supply the drug. The image of pot factories represents a shift for Harper, who says he never smoked marijuana and who has campaigned on being tough on crime.
The licensing of output is a "tightening up versus loosening up" of drug laws because it separates "the legitimate from the illicit use," said Mark Mander, chairman of a drug panel for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and head of police in Kentville, Nova Scotia.
Home-grown pot has led to "unintended consequences" that hurt public safety and led to people abusing the system, Health Canada said in June when it published rules. The new system regulates marijuana like other narcotics, according to a background paper that says commercial producers must meet strict requirements to be licensed.
Medical doctors object to the new system, saying there are no standardized dosages or rules to make marijuana safe to prescribe like other drugs.
"We have to make absolutely sure we aren't creating a nation of addicts," said Canadian Medical Association President Louis Hugo Francescutti.
Some 30,000 Canadi than 30,000 people have medical licenses for marijuana.