January 19, 2016 2:34 am
Updated: January 21, 2016 9:56 am

Alberta asks federal health minister for permission to dive into poppy industry

WATCH ABOVE: The province of Alberta is asking for federal help in bringing multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to Alberta. Blake Lough reports.

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LETHBRIDGE- With the oil industry in a major slump, the prospect of a multi-billion dollar industry in Alberta seems too good to be true.

However, thanks to renewed efforts, it is a reality that could soon be within reach.

“Canada has the potential here to be a major world player in regards to the pharmaceutical industry,” said Melody Garner, president of the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce.

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Poppies are used for the production of pain-killing prescription drugs. Countries like Australia and France have taken advantage of the crop and now enjoy thriving pharmaceutical industries.

READ MORE: Growing poppies for medicine

Canada is the only G7 country that does not cultivate poppies on a large scale, it requires approval from the Federal minister of health.

Garner said a pharmaceutical industry on Alberta soil will do wonders for the economy.

“The 300 jobs we see out of the gate just with the processing plant is only the start, and that’s why this is so important,” she said. “This is going to provide value added services and resources to our region for years and generations to come.”

API Labs in Lethbridge has been researching and testing the crop for years now and says southern Alberta is an ideal place to set up shop.

“The wind that we have and the drier climate that we have – the hot days and the cold nights – actually produce very good conditions for poppy cultivation,” said Glen Metzler, president of API Labs.

Just last week, the office of Premier Rachel Notley wrote a letter to Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott, which read in part:

“I am writing to you in support of a research and development opportunity by API Labs….that is looking to grow and process thebaine poppies for pharmaceutical uses…in order for API’s project to move forward, the company requires regulatory exemptions from Health Canada.”

Right now Metzler said it is a waiting game to see if the federal government is sold on the idea.

“I think everyone is just waiting to see if this government is supportive of what we’re proposing,” he added. “If it comes back a resounding, ‘yes’, then I think things could move ahead quite fast.”

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