Pooch and Chong? B.C. medical marijuana company gets into pet products business

True Leaf Medicine plans to start with hemp-based pet foods before branching out to cannabis-based medication

True Leaf Medicine CEO Darcy Bomford

If Darcy Bomford has his way, more than a few B.C. dog owners will soon turn green with envy when it comes to products available for their pets.

Faced with long delays receiving a Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) licence, the CEO of True Leaf Medicine is turning his attention to the pet business, with plans to roll out hemp-based chews by the fall.

“The benefits of hemp actually are pretty substantial,” said Bomford, who spent three decades in the pet nutrition business prior to joining True Leaf.

“They’re very high in protein, very high in fiber, gluten-free is all the rage right now.”

Just 25 MMPR licences have been issued since new government regulations went into effect in April 2014, according to Health Canada’s website.

Seventeen licences have been issued to fully authorized producers while eight have been issued to producers who are only permitted to cultivate — not sell — their products at this point.

Health Canada told Business in Vancouver in February the government agency has received about 1,200 applications.

Bomford said the delay is frustrating and it’s difficult to keep investors informed since the company does not hear back from Health Canada regularly.

While the CEO said True Leaf is still in good shape to receive an MMPR licence, the long delay pushed the company to diversify. But he added it’s “more than likely” the company would be focused on the human market right now if it had already received a licence for a proposed facility in Lumby, B.C.

“Given my experience, we’re executing a different part of our business plan sooner,” he said.

“This will ultimately allow us to grow our own CBD (cannabidiol) to produce our own veterinary-approved pet medication. So that’s where I see the ultimate goal is to have a cannabis-based pet medication.”

Bomford said developing the hemp-based nutritional products first would support company research for its pot medication for pets.

The next step is to partner with a manufacturer to help them produce the hemp products for pets. Although True Leaf plans initially to buy the hemp from another Canadian producer, Bomford said the company would produce its own further down the road.

He added True Leaf, whose board chairman is former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt, also must identify a marketing partner and help educate consumers about the benefits of hemp.

“People do need to learn more about it. It’s not marijuana — there’s basically no psycho-active ingredients.”