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Back in 2001, the year medicinal pot was first grown in Flin Flon, a local novelty shop began selling t-shirts proclaiming the community as the “Marijuana Capital of Canada.”

Seven years later, there are concerns that title could wind up elsewhere.

Prairie Plant Systems, which currently grows the marijuana for Health Canada in a vacant portion of the Trout Lake mine, is facing serious competition from at least one organic grower from Vancouver Island.

Island Harvest, a company in the Cowichan Valley that already legally supplies medicinal pot to a few authorized users, has reportedly put in a bid for the federal contract, due to be renewed.

“We want this contract because we know that we can supply a good-quality organic product to patients,” Nash told the Canadian Press.

Nash told CP he wants to grow “strain-specific plants” tailored to patients with different medical conditions, adding that the Flin Flon product “is just one strain” that may not work well for everyone.

With good security a must for securing the contract, Nash’s company would use a metal warehouse surrounded by fencing, barbed wire, security cameras and guards, according to CP.

Security isn’t an issue for Prairie Plants.  With its state-of-the-art subterranean location, the company hopes to continue yielding pot beneath Flin Flon after its current contract expires at the end of the month.

Company president Brad Zettl told CP the tendering process is about meeting specific requirements laid down by the federal government, not offering philosophical views on how the product should be produced.

Zettl credits his underground location as the reason his company beat out nearly 200 competitors for the initial marijuana bid in late 2000.

The primary benefit of the site, he has said, is that it eliminates the risk of modified plants spreading into the agricultural system.  The environment is also fully controlled and highly secure.

Perhaps one of Zettl’s biggest challenges is public perception.  His company has endured years of media reports portraying the Flin Flon marijuana as too weak or otherwise unsuitable.

Zettl has called the reports unfair, saying reporters have spoken to a minority of dissatisfied patients without giving coverage to the vast majority who are pleased.

He has said smaller medicinal growers on the West Coast “are really feeling threatened” by the cheaper, government-approved marijuana.

“It’s about protecting their turf,” Zettl told a crowd in Creighton last year.  “It’s a marketing thing, so they can make some wild claims and in the meantime, Health Canada does not respond because they don’t think it’s worth responding to.  And then what happens? The media report goes out and then everybody sees only a lie or the posture or the allegation.  They don’t see the outcome or the other side.”

Companies were given until September 29 to submit bids through Public Works and Government Services Canada.  A spokesperson for that department was not available for further details.

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