To mark the recent legalization of recreational marijuana, we check in with some of the key players in the B.C. cannabis world. From pot growers to government officials to medical professionals, meet the people helping move the industry forward and keep British Columbians safe. Todays subject is Marc Geen, CEO of SpeakEasy Cannabis Club

The Geen family has farmed in the Okanagan Valley for more than 120 years, growing tree fruits like apples and cherries, with a foray into ginseng in the 1990s. Now, fourth-generation farmer Marc Geen is cultivating cannabis.

After the federal government announced the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) in 2013, allowing commercial cultivation in Canada, Geen launched SpeakEasy Cannabis Club, applied for a licence and converted a 10,000-squarefoot ginseng-processing facility to medical marijuana production. The company, based in Rock Creek, east of Oliver, expects to have an additional 50,000 square feet of indoor capacity up and running by next spring.

The federal Cannabis Act passed this spring will allow outdoor production in Canada, so SpeakEasy has purchased 290 acres of south Okanagan farmland in Rock Creek from the Geen family. The company hopes to plant 60 acres in the spring and another 60 the following year. To have enough plants ready for spring 2019, the SpeakEasy team would need to start cloning in December. Cloning involves taking cuttings from cannabis varieties chosen for particular situations or products, growing them indoors over the winter and planting them out in the spring. A huge benefit of growing outdoors is lower production costs, Geen says. “Canopy [Growth Corp.] or Tweed or any of the guys that have large greenhouses, their production costs are a dollar, $1.25 a gram. Our production cost for outdoor is about 10 cents a gram.”

Geen is also benefiting from the experience of his father, Merv, former chair of Kelowna-based SunRype Products, founded by a collective of fruit growers. Speak-Easy has formed a cannabis growers collective to handle the corporate side of production for its members. By September, nine had joined.