Ottawa’s National Access Cannabis secures $35M loan from First Nations band

Cannabis

In a bid to finance an aggressive cannabis retail push into western Canada, Ottawa’s National Access Cannabis (TSX-V:META) has landed a sizeable loan from an existing First Nations stakeholder.

The Opaskwayak Cree Nation, a First Nations band government in Manitoba, will lend $35 million to NAC, an Ottawa-based cannabis education firm pivoting into retail as legal recreational use comes into effect this fall.

NAC said in a statement on Monday that it will use the capital to build out 50 to 70 pot retail locations in western Canada – where the private sale of cannabis will be permitted – by the end of the year, with another 30 outlets coming down the line. The local firm is converting several existing Second Cup coffee shops to establish its brick-and-mortar footprint under its Meta Cannabis Supply brand.

"With the shift to a recreational cannabis legal framework, it is imperative that NAC has a strong retail footprint established and fully operational by Oct. 17,” said NAC chief executive Mark Goliger in a statement, referencing the recently-confirmed national legalization date.

The Opaskwayak Cree Nation has been a stakeholder in NAC since the Ottawa firm went public roughly a year ago.

“This was an aggressive move for a First Nation, making a material investment in a cannabis company,” said Christian Sinclair, Onekanew of OCN, in statement.

“What we saw then is the same as we see now, that we believe there is potentially more margin in retail than in other parts of the industry value chain. We believe that this financing allows NAC to take advantage of another pivotal moment and build a dominant footprint of cannabis retail operations."

Shares of NAC have nearly doubled in price since the start of the year. The local firm’s share price was up roughly seven per cent to $1.06 in afternoon trading Monday on the TSX Venture Exchange.