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Here’s What Happened to a Small Canadian Town When the Cannabis Industry Moved In

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This article is paid for by Zenabis.

People often think that letting a cannabis business move into their neighborhood would be bad for the community. But that certainly hasn’t been the case for Atholville, New Brunswick. The small Canadian town has been undergoing quite a renaissance ever since the licensed cannabis producer Zenabis opened a cultivation facility in the town’s old textile warehouse.

Before Zenabis invested in the community, Atholville was struggling to recover from years of economic hardship, which only worsened when a prominent paper mill in the nearby town of Dalhousie closed back in 2008.

We had some people here working down in Dalhousie, and when they lost their mill, they lost their chemical plant, NB Power, the wharf and everything. It had an impact not only on Dalhousie but on the whole area,” Atholville Mayor Michel Soucy told Civilized. There was less money in the area. Walking through the shopping mall, you would see just a few people. It was hard to find major stores to come to the area.”

Now Mayor Soucy looks around and sees the town bustling again, especially in the parking lot of the Zenabis facility, which has created over 300 new jobs. 

I can see the Zenabis parking space from my living room window, which is packed with vehicles every morning. That means there’s a lot of people working there,” he said. We lived for so many years with the mills in Atholville, Dalhousie, and Bathurst. Across Northern New Brunswick, we lived through a period of near-depression because of all those closures. Now with Zenabis and what’s building around it, we see more and more positive economic impact.”

Inside Zenabis’ cultivation facility in Atholville.

The Atholville Revival

The opening of Zenabis’ cultivation facility has provided a big economic boost to Atholville as well as the rest of Northern New Brunswick. Many of Zenabis’ employees are commuting from nearby communities in the area, which means there are many new faces in Atholville. And they have money to spend while they’re in town.

People coming here from Campbellton or other towns have not been known to shop, but now that they’re working here, they’ll spend a little bit more,” Mayor Soucy said. While traveling to Zenabis, they drive through our municipality and they stop somewhere to buy gas, or go into a restaurant, or buy groceries. That means a lot for the municipality. I see an improvement in the economy, and I see an improvement in people’s attitudes. We see that people are more positive. I’m so pleased with the results so far.”

That spike in the number of shoppers visiting Atholville has encouraged other businesses to follow Zenabis’ lead by investing in the community.

We have a company from Quebec that purchased our mall,” Mayor Soucy said. Every day they’re working hard to find new businesses for the mall. It used to be full of closing stores, but now it’s making a comeback.”

Meanwhile, other big businesses are renovating their existing locations to meet consumer demand.

We have a commercial area where we see more and more people spending money. For a long time, the Canadian Tire in Atholville held out on an expansion of that store. But last year, they made the decision to expand. The owner felt there were more and more people going there to spend money, and they wanted to give a better service and bigger floor area to add more products. I think they felt that it was time to invest. A&W also invested new money in renovating their restaurant, and we’ve heard that the Ford dealership might develop a new look on their building. This creates the momentum that we needed.”

Atholville has also seen an influx of former residents who moved away for better job prospects. Now they are returning home thanks to the job opportunities that have become available since Zenabis moved into the community.

I would say ten years ago, the young were leaving to study outside and were saying, I’m not coming back to Restigouche County, there are no jobs,’ ” Mayor Soucy added. Zenabis was part of the plans we put in place to bring our kids back home. Young couples that went to Moncton, or Montréal, or out west, are now coming back because there are jobs available for them. I hear less and less people saying, It’s Northern New Brunswick, there’s no work’ or When I leave, I’m not coming back.’ We don’t hear those comments much anymore. People are coming back because there are job opportunities and the economy is a lot better now thanks to Zenabis and the investments in our commercial areas.”

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