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Canopy Growth's Tweed facility in Smiths Falls, Ont. on Aug. 23, 2018.The Canadian Press

Canopy Growth Corp. will cease operations at five facilities across the country and lay off more than 200 workers – the latest in a series of dramatic cuts the cannabis company and several others have made this year.

Smiths Falls, Ont.-based Canopy said Wednesday that it will end operations at sites in St. John’s, Fredericton, Edmonton, Bowmanville, Ont. and at an outdoor grow facility in Saskatchewan.

The closures will affect 220 employees, but save the company between $150-million and $200-million and accelerate its path to profitability, Canopy chief executive David Klein said in a release.

“This was a difficult decision, but I believe it is the right one,” he said.

“I want to thank all of the employees impacted by this decision for their efforts in helping build Canopy Growth.”

Canopy’s cuts have come in a year in which many cannabis companies, including competitors Aurora Inc. and Tilray Inc., have announced mass layoffs, facility closures and multimillion-dollar writedowns.

The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated matters by causing the temporary closing of cannabis stores in virus hot spots and forcing companies to shell out for masks, hand sanitizer, plexiglass barriers and other protective measures.

Amid the pandemic, Mr. Klein took a dive into Canopy’s finances and rethought its first-to-every-market strategy.

He laid off at least 800 staff by May, and made additional cuts throughout the summer and fall.

He also announced the company would take up to $800-million in writedowns, a total he added to on Wednesday when he said Canopy will record pre-tax charges of between $350-million and $400-million in the third and fourth quarters of its fiscal 2021.

The new cuts will affect about 17 per cent of the company’s enclosed facilities in Canada and 100 per cent of its outdoor sites, which can produce cannabis at much lower prices than indoor ones.

Canopy first got into outdoor growing last year with a test crop in Saskatchewan, but returned to the method this year with hopes of using its crop on edibles, cannabis beverages and vaporizer pens.

Adam Greenblatt, a senior communications adviser with Canopy, previously extolled the virtues of outdoor growing in an interview with The Canadian Press, saying it slashes electricity bills and reduces labour costs.

With the Saskatchewan site closing, Mr. Klein said, “We are confident that our remaining sites will be able to produce the quantity and quality of cannabis required to meet current and future demand.”

His remarks pushed Canopy’s stock down by more than 2 per cent or 82 cents to reach $36.07 in early afternoon trading.

Earlier this year, competitor Aurora also ceased operations at about six facilities in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec and cut at least 1,200 workers.

Tilray shed at least 10 per cent of its work force and Sundial Growers and Zenabis Global Inc. also faced reductions.

The cuts have come as Canada is still grappling with how to eliminate the illicit market and companies are trying to entice reluctant consumers and build loyalty with new categories of edibles like beverages.

But just as Canopy was announcing its cuts, its global head of beverages posted on LinkedIn that he is leaving the company and heading to Google Canada’s marketing team.

Andrew Rapsey wrote, “I’m incredibly grateful for the teammates at Canopy Growth Corporation and excited to see how the drinks business evolves in the next six to 12 months.”

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