Legal highs: The drinks companies taking on cannabis

Roman Schwartz
October 19, 2018

Almost a century of marijuana prohibition came to an end yesterday as Canada became the first major Western nation to legalize and regulate its sale and recreational use.

Cannabis will now be sold in stores and ordered online, with the drugs posted to customers' homes.

As laws surrounding recreational marijuana slowly change state by state in the United States, Canada as a country has just legalized the substance.

It is hoped legalising the drug will raise C$400m a year in tax revenue. The pledge was aimed at taking profits away from organized crime and regulating the production, distribution and consumption of a product that millions of Canadians consume illegally.

"There will be a lot of celebrations on the day, and it will nearly all be with illegal cannabis" in some of Canada's biggest cities, said Brad Poulos, an instructor and cannabis business expert at Ryerson University in Toronto.

USA residents can consume marijuana legally in Canada, however.

Canada has had legal medical marijuana since 2001.

US Customs and Border Protection have reiterated that marijuana remains illegal under US federal law and those caught at the border with pot would be subject to arrest and prosecution.

A recent report on the sales of cannabis-infused food and drink products, jointly published by two of the sector's research firms Arcview and BDS Analytics, found that the industry has great potential for growth.

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"I came out tonight to be the first person in Canada to purchase the first legal gram of recreational cannabis, to help see the end of prohibition in Canada finally", Power said.

Shops in the province of Newfoundland, the most easterly time zone in Canada, opened as midnight struck for the first legal sales of cannabis in the country.

The Pot Shack in Saskatoon wasn't able to open in time for the first day of legalized cannabis due to lack of supply, but owner Geoff Cann estimated a lower starting price when the store does open. "I mean, now we've heard of Canadians who, when they're crossing the border, if they get pulled aside for secondary inspection, they get follow-up questions and one of the questions can be 'Have you ever consumed pot?' And if you reply in the affirmative, even though it was maybe your college days decades ago, that could be grounds for you being prevented from crossing the border", Schmidt said. That means Americans are barred from carrying cannabis across the Canadian border.

"We have actually three individuals right from California", he says.

The federal government set the minimum legal age for consumption at 18, but most provinces and territories have raised it to 19, except Quebec and Alberta. But that's a relatively small amount to serve the entire country, while a populous province like Ontario won't have any brick-and-mortar stores until next spring.

"The cartels will always be many steps ahead of the provincial and federal bureaucrats unfortunately, I hate to say it", Sabet said.

"I'm going to have a lot more variety than the black market dealers, so you have a lot more choice at our store".

Another Water Street store, The Natural Vibe, opened to slightly less fanfare than Tweed, but a line of customers still stretched down the street, with some saying waiting in line was "akin to Disney World".

Cam Battley, chief corporate officer of Aurora Cannabis, also one of Canada's largest cannabis companies, said it's not every day you get to be involved in the start of a new industry. Kamloops City Council voted on the store opening during a meeting yesterday, with a unanimous vote and mayor Ken Christian declaring history had been made.

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