Cannabis legalization as 2018’s story of the year
Canadian Press named cannabis legalization the business story of the year. Surprise? Hardly.
What is surprising, is that only Canadian Press named cannabis as “Business story of the year”. While Canada took the world stage in terms of leading the cannabis industry, the rest of the world exponentially opened up to the plant as well.
Canadian cannabis companies entered the U.S. stock market, saw massive mergers, incited a possible cannabis bubble and reached extreme highs and lows. Businesses scrambled to get a piece of the green rush, attracting big names such as Coca-Cola and Constellation Brands. As Canada embarked upon the end of prohibition, everyone watched with intent eyes.
But, let’s start by looking at the action within our country before we move to international interest.
Here in Canada,
Coming into 2018, there was hope that Trudeau’s progressive legislation would pass, but nothing was certain. Recreational legalization wasn’t solidified until June when the Senate passed Bill C-45. After an arduous debate, the vote was cast 52-29 in favour of legalization and the bill moved to royal assent. Sixteen weeks to the day was given to industry professionals to suit up. Provincial and municipal governments were now tasked with developing guidelines for their respective jurisdictions.
Developing the framework
Provinces varied in their approach, from fully private to fully government-owned and mixed systems. Alberta was touted as a national leader due to its private approach, allowing cannabis business to flourish. Both Ontario and BC, two of the most anticipated players, struggled to transition to the legal market. BC opened only a handful of government-owned shops out of the gate. Ontario had zero brick and mortar shops open on October 17th due to the shift in government and Ford’s switch from government-owned to a private marketplace.
Business ramped up to hire swarms of people. People flocked to be part of the new industry, with our company alone seeing hundreds at our job fair and receiving thousands of resumes. While we can only speak for our own organization, it was awe-inspiring the amount of interest the industry drew and will continue too as it grows.
Adjusting to the market
While Alberta seemed to be the model to look up too, we struggled to keep up to demand. LPs delivered less than promised and some stores had to shut down due to lack of product. AGLC halted licenses near the end of November, meaning no more cannabis retail locations would open for the remainder of 2018, and those that were open would receive cannabis rations from the government. We were stuck in limbo.
To sum up 2018 – Amazing, exciting, progressive. We watched stigmas shatter and our country open its arms to cannabis. But it wasn’t without its hiccups. To set ourselves up as a true global leader in the industry, it’s important we work through these hiccups, hear what our consumers have to say and work our a**es off to improve upon that. With the international attention, it won’t be long until other G20 nations move towards recreational legalization and with that comes global competition. While the red tape we put up was for valid reasons, we will continually have to monitor and adjust to achieve a high functioning industry.
In the States,
The States have taken an interesting approach, allowing for individual States to control cannabis legalization. To date, 10 states have legalized recreational cannabis use, while 33 have legalized medical cannabis use.
The rise of CBD
This is a progressive move for the States, though the marijuana plant is still a federally regulated substance. As individual States move to adopt cannabis, the more likely the States will be to lift the federal ban. Trump recently signed a new farm bill to allow for the farming of hemp, another federally banned material. Hemp farming opens the door for CBD production, which can be extracted from the plant, an industry projected at a mere22 billion.
Which bring us to CBD, possibly the most talked about the substance of 2018. All hype? Definitely not. But you’ll see CBD popping up in every imaginable topical, food items and more in the years to come. CBD has legitimate benefits, but we should be wary of where the CBD is purchased and who has manufactured it. In the states, there have been concerns about product quality, as well as concentration. One test found cough medicine lurking in a formidable companies CBD. Beyond ethical concerns, this can create misconceptions about CBD effects.
We saw athletes promote the use of cannabis products, yet in all major leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL & NFL) there are anti-cannabis use regulations, though the NHL is said to be the most lenient. Regardless, this is a positive step in societal acceptance of the substance and can lead to further research on its benefits. The more we talk and share our findings, especially when those of prominence promote cannabis, we can truly start to progress the plants understanding and use.
Looking a bit further internationally, we saw the UK and Thailand both approve medical cannabis. South Korea legalized cannabidiol (CBD). South Africa declared that the personal use of cannabis was no longer a criminal offense and New Zealand passed a law making medical cannabis widely available. No year has seen such an uptake toward the plant, it was like a rapid domino effect and the trend shows no signs of slowing.
What does it all boil down too? A lot to look forward to in 2019. We have put down a bit of the foundation, but there is still a long way to go. One of our favourite lines of the year is that legalization is a marathon, not a sprint and its something we constantly keep in mind when navigating the new industry.