By Lance C. Lambert
The last few months within the cannabis industry, both domestically and internationally, have been busy. California released its permanent regulations, while Portugal’s parliament legalized medical cannabis on the other side of the globe. We also saw Hawaii announce approval of reciprocity for all U.S. medical card holders. And then Georgia legalized cannabis, the first-ever former Soviet Republic country to do so. It’s a fast-moving space, and that old cliche ‘the only thing constant is change’ could not be more accurate.
Beyond all of the above, there was one place where legalization held a high level of anticipation: Canada. This is big, as in second largest landmass country in the world big. This was to be a true watershed moment for the industry. While California has about three million more residents than Canada (39.5m vs. 36.5m), they are a G7 country. And the export potential is very real for this friendly commonwealth country to our North. That’s the real play for all investing in that space.
The actual date to go ‘online’ was shifted several times but President Trudeau assured the world October 17, 2018 would be the big day … and it was. As the anticipation built up, so did the investments in several top publicly-traded Canadian licensed producers (LP). Aurora, Canopy, and Tilray amongst others saw exponential injections, with significant investment coming from this side of the border. Meanwhile, our government was busy with tariffs and digital warfare, flip-flopping on the topic of cannabis depending on the branch of government. While the patrol continues barring entry of Canadians employed or even invested in the business, the FDA dropped Cannabidoil (CBD) to schedule V — but only for GW Pharmaceuticals’ new drug, per the DEA. All the while states continue moving forward to “free the plant” as Max Stone of The Hemp Embassy in Australia says.
When you remember that 4/5 of the U.S. have some form of legal cannabis (from cannabinoid derivatives only to full adult-use), it’s obvious what the people want. In fact, the latest poll showed 64% of the U.S. populous are pro-cannabis. No matter if you grew up in the racist-driven anti ‘marijuana’ movement era of Nixon or the Daryl Gates D.A.R.E. program of the ‘80s (read Baby Boomers, GenX, and GenY), you likely know by now that this is a miracle plant, not a menace to society. And it is official, cannabis has become a non-partisan topic to boot.
I’ve personally worked twenty-four industry shows around the world in 2018 to date, taking me from Australia to Spain, England to Israel, and all across North America. The question ‘when is the U.S. going fully legal?’ is asked constantly. Knowing our government and the current climate, I typically say the soonest is in three to five years, but more likely in a decade. Why such a spread you ask? Well, the change could be pushed from two different directions. If our government lets big pharma sneak in and take over, it will go federally legal sooner. This can happen by going from a schedule I to schedule II drug. This ‘extreme capitalism’ stance will keep all others at bay. Then there’s option two, which a majority of pro-cannabis folks support. That would be full de-scheduling of cannabis altogether. This allows the freedom desired for the future of the industry as a whole.
No matter which way things play out here in America, Canada will be miles ahead in the world domination race. Several Canadian LPs have active operations from Columbia, Jamaica, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, and the list goes on. In speaking to an LP during the Grow Up Expo in Niagara Falls, they shared having plants on the ground in Australia sitting in a year-long quarantine. Everywhere I go in my travels I seem to keep running into Canadians.
Our country is a leader in many spaces, just look at tech and dot com. But what’s to be said for cannabis? Sure we have the coveted Emerald Triangle and great genetics from generations of growers thereof. But we don’t lead in the study of the plant, that’s Israel’s dominion. And we certainly don’t dominate the [legal] export market, Canada is all over that. If winning in the cannabis space was a game of Monopoly, Canada has officially secured a better part of the board this year, passing go and collecting far more than $300 along the way.