That recreational marijuana is poised for legalization in this country (starting July 1, 2018) has been all the buzz for the past long while in Canada, as the government scrambles to clarify the particulars. Lots of folks are keen to capitalize on this flaming development, and the uncharted possibilities beckon with tremendous promise.
The only question is: how and where?
Given that the retail oversight of this sparking new merchandise channel has been left up to provincial and municipal governments to decide (and that those decisions are still unmade), and, here’s what would-be marijuana retailers have to work with.
Excluding the homegrown and mail-order options, the LCBO has emerged as the most likely channel for retail sale in Ontario, given the provincial agency’s experience with handling controlled substances. Still, the anti-LCBO stance argues that these vibrant self-service outlets are hardly transferable to the world of cannabis distribution.
If the publicly run provincial monopoly for alcohol distribution wins out, it will almost certainly have to establish new retail outlets for this unique product offering.
Another much-discussed conduit for pot sales is pharmacies. The Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management, which supplies drugs to pharmacies and hospitals, has declared itself a no-brainer on this front for its well-established system for marijuana distribution.
And, in October, Shoppers Drug Mart applied to be a licensed producer for the purposes of distributing medical marijuana.
Finally, there’s the option of small community storefront dispensaries, such as those selling pot—and attracting tourists—in Colorado. The Retail Council of Canada is said to be consulting with its members and the government on the stuff.
Critically, says Michael Gorenstein, CEO of cannabis firm Cronos Group, these new-style shops have got to be appealing places for folks to visit. “A lot of what drives cannabis tourism isn’t just legal access,” he’s said. “It’s the character in the dispensaries they’ve opened up. It’s a unique retail experience.”
Along whichever path the retail distribution system for cannabis emerges, there’s no doubt the stakes are high. There’s a blaze of money to be made in this field.