Move over black market: legit businesses muscle in on marijuana's potential

Lots of suits, few tattoos at legalizing cannabis seminar at the Vancouver Club

You know that marijuana has come a long way, baby, when an event about legalizing cannabis is held at the tony Vancouver Club.

The number of people wearing suits outnumbered the people sporting tattoos about 20 to 1 at Thursday’s Business in Vancouver seminar.

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And with its focus on potential impacts on business — both within the workplace and for entrepreneurs — it seemed evident that Canada is about to become a brave new world of opportunities for those who feel more comfortable wearing a tie than a Cheech and Chong t-shirt.

Chris Wagner is CEO Emerald Health Sciences. One of the event’s four guest speakers, he predicts there will be three waves for businesses.

“The first wave will be the ‘holy moly, it’s legal’ wave,” he said.

After an initial under supply, production will stabilize and the second wave — highly branded products — will hit Canadian consumers.

The third wave is what his company has been focusing on: innovation and creating brand new products. Move over edibles; what about cannabis in beer?

“We are looking at pulling this plant apart and putting it back together in different ways and not just selling it in Canada but around the world,” he said. “This plant is really quite amazing. There are more than 200 different compounds and they all do different things. As a science compound, it’s a great one.”

Because Canada is one of the first countries to legalize marijuana, he said, “we’re actually able to build companies that are worldwide leaders.”

Applications that show most promise are those for sleep, anxiety, pain and lack of energy.

The Vancouver Club
A few years ago, you wouldn't have expected the Vancouver Club to be the site of a marijuana gathering. - Martha Perkins

Deepak Anand’s clients at Cannabis Compliance Inc. include Shoppers’ Drug Mart and Rexall, which are both really close to being able to offer online sales of medical marijuana. Ontario’s College of Pharmacists has endorsed marijuana, with the caveat that it shouldn’t be smoked.

“I think you’ll see it in grocery stores — all the different cannabinoids with THC,” Wagner said. “They won’t be psycho-active but they will be cannabinoids [because the medicinal] benefit is there for people.”

Since there are very strict rules about who can work in the marijuana industry, people who have been operating in the black or grey market will be excluded if they have been convicted for marijuana possession.

“We keep need to be pushing for amnesty so people can be involved,” Anand said.

One of those people is Jodie Emery. She and her husband Marc, long-time advocates for legalization, have both been convicted for the possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

“The black market is right here; it’s Canadian z who have been prosecuted,” she said during the question and answer period of the one-hour seminar. Many people currently selling marijuana would love to be able to do it legally, she said, but the rules are prohibitive.

 “Thank you for carrying our message but how do we get equal opportunity when we are marginalized by the law?”

Those laws give government and big pharma the advantage, she said.

“We need to make sure we keep pushing governments that that conversation is not lost,” Anand said.

In the meantime, people involved with the business of marijuana are cautioned about being open about it when crossing the border. Even though marijuana will be legal in Canada, and it’s legal in Washington State, the custom officials at the Peace Arch border are federal U.S. officials and the U.S. itself still has lots of laws against it.


The legalizing cannabis seminar was part of Business in Vancouver's business excellence series.





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