The cannabis world is watching Canada.
Our neighbor up north has become the first first-world country to implement nationwide legalization. Canada set precedent with this legislative rollout, and has become a guinea pig for other countries that may one day consider similar laws.
To better understand the state of Canadian cannabis, and the future of pot after this enormous step forward, we recently spoke with Derek Riedle, CEO and publisher of Civilized, a publication that covers cannabis culture.
Beverage Wholesaler: How will Canadian legalization affect the American cannabis industry?
Derek Riedle: It’s not a question of ‘will’. Canada’s consistent and transparent approach to cannabis legalization has already affected the American industry.
Over the past few years the 49th parallel really became the border between certainty and uncertainty in cannabis. The money has followed, and it shows no sign of slowing. Toronto is now the cannabis CAPITAL capital of the world, with jobs, taxes and wealth shifting from the black market to a legal one. The greatest cannabis companies in the world will be Canadian.
BW: Who is the average Canadian cannabis user?
DR: Every year Civilized commissions a Cannabis Culture Poll together with PSB Research. It gives us insight into the demographics of cannabis users in Canada and the U.S. I can tell you that this year we found the average Canadian cannabis user is either a man or woman (there was exactly a 50/50 split in our results) in their 30’s. They’re not married, and most likely never were, and do not have any children. They are employed full-time, and are likely earning around $50,000 per year.
BW: What can America learn from the Canadian cannabis industry?
DR: Canada has embarked on the most ambitious project in cannabis, ever. It’s the first fully legal, regulated, adult use market in the northern hemisphere. And it’s becoming the home of the world’s greatest cannabis companies.
The certainty and capital in Canada has allowed industry to continue to grow and mature. It’s now in a good position to soak up market share and corner the global market.
I would think the responsible, respectful and transparent approach Canada has taken to legalization could inspire the U.S. to do the same. Industry in Canada has helped by acting responsibly, and living inside the letter of the law.
BW: How will Canada handle issues like cannabis DUIs, accidental over-consumption and marketing towards youths?
DR: Each of these potential impacts is governed by the provinces, who have all developed rules and regulations to mitigate against them.
Cannabis marketing, however, is under federal legislation. And it’s strict: plain packaging; no celebrities or endorsements; in fact, no images of any person whether they’re real or fictional. The law also forbids promotions that connect cannabis consumption with a particular way of life that’s glamorous or exciting.
BW: What does national legalization in Canada mean for clinical trials and research into the substance?
DR: Now that it is a legal product, funding will be more accessible – which will expedite both clinical trials and research.
BW: How will Canadian distribution be set up, and how is this different than in America?
DR: Distribution models are established by the provinces. It differs from coast to coast.
BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Territories have implemented a private retail model. Meanwhile, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI, and Newfoundland/Labrador have implemented a crown corporation public model. In Ontario, the Ford administration has opted to sell legal cannabis through the Ontario Cannabis Store website only on October 17, and private retailers will open in April 2019.
BW: What’s the outlook for nationwide legalization in America?
DR: The numbers show Americans of all political stripes understand and support ending federal marijuana prohibition, but support is particularly strong among Dems. I don’t anticipate there’ll be much change in the near-term, but with the mid-terms on the horizon it’s hard to say what will happen.
Few people believe cannabis should be a schedule A narcotic when in reality, it’s less harmful than beer, wine and spirits.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Wholesaler. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @kswartzz or Instagram @cheers_magazine. Read his recent piece Canadian Cannabis: Advantages and Drawbacks for America.