Marijuana companies with retail hopes eye вЂ?massiveвЂ™ market of CanadaвЂ™s most populous province
The cannabis industry is seizing upon theВ cracks that have emerged in OntarioвЂ™s previous plan for selling legalized marijuana, in some cases offering to help lay the groundwork for private-sector retail.В
On Wednesday, the launch of a new вЂњone-stop shopвЂќ for companies looking to learn from a team of experts in retailing marijuana was announced. Among representatives from several other organizations, the Crowns Retail CouncilВ includes participation from law firm Norton Rose Fulbright and the co-founder of housewares-design company Umbra. It is also led byВ Crowns Creative, a cannabis-focused advertising agency.
In making the announcement, Crowns highlighted the вЂњmassiveвЂќ size of the Ontario market, in addition to private retail opportunities expected for companies in provinces such as Alberta and Manitoba.
вЂњCrowns Retail Council will help cannabis companies seize this historic moment and create brands and retail experiences that will capture the Ontario consumerвЂ™s imagination from the moment they open their doors,вЂќ said Rebecca Brown, founder and CEO of Crowns Creative, in a release.
The council will also offer the expertise of Cannabis Compliance Inc., a consulting firm for the marijuana industry.
вЂњOur retail team at CCI looks forward to assisting retail applicants that wish to submit applications in Ontario and across Canada,вЂќ said Deepak Anand, vice-president of business development and government relations at Cannabis Compliance Inc., in a release. вЂњWe have had an extremely successful track record of approvals in other provinces that have allowed for applications to be submitted from private retail stores for the sale of non-medical cannabis.вЂќ
The council is making its debut as the cannabis industry awaits news from the Ontario government, which had previously been on track to sell legal weed through a series of provincially owned shops and an online retail channel. However, reports late last month indicated that the provinceвЂ™s new Progressive Conservative government could permit private retailers to sell legalized cannabis.В
Premier Doug Ford passed Tuesday on discussing the subject. During an event in Picton, Ont. to herald the return of вЂњbuck-a-beer,вЂќ Ford told reporters that вЂњweвЂ™re talking about beer today, marijuana might be in a couple weeks, or a week.вЂќ
Yet in the absence of any announcement, some cannabis companies have taken to lobbying the new provincial government.В
OntarioвЂ™s lobbyist registry showsВ Navigator Ltd. was tapped by leading pot producer Aurora Cannabis Inc., as well as 420 Clinic, Weedmaps and the Cannabis Trade Alliance of Canada, to вЂњhighlight the benefits of expanding cannabis sales in Ontario to private retail outlets.вЂќВ
The move could underscore the importance of Ontario, CanadaвЂ™s most populous province, to the marijuana industry. It also allows for the possibility that OntarioвЂ™s plan for pot sales may not be finalized вЂ” only weeks away from the federal governmentвЂ™s Oct. 17 date for the legalization of recreational cannabis.
Even without a formal announcement from Ford, retailers may want to move fast to secure their position in what could be a competitive market in Ontario, or any other province with private-sector sales.
вЂњThe pressure is on those retailers to create extremely specific, considerate and delightful brand-immersive experiences,вЂќ Brown said in an interview with the Financial Post.
Anand said his company had already been contacted by close to a couple of hundred people expressing interest in retail licensing in Ontario and making applications with CCI.
вЂњObviously, weвЂ™ve been telling them we need to wait until we understand what that process is and what it even looks like but вЂ¦ thereвЂ™s going to be a massive rush,вЂќ Anand said.В
Meanwhile, the head of licensed producer Hydropothecary Corp., which recently revealed it is teaming up with Molson Coors Canada on a joint venture for cannabis-infused beverages, said in a July 27 press release that they had вЂњbeen anticipating the Ontario governmentвЂ™s potential move towards retail cannabis in Ontario,вЂќ and accordingly made a $10-million investment in retail cannabis store Fire & Flower.
And while it is apparently focused on medical cannabis, Beleave Inc. said on Tuesday that it would open two new stores under its Medi-Green brand in September, one of which is to be located in London, Ont.
вЂњWe have aggressive plans for expanding the Medi-Green brand and these two new stores are just the beginning,вЂќ said Beleave CEO, Andrew Wnek, in a press release.
Other companies could need more convincing before they officially jump into the Ontario market вЂ” but they are likely keeping tabs on the situation.В
Coffee chain Second Cup Ltd. вЂ” which has partnered with National Access Cannabis Corp. on a plan to operate recreational marijuana dispensaries in Western Canada at first, and then potentially other provinces laterВ вЂ”В said in a recent financial filing that it was awaiting a вЂњformal announcementвЂќ from the Ontario government.
вЂњAt that time, the Company will be able to assess the potential implications to its strategic alliance with NAC.вЂќ