B.C. pot grower sees green as more states legalize marijuana
As California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts appear set to join the growing list of states that have legalized recreational pot, one of B.C.’s biggest medical marijuana producers is seeing big opportunities in the American market.
After there were several successful ballot initiatives south of the border this week, B.C. will soon be the only West Coast jurisdiction between the Bering Sea and Tijuana where toking up is still restricted to medical use. But the people behind Tilray, the federally licensed cannabis production facility on Vancouver Island, aren’t concerned about losing their edge to rivals south of the border when Canada eventually legalizes pot.
“I think Canadian companies have a huge advantage based on the very tight regulatory framework that exists in the medical cannabis program in Canada,” Tilray president Brendan Kennedy said Wednesday.
That tight framework may have squeezed out many entrepreneurs interested in jumping into the legal medical marijuana business, but the lack of competition has allowed licensed producers like Tilray to grow quite large.
“You don’t see cultivation facilities as large as the ones that you see in Canada anywhere else in the world,” Kennedy said. “It takes a different level of management and skill to operate a facility like that, and that knowledge, that intellectual property, is a huge advantage that Canadian firms have.”
California’s approval of legal pot opens up the largest commercial market in the U.S. In all, residents of eight states have now voted in favour of recreational marijuana use, including the West Coast states of Alaska, Washington and Oregon.
The American company that owns Tilray, Privateer Holdings, hopes to build a new facility with new branding to produce recreational strains. It’s already got a jump on the international market, too. Earlier this year, Tilray became the first company to legally export medical marijuana to Europe, and it has employees in Australia in anticipation of that country’s launching its own medical marijuana regime.
But Vancouver pot activist Jodie Emery worries that Canada’s legalization scheme will be too focused on restricting marijuana sales and controlling use of the drug to give many businesses here a chance to be competitive.
“As we’ve seen since 2012, and as we’re going to see in the years ahead, marijuana is a very viable legitimate business that should be taken very seriously and not overly regulated because we’ll then deny ourselves a lot of great opportunities,” she said.
“As usual, America will have to go first and set the model that Canada will have to follow. I just hope it doesn’t take 10 years as it usually does for us to catch up.”