There is no provisory rhyme for alcohol and weed like, for instance, “beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer and you’re in the clear.” But when it comes to business, it looks like “weed and liquor will make you rich quicker” is the lesson to take away.
With non-medical marijuana slated to become legal in Canada next year, the provinces are determined to keep weed retail utterly separate from that of alcohol; namely by creating dedicated cannabis retail outlets that are run, by but not otherwise associated with, bodies like the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. For years, business forecasters believed that it would be tobacco and alcohol companies would eventually break into the marijuana market. But then Constellation Brands purchased an almost ten percent stake in Canopy Growth Corp. last month and minds quickly changed. Conundrum: liquor customers are waning. Solution: sell them marijuana. The liquor company’s investment in Canada’s largest cannabis licensed producer marks the first deal of its kind—certainly not the last.
For now, Canada appeals as the perfect testing ground for recreational marijuana. Studying how the market works in a country similar to the U.S. means even more accurate predictions more accurate should cannabis become legal at the federal level south of the border. Canopy, for example, is establishing itself as an international player, exporting small amounts of marijuana to German pharmacies, purchasing stakes in medical cannabis companies in Australia and Chile, and partnering with two firms in Brazil. But they have been confined to the medical space until now. The next iteration of the marijuana industry will be looking to benefit from alcohol companies that excel at developing and promoting consumer brands. Emblem Corp., another licensed producer, recently poached the head of ad agency KBS Canada as its new CEO, starting in 2018, for this very reason. Companies like Constellation also have significant experience dealing with provincial liquor control boards—the same entities that will oversee retail and distribution of cannabis.`
When it comes to the cannabis-based beverages we mentioned, the market for edibles may seem tiny to outsiders but it’s rapidly growing, and Constellation and Canopy are looking to be at the forefront. Since Canada’s federal government doesn’t plan to legalize edibles until at least 2019, companies have time to solve the vexing issue of making the cannabis in infused drinks produce a faster effect, not to mention time for more alcohol companies to stake their claim.
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.