Article by Jamie Shaw, Canlio
2017 was a foundational year for the future of cannabis in Canada. Here’s our annual look at the top ten cannabis stories of the last year.
10. The Law is the Law…Except When it Isn’t
Canadian securities exchanges threatened to delist those Canadian companies with marijuana dealings in the US without full disclosure of all such activities. Stating the federal illegality of cannabis in the US and rapidly evolving state laws, the TSX moved to require not only full disclosure of activities, but also proof the company was well versed on the jurisdictional law where their activities occurred.
9. Crossing Borders
Canadian companies continued to expand internationally with cross-border deals to Europe and Asia, but despite the US federal government’s position on cannabis, there is a lot of development with our largest trading partner as well. A state-legal but federally-illegal dispensary chain in Colorado recently invested in a Canadian LP applicant.
We already have a licensed producer (Tilray) owned by a US cannabis company, and while some Canadian companies have been selling cannabis extraction technology to the US, others still have invested in media outlets.
The big news this year was the entry of a major international alcohol player into the Canadian market, with Constellation Brands buying up almost ten percent of Canopy Growth Corp. This partnership between alcohol and cannabis was seen as a sign of things to come, and represents one of the largest buy-ins from outside the Cannabis world.
8. Death And Taxes
Probably the most un-Canadian provision in our legalization plan is the announcement of an excise tax to be added to all cannabis. Normally in Canada, prescription medicines are not taxed and have some cost coverage in place to ensure that less financially secure individuals have access to life medicine. Cannabis, still not considered a ‘medicine’ legally in this country due to its lack of a Drug Identification Number, is subject to tax. Even most unregulated dispensaries charge and remit the tax, and only patients legally supplied by the ACMPR can claim any money back for this at the end of the year. This was already a significant burden on patients—increasing the tax only increases that burden.
7. Senate Delays
The Senate is supposed to be our house of ‘sober second thought,’ but it isn’t looking like this debate will be any more educated than the parliamentary one, whenever they get to it. With the house stacked by Stephen Harper, and the conservatives missing arguably their most intelligent senator on cannabis with the passing of Pierre-Claude Nolin in 2015, and the fact that Liberal Senators are no longer party members, it isn’t surprising that there have been delays.
6. Hash Tags
With a debate on legalization before parliament, you would think the discussion would finally be elevated. Unfortunately, all it actually revealed is that with the exception of NDP MLA Alistair MacGregor, our elected leaders are woefully uneducated on cannabis. Conservative MLA Marilyn Gladu also stands out for her performance during this debate, after revealing her concern with the four plants allowed at home: “little Johnny can put some in the toaster oven and smoke it up.” Maybe not the way she wanted to be trending on social media, but she is now a household name in this country, and the inspiration for one of the most popular hashtags in this space; #toasterbud.
5. Dispensary Boom Continues
Despite the best efforts of regulators to try and keep the wheels on prohibition right to the end, the number of dispensaries in the country continued to grow in 2017—the most high-profile being those opened by Marc and Jody Emery in an effort to ‘show them how it’s done’. The openings certainly made the news, as did their closing and subsequent court cases. This may have also soured any plans Ontario or Quebec might have had to include a private retail model. Meanwhile, the number of dispensaries in Ontario and Nova Scotia continued to rise.