Article by Rachel Browne, Vice News
Two years ago, Alberta’s association of liquor stores wasn’t keen on weed. Many board members had negative perceptions of the drug and never thought it would become one of Canada’s fastest growing industries.
So when Bruce Linton, CEO of Canadian medical licensed cannabis producer Canopy Growth, first met Ivonne Martinez, president of the Alberta Liquor Store Association, the reception was “tepid,” the businessman recalled in an interview.
“She was a little bit cautious on this ‘marijuana thing’ with this ‘marijuana guy,’” explained Linton, whose company is valued at over $2 billion and is poised to lead Canada’s future recreational weed market when it opens by next summer.
“And I said well … they’re going to lose a lot of their top line business to marijuana.”
That’s when Linton believes the relationship between legal weed and Alberta’s booze business began to shift. Martinez invited him to fly from Ontario to speak to her Association’s board a couple weeks later. He’s made four trips to Alberta since then related to the liquor file, which he believes holds the key to future recreational cannabis sales in the province.
Linton’s most recent trip was this week to give the keynote speech at the Alberta Liquor Industry Conference hosted by Martinez’s group in collaboration with the province’s Gaming and Liquor Commission. His talk was entitled: “Economic opportunities of cannabis and leveraging the Alberta liquor model.”
It’s moments like these that could help shape which cannabis players will come out on top, or get pushed out of, the future legal market in Canada projected to be worth billions. Intense lobbying efforts involving alcohol regulators, provincial officials and marijuana companies are underway in several provinces which have yet to announce their weed distribution plans.