After Canada legalises pot, industry eyes rest of the world

Rob Gillies reports from Montreal on the reverberations Canada’s decision to legalise could have internationally.

After Canada legalises pot, industry eyes rest of the world

Rob Gillies reports from Montreal on the reverberations Canada’s decision to legalise could have internationally.

CAM Battley is a top executive at one of Canada’s biggest marijuana companies, but he isn’t staying put to savour the country’s historic legalisation of pot.

CAM Battley is a top executive at one of Canada’s biggest marijuana companies, but he isn’t staying put to savour the country’s historic legalisation of pot.

He’s off to Germany today, and Australia next week, which is a sign that Canada has become a leader in the global pot industry, and that its decision to legalise it could have international reverberations.

“It’s a special moment, not just for Canada, but for the world, because my strong conviction is that the rest of the world will follow suit,” said Battley, chief corporate officer at Aurora Cannabis. “We’re not known as wild and crazy. We’re known for good public policy and I think they will follow our lead.”

Battley will attend an investor conference in Germany and then head to Australia, which legalised medical marijuana in 2016. He’ll meet with a corporate business partner and talk with policymakers in Sydney and Melbourne.

Battley’s itinerary is indicative of the internationalisation of the marijuana industry. And with national legalisation taking effect last Wednesday, Canada has emerged as the world leader. It’s the second nation — and by far the largest — with countrywide legalisation of so-called recreational pot.

Its deliberate approach, which took more than two years of planning, allows provinces to shape their own laws, within a federal framework, including setting the minimum age and deciding whether to distribute through state-run or private retail outlets. That offers other countries a model somewhere between the more strictly regulated system in Uruguay, the only other country with legal sales, and the more commercial version in some of the nine US states that have approved recreational marijuana.

Canada’s federal approval has given its industry a huge advantage over its American counterpart, including unfettered access to banking and to billions of dollars in investment.

Canadians can even order marijuana online and have weed delivered by mail to their door.

That’s made American cannabis entrepreneurs envious, including Derek Peterson, the chief executive of California-based marijuana producer Terra Tech. Peterson took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal this week, urging US president Donald Trump to help ease prohibition and eliminate hurdles for the US pot industry before Canada leaves it even farther behind.

Some in the US Congress have also taken notice, pressing for the federal government to get out of the way of states that want to legalise, but it remains unclear what weight Canada’s legalisation might carry south of the border.

It might have a more immediate effect in New Zealand, where the government has promised a legalisation referendum by 2020, said John Walsh of the advocacy group The Washington Office on Latin America. Mexico, the Netherlands, and Italy are among other nations that have been mulling legalisation. To the surprise of many familiar with Amsterdam’s marijuana cafes, Holland has only very limited legalisation.

“This is the genie out of the bottle,” Walsh said.

Because of Canada’s reputation for being fairly careful, for being a good global citizen, and because of the scale of their market, it’s a more likely example for other countries

Battley said he expects the global recreational market to develop much as the medical market has done. Canada legalised medical marijuana nationally in 2001.

“Once you see grandma and uncle Ted using medical cannabis to manage their arthritis pain, suddenly, the substance is not so scary and not so stigmatised,” he said. “That opens up the space for countries to move forward with consumer legalisation, as well. I think Canada is at the forefront of a global mega-trend.”

Many customers celebrating on Wednesday certainly thought so. Festivities erupted throughout the nation of 37m people.

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