Justin Trudeau hasn't even been officially sworn in as prime minister yet, but as far as marijuana advocates are concerned, his promise to fully legalize it is as good as fulfilled.
"Pot's legal!" wrote Marc Emery, Canada's so-called "Prince of Pot," the day after Trudeau and his Liberal Party won the federal election by a landslide. "[O]ne of Mr. Trudeau's first official declarations should be, 'The war against the cannabis culture in Canada is over.'''
By securing a majority government, the Liberals are poised to move quickly on their pledge to "legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana" for recreational use, which Trudeau has billed as a top priority. Though the incoming prime minister has yet to specify what exactly legalizations would look like — and it could take years for it to come to fruition — things are already looking up for the industry.
The morning after the election, stocks soared for three of the country's top medical marijuana producers. Some cannabis companies Canada began trading publicly last year after Health Canada started issuing licenses to companies for the country's estimated 40,000 registered medical cannabis users. (One study suggests there are 2.3 million marijuana users in Canada)
The current medical marijuana industry is believed to be worth between $80 to $100 million. It's believed to be one of the best regulatory systems in the world, and is highly regulated. Aaron Salz, an analyst with Dundee Capital Markets, told the Financial Post that could balloon to $5 billion if the market is fully legalized.
"The Canadian marijuana space could be set for another revolution," Salz said.
Bruce Linton, CEO of Tweed, the largest of Canada's 26 licensed cannabis producers, told VICE News in a previous interview that the medical marijuana industry can only benefit under a new legal regime, as it will likely facilitate the production for recreational marijuana, similar to the way things unfolded in Colorado.
"I would think that for licensed producers — which are large, regulated, and under controlled shipping and accounting procedures — would be the first choice for delivery because that's the first methodology to gain control of the supply chain," said Linton.
Those running Vancouver's marijuana dispensaries, which operate in a legal grey zone because they sell marijuana without licenses from Health Canada, are looking forward to a fully legalized industry. Earlier this year, Health Canada threatened to send in RCMP officers to shut them down.
"We're dancing in the streets," Don Briere, who owns a number of Vancouver dispensaries, told the Georgia Straight.
This week Jacob Securities, a Toronto-based investment firm that specializes in advising companies in the cannabis sector, launched a $50-million Cannabis Fund to focus on opportunities in Canada and the US.
"Justin Trudeau getting elected is the best thing that's ever happened to the cannabis industry," Cheryl Shuman, founder of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club and one of the fund's lead advisors, said in an interview with VICE News. "Within the last 72 hours, it's like open season in Canada, and the opportunities to invest there keep growing and growing. It's like a wildfire spreading."
The firm's other lead advisor is George Smitherman, Ontario's former health minister.
Analysts have suggested that a fully legalized marijuana industry could attract investors from the alcohol and tobacco industries. Last month, addiction specialists wrote a piece in the Canadian Medical Association Journal urging whichever party forms government to move away from cannabis prohibition, but also retain control over the supply and sale of recreational marijuana, should it become legalized.
"A frequently cited concern with legalization is that it will allow the rise of Big Cannabis, similar to Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol. These powerful multinational corporations have revenues and market expansion as their primary goals, with little consideration of the impact on public health," the article states.
In August, Trudeau said his new government would look into pardoning Canadians serving time in prison for marijuana-related crimes, after he repeals the laws in the criminal code.
"There has been many situations over history when laws come in that overturn previous convictions," he said at a campaign stop in Vancouver. "And there will be a process for that that we will set up in a responsible way."
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