Canada's largest marijuana producer reached new heights on Tuesday as it officially began trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), the first time a cannabis company has ever traded on a major exchange in North America.
The move comes as the Canadian government begins figuring out how it will roll out its recreational marijuana market, and just weeks before it has to implement new regulations around the existing medical marijuana regime, which will likely shake things up.
Nonetheless, a small group of Canopy Growth Corp. employees and investors gathered at the exchange tower in downtown Toronto this morning to mark the occasion with a toast and by ringing the opening bell. The mood was high as the stock value just went up 14 percent. The market value of the company is sitting at an estimated $300 million.
Servers with trays of orange juice in champagne flutes floated by as Bruce Linton, CEO of Canopy Growth — the parent company of licensed producers Tweed and Bedrocan — pointed to the back of his black t-shirt, which had "TSX: WEED" printed on it.
"It's still gooey," Linton told VICE News. "They were just finished last night."
For the time being, his company will be listed as CGC on the exchange, but come December when the TSX — one of the largest exchanges in the world — introduces a five-letter cap, it will change to WEED.
"They asked if we wanted it, and we had to ponder for about a month, because we have a bunch of brands that are very medical," Linton said "Then we thought, if we don't take it, we're going to feel really bad."
Canopy Growth first went public in 2010 and has been listed on the TSX's Venture Exchange, a forum meant for smaller companies that has fewer restrictions and less prestige.
Linton explained his company had to go through extra hurdles to make it onto the proper TSX because of the stigma around marijuana companies, even around ones, like his, that are fully legal. "We have been the outsider until now," he said.
"The reason why it's hilarious is because we're now on the same exchange as the Royal Bank. And the only business in Canada that won't do business with marijuana companies like us is the Royal Bank," he added. "And now we're neighbors."
There are more than 30 licensed marijuana producers (LPs) in Canada, the only companies legally allowed to grow and sell marijuana. And they can do so only through the mail to people with valid prescriptions. But that regime was found unconstitutional by the federal court in BC earlier this year, and the government has to come up with new regulations next month.
Still, Canopy Growth and its major LP competitors have been forging ahead with entering new cannabis markets abroad. In June, Tilray became the first legal marijuana company in the country to export its product abroad, to pharmacies in Croatia. And this week, Canopy Growth got its licensed to export dried cannabis to Germany.
Next up is exporting oils to Brazil, said Linton, and he says Canopy will try to enter any other country where cannabis is legal at a federal level — so, not the US.
"Until the rules are made, what we try to do is make sure they know how things operate in Canada so rules look similar to what we're doing here," he said. "International participation has been planned since day one, because we know Canada was way ahead of everybody."
Last month, the Canadian government announced its nine-member marijuana legalization task force, which will come up with suggestions on how to make cannabis legal for recreational purposes. Legislation is expected to tabled at Parliament next spring.
Many cannabis activists, who initially celebrated the new Liberal government for its promise to legalize cannabis, have criticized the task force for being composed of people who have been anti-weed, including former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, who heads the task force.
Hundreds of illegal marijuana dispensaries have been popping up across Canada, in spite of ongoing police raids and crackdowns, and owners have vowed to fight for their share of the legal weed market, even if the new proposed regulations attempt to squeeze them out of the supply chain.
Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter: @rp_browne