OTTAWA – History is expected to be made today, as the Canadian Senate is poised to vote on nationwide legalization of recreational cannabis. If Bill C-45 is approved, as is widely anticipated, Canada will become the first G7 nation to legalize adult-use marijuana.
Earlier this year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been optimistic that recreational cannabis sales would be up and running as soon as July 1; however, progress for the bill had been delayed by controversy, opposition from conservative legislators and anti-cannabis advocates, and a flurry of last-minute amendments, until today’s scheduled vote.
Once the bill is approved, it could be as little as 10-12 weeks until retail sales commence. Provincial, territorial, and municipal governments in Canada will also be required to adopt and implement new policies and regulations, to accommodate the adult-use market on the local level.
The Senate vote is taking place as leaders from the G7–Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States–are scheduled to gather on Friday and Saturday in Charlevoix, Quebec, for a summit. U.S. President Donald Trump has recently imposed import tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico.
President Trump so far has been silent on cannabis or the issue of rescheduling marijuana so that it is no longer classified and federally prohibited as a Schedule I narcotic in the U.S., though nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medicinal and recreational use.
With legalization in Canada, industry leaders and investors will be eager to watch developments unfold. Some Canadian cannabis companies, like Aurora Cannabis and Canopy Growth, are already setting billion dollar valuations with investors trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and rapidly expanding into global markets.
While in California, a legal state that boasts the fifth largest economy in the world (Canada comes in at 12th), federal prohibition has impeded progress for the state’s cannabis companies eager to establish a recognized, potentially global footprint for their products and brands. Two leading California cannabis retail brands recently announced partnerships with Canadian businesses, to take their products into legal greener pastures.
California-based Lowell Herb Company announced yesterday it has entered into a distribution agreement with Vancouver B.C.-based Namaste Technologies Inc. Under the terms of the agreement, Namaste will produce and supply Lowell-branded cannabis products in Canada.
“We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Namaste,” President and Chief Executive Officer of Lowell Herb Company David Elias said in a press release. “Lowell Herb Company is the fastest growing cannabis brand in California, and we believe that there is a massive opportunity for our brand internationally. Working with Namaste, we are confident that they are the perfect partners to help us enter the Canadian market. They have a unique offering, and they are solid operators with deep domain expertise in e-commerce.”
In late May, retail cannabis store chain Los Angeles-based MedMen announced the company’s listing on the Canadian Securities Exchange, under the ticker symbol MMEN. Though MedMen is barred from trading in major U.S. exchanges due to prohibition, its listing on the CSE was facilitated through the reverse takeover of a publicly-traded Canadian company.
“Our listing on the CSE will give MedMen greater flexibility in accessing capital in the public equity markets to leverage our first-mover advantage and to build upon our track record of growth,” said MedMen co-founder and CEO Adam Bierman in a press release. “At the same time, it will provide global investors an opportunity to invest in the preeminent cannabis company in the U.S. for the first time ever.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001.