Marijuana in Canada is moving from the black market to big business and both new and existing organizations are looking to capitalize on the new industry.
In a ruling on February 24, the Ontario Superior Court struck down a provision in Canadian drug laws that prevented those individuals prescribed marijuana from growing their own plants. The government now has six months to amend the law or the court’s ruling will stand. This adds another layer of competition to an increasingly tight market.
We’ve pulled the responses to this ruling from three industry players to highlight how different communication professionals respond a single ruling.
If weed is legalized there could be as many as 8 million customers overnight creating a market opportunity worth billions of dollars. To date there are more than 50,000 Canadians legally prescribed marijuana and that number is estimated to grow to more than 450,000 by 2020 so it’s clear why business are jockeying for a lead position in this market.
What’s interesting is how each plays to its own interests while working to persuade the public or demonstrate authority. Here’s the message coming from each camp:
1. Licensed Producers (LPs) – We’re in it for the consumer
In Canada there are 30 licensed producers growing medical marijuana. Those with prescriptions for medical cannabis can buy products directly from these producers. The government set the bar high for these businesses requiring strict security and product standards including ventilation requirements, cameras, fencing and potency levels.
On company Bedrocan, an international medical cannabis producer that operates in seven countries, said in a press statement on February 25 that it doesn’t expect the Ontario Court ruling to affect business negatively. Instead, the ruling could push the government to mandate that the insurance industry cover medical marijuana as it would any other medicine, which currently is not the case.
“Licensed producers like Tweed and Bedrocan Canada offer people a convenient option and a product of unrivalled quality at exceptionally affordable pricing compared to the illicit market. Even under the injunction, many people that grew their own cannabis under the MMAR [The Marihuana Medical Access Regulations] have chosen Tweed, Bedrocan Canada and other LPs because it is simple, affordable, and safe,” the release stated.
Bedrocan is positioning itself as an industry heavyweight with messaging about how it will maintain low prices, despite regulation changes, while still keeping the same production volume. It’s goal is for medical cannabis products to be viewed as medicine and therefore insurable.
2. Pharmacies – You trust us with other drugs, why not pot?
On February 24, the day of the court ruling, Shoppers Drug Mart expressed its interest in being a vendor for medical cannabis. It argues that if Canadians trust pharmacists, and therefore drug stores, for their other prescriptions, why not medical marijuana?
In a CBC article Shoppers Drug Mart’s spokeswoman Lana Gogas stated that dispensing medical marijuana through a pharmacy would naturally be the best option. John Tse, Vice President of London Drugs, agrees saying that pharmacists could help guide people to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Pharmacies are the incumbent brands. This appeal is based on that incumbency being appropriately leveraged through the long-standing relationships with consumers.
Ontario’s Government – We can regulate and monetize this for your benefit.
Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne would prefer marijuana it be sold through the province’s Liquor Control Board (LCBO), which holds a monopoly on the distribution of wine and spirits. By using a provincial liquor store system as the distribution vehicle for marijuana the government argues, it could control the cost of the product and streamline tax collection.
Having the Premier lead the discussion speaks to the political nature of the ongoing discussions on legalization. The message is the government will control and regulate the industry.