Power 50: Ganjapreneurs
The Power 50 is a collection of Canada’s top people, places and things of 2016. Our list is filled with game changers from all corners of the nation that are inspiring, innovating and influencing the way we live and work from the top. Giving you the best from every city, industry, office and home, The Bull’s Canadian Power 50 is not your typical list and instead is the definitive guide to who and what is changing the way Canada lives, works and plays.
Unless you’ve been too consumed in a thick, purple haze of the good stuff yourself—Island Sweet Skunk? Blueberry? M-39?—it’s likely you’ve been following the headlines enough to observe that Canada currently finds itself in a new weed landscape. A semi-legal one, with legislation to be introduced next spring that aims to modernize the Canadian approach to drug policy. And to capitalize on the new rules, the country has been at the forefront of a budding (so to speak) entrepreneurial movement within the cannabis industry. One where the classic criminal grow houses which operate in the shadows have been largely undercut by sophisticated, big business enterprises running smack dab in the centre of the public eye.
APHRIA: Aphria is a leading licensed marijuana producer in the Great White North offering what it dubs as the greenhouse advantage. They credit this to their facility being located in Canada’s southernmost point—Leamington, Ontario—where Aphria has the advantage of one of the longest growing seasons in the country, plus it’s home to the largest concentration of greenhouses nationwide. This means the operation is perfectly situated to cultivate products that benefit from the many advantages of natural light. Founded by two agri-business experts, this greenhouse advantage is just one of the many creative ways Aphria has implemented to improve efficiency and keep operating costs down. Here’s another: instead of buying fertilizer, Aphria purchases root chemicals like potassium sulphate and ammonium nitrate to make their own. The result? Their fertilizer costs only half-a-cent per litre, just 1% of their growing costs.
AURORA CANNABIS: Named to instill a sense of nature, Aurora Cannabis was the first Alberta producer to receive a federal licence and to construct a facility solely for the production of medicinal marijuana. The operation believes legal medical marijuana shouldn’t be costly, unreliable, or confusing to access. In turn, their award-winning support staff, culture-minded cultivators, laboratory-tested products, affordable pricing, and network of cannabis educated doctors promise to help remove barriers to access. Having the CFO of the federal Liberal party certainly doesn’t hurt, which Aurora Cannabis can proudly lay claim to in Director Chuck Rifici. Their numbers are nothing to cough at either. Listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange with a share price of $.054 and a market cap of $73.8 million, Aurora Cannabis operates with an annual capacity of 5,400 kilograms. That’s a lot of dope.
MEDRELEAF: A distributor of medical cannabis that operates from a state-of-the-art 55,000 sq ft facility in Ontario, MedReleaf have assembled a seed library of over 250 varieties representing strains from across the globe, which they price from $2.50 to $15 per gram. Through over 20 ongoing investigative research initiatives, an extensive plant breeding program, and regular patient monitoring and data analysis, MedReleaf say they’re focused on accelerating the public’s understanding of the numerous potential benefits of medical cannabis, as well as on validating new treatment options for patients. CEO Neil Closner and COO Tom Flow are also closely allied with Tikun Olam, an Israeli med-pot supplier.
METTRUM HEALTH: The first Ontario company licensed under the new regulations, Mettrum offers wide variety of cannabis to eligible clients in Canada and they use high standards of quality to meet Health Canada regulations. The company itself blends an interesting mix of business and weed experience. On one end, CEO Michael Haines once sold Blammo Games, which developed a number of highly profitable mobile games. On the other, co-founders (and growers) Lucas Escott and Greg Herriott got their starts legally growing medical marijuana and producing hemp under the Hempola umbrella respectively. With a customer base of over 2,000 users, their revenue in the last quarter was $1.7 Million.
TWEED: Established to supply an unmatched selection of premium marijuana, Tweed is a Canadian venture with operations in Smiths Falls, Ontario. The company and their sister operation, Tweed Farms, are wholly owned subsidiaries of Canopy Growth Corporation, traded on the TSX Venture Exchange. If the Tweed name sounds familiar, it’s because you might have seen them in the news lately. Earlier this year, the mass pot producer teamed up with grass posterboy himself, Snoop Dogg, in a deal which will grant the company exclusive rights to content owned by the rapper's company, LBC Holdings. In exchange, Tweed is set to pay Snoop Dogg an undisclosed amount in cash and stock.
As the country lights up in celebration, there are still some blazing implications to consider in Canada’s pot decriminalization. For starters, it’s still too early to say how much the government will make from it. Colorado is perhaps Canada’s closest comparable in this new market and they collected an estimated $125 million in taxes and licence fees in 2015. But then again, Colorado has one-seventh the population of Canada. It’s also unclear whether pot will be subject to the escalating taxes our other legal indulgences are. In Colorado, recreational users pay a 12.9% tax, whereas medicinal users pay only 2.9%. New Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged reasonable taxes—a preemptive strike against resorting to the black market—which means Canadians could expect to pay similar prices to what they already do from dealers. Trudeau has promised this money will go to addiction and drug education programs, with a commitment to mental health as well. This would be a welcome shift from the typical federal treasury. The real question is whether the government can continue resist getting rich off you getting high. Because whether it’s money or weed, green can be a blinding colour.