June 28, 2013 - 8:00 AM
“WE’RE IN A POSITION, SAY, JACK DANIELS WAS IN A YEAR OR TWO BEFORE THEY LIFTED PROHIBITION”
This is the last of a five-part series on changes in the marijuana industry. Lots of people have been waiting for Health Canada to finally come up with a workable plan for the medical marijuana industry going forward: Patients, growers—and business. Entrepreneurs eye medical marijuana as the "thin edge of the wedge" that may one day legitimize recreational marijuana and they want to be in the right place at the right time.
Also in the series:
Canada unveils another new era for medical marijuana
Doctors the lynch-pin for marijuana access
Pot farmers driven back underground following new regulations
A user's tale: Marijuana for medicine, lifestyle
Ross Rebagliati believes legalization of marijuana is in sight, and he’s poised to turn a profit on it.
Rebagliati is perhaps best known for his Olympic gold medal win for men’s snowboarding in 1998, and the drug test that nearly stripped him of it. Rebagliati was found to have Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), pot, in his system. While the decision to disqualify him was ultimately overturned, it made his name synonymous with marijuana and now he aims to capitalize on it.
For Rebagliati, Health Canada's move away from residential grow-ops and medical marijuana licenses to commercial cannabis factories and regular drug prescriptions is great news. Essentially, Health Canada is getting out of the medical marijuana business, instead opening production and distribution up to private companies. His company, Rebagliati Gold Enterprises Ltd., plans to establish Ross's Gold storefronts housing on-staff doctors, nurse practitioners, marijuana merchandise, a coffee bar, vapour lounge, and some day a selection of marijuana. The vision: A one-stop-shop for marijuana.
“It’s definitely a huge business opportunity—maybe the biggest I’ll ever come across, or maybe that anyone will come across,” Rebagliati says. “We’re in a position, say, Jack Daniels was in a year or two before they lifted prohibition; we’re pretty excited to be in at this point. “
But not so fast. Rebagliati knows he must keep well above the law, and Health Canada doesn't see stores selling marijuana over the counter. But the dream is far from forgotten. The company strongly believes the laws will change, but for now, they will merely help people get prescriptions and refer people to licensed producers who will then ship the product directly to them.
While stores may be limited to selling bongs, pipes and paraphernalia, his goal is to own the brand. Rebagliati believes the privatization of medical marijuana will eventually lead to legalization of the non-medical stuff too.
“I’ve been using cannabis for 20 years,” Rebagliati says. “All these years, everyone’s been saying the same thing, (that) it’s ridiculous for it to be illegal. As far as a dream coming true, yeah, this is what everyone’s been waiting for, for a really long time.”
STAYING LEGAL IN CHANGING TIMES
His business plans have changed with every zig and zag by Health Canada. When the government changed marijuana production guidelines, he saw another opening and plans to become a licensed medical marijuana producer in coming years, offering their own product to patients. If, or when as Rebagliati likes to believe, marijuana is legalized, the company would have the opportunity to become a licensed government supplier for the general public.
He says the business model would parallel the alcohol industry, in more than just the obvious ways. Like wine, Rebagliati says pot can be paired with food. “It gives you the munchies, it’s a great way to experience a meal,” he says.
The stores would have the products of your average head shop, but with a more sophisticated atmosphere. He says things like wine tours, restaurants, all-inclusive packages and activities could be applied to the marijuana industry. “It’s going to be a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada, the U.S. and around the world,” he says. “We’re going to see a whole growth of the industry, which exists already, but hasn’t been brought into mainstream acceptance. “
He says the company has been capitalizing on the general trend of acceptance over the past few years in Canada, and beyond. Seeing the American states of Washington and Colorado legalize marijuana has only confirmed his belief that the times are finally changing.
“People are just more open-minded than they were before,” he says. “We’ll be positioning ourselves to take advantage of the current situation and to be ready for the future.”
He expects the competition to be fierce, but says his company will have the advantage by having its foot in the door early on.
But it’s not all about the money. It’s about a major triumph in the battle to legitimize marijuana, like alcohol was before it.
“When we do go completely legal, for us to say we were there before, trying to force the industry ahead in Canada as a model for other countries, is an honour, quite frankly,” Rebagliati says.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call (250)309-5230. Follow on Twitter @charhelston
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013