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by Eric Vengroff, Financial Analyst, Cannabis Daily
1. (in the fictional word of the cartoon, TV, and film character Superman) an alien mineral that has the property of depriving Superman of his powers.
1.1 Something that can seriously weaken or harm a particular person or thing.
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary)
It was a classic hot and humid Canada Day long weekend, so I spent a couple of hours lounging in air-conditioned comfort in front of the television, like us old folks are known to do. As I sat, beer in hand, watching commercials for various alcoholic beverages that typically run during sports broadcasts, I reflected that marijuana producers and retailers looking to promote their products will not be afforded the same privilege of being allowed to advertise on television -or virtually anywhere else for that matter. As Canada moves towards legalized sale and consumption of marijuana, some of these restrictions on the sales, handling, display and distribution of not only the dried cannabis, but also the accessories may prove difficult and problematic for those looking to gain awareness and customers.
What is cannabis anyway? It is an annual flowering plant indigenous to eastern Asia but grown and cultivated actively around the world since recorded time. It’s been used for hundreds of generations in fibre, seed oil, food, religious ceremonies, mood elevation and medicine, and was given its scientific name in the 18th century. But what is it? Houseplant, stimulant, intoxicant, drug (prescription, wonder, or gateway), public nuisance, road safety hazard, or a sign of the impending apocalypse?
In Canada, at least from a regulatory point of view, the die is cast. It’s being treated as another form of tobacco. Normally, you wouldn’t need a prescription for tobacco (although I heard at one time it was a thing), and it isn’t even sold in most pharmacies these days, but medicinal use of cannabis is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and will persist under the act– so there you go.
With properties, psychoactive effects and virtues not entirely dissimilar to alcohol (and often used in the same social settings), treating pot like booze would seem natural. Efforts to create a device, like an alcohol breathalyzer, that can detect blood intoxication by cannabis are actively underway. As a dried plant, often consumed in the same form as tobacco, cannabis would appear to a ‘cross-over’ product, and one that may be worthy of its own unique classification. For right now, in Canada, it’s tobacco to the business community, and will be sold to the public as such.
Tobacco is also an ancient plant – indigenous to the Americas, its use in ceremonial and religious observances goes back centuries. But its toxic health effects were only discovered in the mid-20th century, and its use subsequently discouraged variously by governments, health authorities, and private advocates ever since. According to Ash.org, 23% of tobacco smokers are aged 16-24, and 24% between 25-34. By comparison, consumption of cannabis in Canada breaks down like this:
The health of “young persons”, as defined by the Act as either between the ages of 12-18, or just someone under 18, is the number one priority of this legislation. The others are, in order:
- to reduce/deter illicit activities in relation to cannabis;
- reduce the burden on the criminal justice system as it relates to cannabis;
- provide access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis; and
- enhance public awareness of the health risks (and not the potential benefits, BTW) associated with cannabis use.
With 49% of pot smokers under the age of 34, and many of those ‘young people’, already obtaining their stash through illicit channels, how on earth will the Canadian government’s policies and regulations address the stated objective, much less the secondary ones? Will the new system of pot-related offences be sufficient for the youth to abandon or delay their consumption until they reach the age of majority? The risks of getting the access, promotion and merchandising issues wrong, are potentially huge, and have been pointed out by many experts much more learned on this topic than I am.
Experts have stated only through education (fortunately the Act will permit this, on some basis to be clarified with additional rules) will the stigma and the guilt be eliminated, allowing knowledge and consumerism to seep in.
A student of business or mathematics may not see the problem at the top of the chart above, but rather the opportunity on the bottom of it. The 50+, whose numbers in absolute terms dwarf the other demographics, even with the numbers that have died off already. They will want and need cannabis, in all its various forms, for depression, anxiety about aging and death, cancer treatments, pain relief, sleep, and so much else. Of those that consumed in their younger days, they may only remember product that was 20% seeds, 20% stems, 10% mud and 50% smokeable. Most likely don’t know about the potential pain relief benefits of things like CBD oil and so on. There is so much to show them.
As law-abiding seniors, the older cohorts may want to stay within a rules-based system rather than risk all the new and exotic ways they can be arrested. But if they can’t see, smell or interact with the product in any way that was familiar to them, this grand expedition that Canada is embarking upon could go up in smoke.
The information and opinions presented here are that of the analyst and do not represent the thoughts and opinions of this website. The analyst does not own or represent any of the companies listed in this article and receives no compensation from any party mentioned in this article. Readers are urged to do their own research and due diligence and should seek advice from an independent financial advisor before making any financial investment.