Rolling into the new year like…

Canna-curious named Word of the Year

If you recall one of JADEO’s most popular holiday gift guides last season was thoughtfully curated for the canna-curious. That’s right: a quick Google search returns tens of thousands of mentions of the new buzzword. The word is so buzzworthy in fact that Civilized, an online lifestyle magazine with an emphasis on cannabis culture, named it “word of the year”: “Canna-curious is a word that truly captures the spirit of the year,” says Derek Riedle, Civilized’s publisher. “As legalization takes hold, the doors have opened up to a whole new tribe of people who are making their own decisions based on facts, not fiction. They’re smart, sophisticated and doing their research because they want to do it right. That kind of informed curiosity is what’s driving the market right now. Culture and conversations evolve rapidly, and the canna-curious are leading the pack.”

Ontario Lottery has the industry abuzz

Months after saying it would not cap the number of licenses for retail pot shops after cannabis was legalized, the PC government reversed course in December, saying it will now only be able to issue 25 licenses by April. Toronto will only get five of the 25 licences for storefronts, according to the province, with the lottery happening on January 11.

The lottery system has shaken the hopes of many and spawned a flood of responses for entrepreneurs wanting to run their own dispensary. In an interview with the CBC, Abi Roach, who has operated her cannabis lounge in Toronto's Kensington Market for nearly 20 years expressed her view: "The reality is, now every Tom, Dick, and Harry can throw $75 and their name in a ring — and there are people ready and preparing for the process for a very long time, and now we're on the same par."

The lottery opened January 7th and will be taking applications until noon on Wednesday, January 9th. The draw for the licenses will take place on Friday, January 11th, with the results expected to be announced within 24 hours. There is a $75 fee to submit an expression of interest and those selected through the lottery will have five business days to turn in their application along with a $6,000 non-refundable fee and a $50,000 letter of credit.

Toronto Black Market Storefronts still in Operation

CBC just published a report covering how more than a dozen illegal cannabis stores still operating in Toronto, but closing them would require a 'complex process.' The last publicized crackdown from bylaw officers and police happened on October 19, since then a reported 12 illegal dispensaries remain in operation in downtown Toronto.

City of Toronto Councillor Jim Karygiannis said the city is simply in a "tough position" thanks to the change in approach to legalization between the prior Liberal and current PC provincial governments. The Liberals had planned to open 40 government-run retail cannabis shops by the summer of 2018, with the network of stores to expand to 150 by 2020. That small number of licenses won't meet the user demand, said Karygiannis, who also backs shutting down the remaining illegal storefronts.

At present, many Torontonians are appreciating the convenience and don’t want to see the dispensaries close. "We're going to miss having this kind of place," said Francisco Franv, a regular customer of CAFE, a cannabis cafe near Harbord Street and Spadina Avenue.

Vancouver’s first Licensed Cannabis Stores just Opened

Almost three months after recreational pot was legalized in Canada, two legal cannabis stores have finally opened up in Vancouver. Although it was widely reported that Kitsilano’s Evergreen Cannabis store would be the first legal pot shop to open in Vancouver, City Cannabis Co.‘s Fraser Street location reportedly opened on Friday night, ahead of Evergreen Cannabis Society’s planned Saturday opening.

As of Jan. 4, the B.C. government says it has received 102 paid applications for cannabis licenses in Greater Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast. Of those, three licenses have been issued.

Big Beverage Companies are joining forces with LPs

Just before Christmas, Tilray, based on Vancouver Island, announced a research partnership with Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev into non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages. Each company will invest up to $50 million in the partnership, which is limited to Canada.

“Labatt is committed to staying ahead of emerging consumer trends. We intend to develop a deeper understanding of non-alcohol beverages containing THC and CBD that will guide future decisions about potential commercial opportunities,” said Kyle Norrington, President, Labatt Breweries of Canada, in a press release.
Tilray and AB InBev had been in talks for a year, making the deal potentially one of the best-kept secrets in the rumour-saturated marijuana industry, CEO Brendan Kennedy said in a phone interview with Bloomberg News. Unlike the Constellation and Altria deals, both of which include the option to take majority control in the future, Tilray wanted to remain independent, said Chief Executive Officer Brendan Kennedy. “We want to control our own destiny,” he said. “We haven’t sold our company to anyone, we’re not looking to get bought or acquired. The one core focus will be creating beverages that we think will delight consumers,” Kennedy said.