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Canada seized 'the entire cannabis business’: Rock legend David Crosby on toking, Trudeau and the pot trade

  • Crosby in talks for marijuana brand
  • Markets at a glance
  • RBC boosts dividend, profit rises
  • Guide to emerging markets turmoil
  • Retail sales dip
  • Target sales top forecasts

David Crosby

MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS

David Crosby couldn’t possibly sound more passionate about Canada and its decision to legalize marijuana.

Indeed, to twist the title of one of the rock legend’s well-known songs, this moment has been a long time coming.

“I think Canadians could congratulate themselves for having a country that was smart enough to wind up being where all the marijuana companies are based,” said Mr. Crosby, who rose to fame in the sixties as a founder of The Byrds and then Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

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In fact, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer said in a telephone interview, Canada was smart enough to walk off with "the entire cannabis business” in the run-up to legal marijuana in October.

Mr. Crosby, a connoisseur of cannabis who enjoys consuming and growing it, wants to link his name to a brand. He and business associate Steven Sponder are in talks with companies aimed at a “top-quality” offering they’d like to see branded “Mighty Croz," based on what his friends call him.

He wouldn’t be the first. Willie Nelson has a brand, members of The Tragically Hip have business interests, and Gene Simmons of Kiss linked up with a marijuana firm, as well.

But Mr. Crosby may well be the most expressive:

“Getting high is fun. I like it. I enjoy it. I like it for music. I like it for sex. I like it for going to the museum. I like it for a whole lot of stuff. I approve. So I have no problem trying to aid some company in selling marijuana products to the world."

Mr. Crosby and Mr. Sponder didn’t disclose the interested companies, but Mr. Sponder said all are publicly traded in Canada.

“We’re talking to all the major Canadian-based cannabis companies and, you know, we want them to call it Mighty Croz, but they can do what they want, as long as the product is top quality,” Mr. Sponder added.

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Donald Belovich of Stikeman Elliott LLP, Mr. Crosby’s lawyer on the effort, said the team is “flexible” as to the terms of a deal. It could, for example, include an upfront payment, plus royalties and stock.

“Things are going well,” he said, noting, as did Mr. Crosby, that they’re looking for a long-term player that won’t be swallowed in the inevitable consolidation of the industry. And, for that matter, one that shares the musician’s values.

“David’s taking the cautious approach to try to pick the winner,” said Mr. Belovich, who has worked on cannabis deals for about five years.

Mr. Crosby came to Mr. Belovich via one of the Stikeman lawyer’s colleagues, an American attorney. Given different laws, and how Canada is a leader in the young market, “it made sense for us to take the lead on it," Mr. Belovich said.

Mr. Crosby has never before been behind an endorsement.

And while Canada will restrict celebrity endorsements of marijuana, that doesn’t mean Mr. Crosby still can’t be behind a brand.

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“So the name ‘Mighty Croz,’ without specifically using the name ‘David Crosby’ on the packaging in Canada, may be how it is branded there by the licensor,” Mr. Sponder said.

“We will leave that up to the licensor so long as they comply with the laws,” he added.

“Also, the Canadian-based companies we are speaking with talk about how much of their sales will occur outside of Canada – so the savvy companies are not letting Canada’s celebrity-branding restriction stop them from getting involved with a celebrity in a way that is legal – and can add awareness to their company and product.”

Mr. Belovich agreed, noting that the rules will mature with the market. And while a company might be based in Canada, its reach will go further, to regions whose laws may differ.

“It’s really a global brand. As is David.”

Crosby Stills Nash and Young, on tour in 1974

Joel Bernstein

Mr. Crosby let loose on a number of subjects in the interview, just before he left on a European tour:

ON HEALTH

Remember, Mr. Crosby was once addicted to cocaine, and now has a lot to say about the effects of certain drugs and alcohol on the body.

“The human race has always liked to get high on something. And of the available things for them to do that with, I think this is the absolute best, head and shoulders above the crowd. Most of the rest of the ways there are to get loaded are not good for you. Booze is not good for you. Beer isn’t that bad, wine isn’t that bad, but hard booze definitely does real damage. And then there are all the other ones. You know, all the pharmaceuticals do horrible stuff to you, and the serious hard drugs do even worse stuff to you. So really the only thing I know that you can do that gets you high that doesn’t do any harm to you is herb, is weed.”

ON ILLEGALITY

“I knew people who were in jail, I’ve met people who were in jail for just a couple of joints, and they were there for, like, three years, in Texas, and it just wasn’t fair or, you know, proportionate or right at all. So I really like it being legal, and I want to reinforce that to the degree that I can.”

ON CANADA, TRUDEAU AND TRUMP

“All the [industry] money is in Canada. It’s why all the companies are in Canada, because America is three steps behind, because we have a terrible government right now, and you have a great one. It’s that simple. A really good government, led by a really good guy. We have a really bad government led by a really terrible guy. But all the posturing and posing by politicians isn’t going to mean doodly.”

It won’t mean doodly because basic economics will dictate. He cited U.S. states that have also legalized marijuana as examples.

ON THE MIGHTY CROZ BRAND

“Somebody called me that one time, and it sort of stuck among my friends as one of the ways to mock me. I’ve found that the best way to deal with a big ego is to make fun of it. That’s really the only healthy thing I can do with it, and so I try to make fun of myself whenever I can. Mighty Croz is me making fun of myself.”

Mr. Crosby believes marijuana should be legal, and “I want to reinforce that to the degree that I can.”

So is he not in it for the money, just his goal of helping to push for legal marijuana?

“I’m in it for the money, too. … As I get older, I’m going to be able to tour less.”

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Markets at a glance

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RBC boosts dividend

Royal Bank of Canada boosted its dividend as it posted a gain in third-quarter profit to $3.1-billion, or $2.10 a share.

The bank increased its quarterly dividend by 4 cents to 98 cents.

Return on equity came in at 17.3 per cent, up a percentage point, RBC said.

Its profit was driven by strength in its personal and commercial banking and wealth management units, RBC added, noting that “this quarter’s strong performance also reflects relatively stable credit quality.”

Analyst Gabriel Dechaine of National Bank Financial described it as a “good quarter weighed down by initiative spending."

He rates RBC stock as “outperform,” with a target price of $109.

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Who’s next?

Emerging markets have been battered as a the financial crisis unfolds in Turkey, forcing investors to cast a critical eye on other countries with less-than-pristine balance sheets and loads of U.S. dollar debt.

The Globe’s Matt Lundy looks at who’s vulnerable.

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Retail sales dip

Canadian retailers suffered a down month in June, with sales slipping 0.2 per cent.

If you strip out price changes, sales declined 0.3 per cent, Statistics Canada said today, pushed down by autos and gas.

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