From the CannTrust scandal, to basic challenges with supply, and a patchwork roll-out of retail stores: the first full 12 months of Canada’s legal cannabis industry was a busy one. Cannabis Professional reflects on the most essential stories that defined the past year.
This was a big year for changes to the rules governing legal cannabis in Canada. Beyond the obvious (though nonetheless intense) focus on regulations for cannabis-infused foods, drinks and vapes, Health Canada also overhauled its entire licensing regime and introduced a new class of license (micro-cultivation) designed to allow for smaller players to enter the space. Regulators made the micro-cultivation path even more challenging later in 2019, however, by requiring a fully built facility to be completed before an application could even be submitted.
Macro trends in the industry
Legal cannabis supplies seemed to fluctuate in 2019 almost as much as the valuations of publicly-traded cannabis companies. The slow and steady improvement in the recreational pot supply chain and the rapid decline in pot stocks easily represent the two most dominant trends that shaped the sector in 2019.
There was nothing quite like Constellation Brands buying a controlling stake in Canopy Growth, though Canopy’s multibillion-dollar offer for the right to buy U.S.-based Acreage came close. A number of other interesting deals were struck in 2019 that will help define what cannabis deal making in 2020 might look like.
Whether or not Canadians were able to physically purchase recreational cannabis very much depended on their province of residence. Alberta was the clear winner in the race to open pot stores with more than 300 across Wild Rise Country by the end of 2019 and Ontario flip-flopped between an open market akin to Alberta’s and a so-called “phased approach” that spawned a widely criticized lottery system. Not to be outdone, New Brunswick also played a major role in the cannabis retail story of 2019 by putting its entire government-owned retail chain up for sale to a single buyer.
Some of the biggest cannabis stories of 2019 also came as the biggest surprises. From CannTrust getting caught growing in unlicensed rooms to Bruce Linton being shown the door at Canopy and the fracas surrounding the slow death of the Wayland Group, these are the top zingers of the past 12 months.