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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.


A marijuana grow room at Canopy Growths Tweed facility in Smiths Falls, Ontario.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Regulatory

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.

Health Canada's licence overhaul: key takeaways

New edibles rules pose challenge for food makers

Rules for cannabis edibles could advantage white label production

Micro madness: How B.C.'s craft cannabis industry is losing out on legalization


Macro trends in the industry

The Canadian Press

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.

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All dried up: How Bay Street cashed in on the cannabis frenzy before the carnage

Worries mount for pot sector after Canopy, Aurora suffer massive losses

Opinion: Cannabis sales and supply are booming, but obstacles remain

Canada is a tale of two cannabis shortages


Deals

A Couche Tard convenience store; in July, the company invested in retailer Fire & Flower.

The Canadian Press

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.

Canopy pays $300-million to secure right to buy Acreage Holdings

Couche-Tarde to buy controlling stake in cannabis retailer Fire and Flower

Ace Valley and MediPharm partner on vaporizers, in early white-label deal


Customers shop for cannabis a retail store in Ontario.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Retail

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.

New Brunswick to vacate pot business, seeks one company to do it all

Ontario government to open up cannabis retail system, scrap lottery

Large retailers scrambling to seek winners of Ontario cannabis lottery

Alberta retailers’ growing pains could foreshadow Ontario cannabis scene

Flurry of Alberta retail licences spurs deeper concerns about supply


Zingers

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.

Losses, rising tensions led to Bruce Linton’s firing as co-CEO at Canopy Growth

CannTrust chairman, CEO were informed in November of unlicensed cannabis growing, e-mails show

CannTrust allegedly used fake walls to hide pot from Health Canada

Cannabis, crypto and connections: Wayland Group's shifting fortunes

Once-promising cannabis producer Wayland files for bankruptcy protection

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