Will America Sit Idle as Canada Conquers the Weed World?

Entrepreneurs to the north are already going multinational. Go USA?

Canadian weed producer Tilray announced last week that it will export cannabis extracts to the Eastern European country of Croatia. Croatia legalized medical marijuana last year, and the Canadian pot producers, based on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, have been quick to seize upon the international opportunity.

Health Canada (the governmental department responsible for national public health) has granted Tilray a permit to sell its products abroad. The company plans to package its Croatia-bound goods in capsules of two strengths: The stronger dosage will contain 5.0 mg of THC and 5.0 mg of CBD. The lightweight’s cap is set to deliver 2.5 mg of THC and 2.0 mg of CBD.

Image via Tilray

Brendan Kennedy, president of Tilray and chief executive officer of U.S.-based equity firm Privateer Holdings, claims that Tilray will also be sending medical-grade weed to Australia (soon) for clinical trials, and that Tilray is the first Canadian weed company to begin supplying a global demand. Both of these boasts are more than any American cannabis producer can say.

Kennedy characterizes Europe as a “growth opportunity” and claims that Tilray will reveal more plans for coming European partnerships in months ahead, a course of market expansion that no American growers or marketers are in a position to challenge.

Canadian cannabis revenues could catapult ahead of all other competitors in North America. Which, of course, the United States is the only one.

A recent Los Angeles Times analysis warned that, “Canada is poised to become North America's new cannabis capital.” Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001, the Times notes, observing that the vast land to the north is moving toward nationwide legalization. Canada’s proposed distribution model would see medical weed dispensed from pharmacies, and recreational pot sold in liquor stores, which are all government run.

Currently, there are zero legal marijuana dispensaries in Canada. Putting weed on the shelves at state-run liquor outlets is expected to expand product diffusion exponentially. This impending mass availability, and marketing without borders, and a banking system that welcomes weed dollars, leads the Times to believe that Canadian cannabis revenues could catapult ahead of all other competitors in North America. Which, of course, the United States is the only one.

Up until now, the Canadian legal pot business has been vastly outpaced by America’s. Canada, with fewer than 30 licensed weed producers and a disappointing consumer base, is pulling in a mere $150 million in annual weed sales across the entire country. In the U.S., sales are at $4.3 billion, even though only half the U.S. states have some form of legal-marijuana availability. Plus, that availability is tightly circumscribed in several jurisdictions. On top of which, secure banking services are available to marijuana businesses in exactly no states.

Image via Shango

If the USA’s $4.3 billion in regulated weed sales shows anything, it’s that Americans are lining up at dispensary shelves with a dutiful fervor that is sadly lacking in the Canadian general populace.

“The patient numbers overall are lower than we imagined in Canada,” Tilray’s Kennedy told CTV News. “They’re certainly lower than Health Canada’s own projections. That incentivized us to look at other potential markets for this product.”

In other words, a limited home market has driven Canada’s cannabis industry to global expansion. In doing so, it has posed a direct threat to American exceptionalism. Maybe this attack on our great country's free-world, free-market, capitalist superiority is exactly the incentive the USA needs to marshall its weed resources and launch a national plan for world dominance in the marijuana market.

In what may be the most important international competition since the space race of the 1960s, the Canadians have put us in the position of playing catch up. The best way to do that is to start as soon as possible.