Waiting for the smoke to clear…
Cannabis goes corporate
Inside the Convention Centre, it’s a curious clash of corporate and cannabis culture.
Men in slick business suits mingle with dreadlocked, earthen hippie types on the sleek showroom floor, perusing displays and exchanging business cards.
According to Whistler’s Patrick Smyth, that corporatization is one of the most notable changes in the industry in recent years.
Smyth recalled the scene at another cannabis convention as recently as 2014.
“I couldn’t deal with it, because everybody was stoned, so you start having a conversation with somebody and they’re like, ‘Well, what?'” Smyth says.
“Fast forward, it’s all business.”
Smyth has been in the cannabis game since 2013, when he ran into old friend and Olympic Gold medallist Ross Rebagliati while snowboarding in Whistler.
Rebagliati was famously stripped of his gold medal—the first to be awarded for snowboarding—at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano for testing positive for cannabis (the medal was soon returned, as cannabis wasn’t actually on the International Olympic Committee’s list of banned substances).
With new laws around medical marijuana and Smyth’s background in marketing and startups, it wasn’t long before the pair were discussing potential business opportunities.
“I said to Ross … ‘Let’s have a beer, and let me think about it. Give me a couple weeks,'” Smyth recalls.
“Basically I left him there, and by the time I was at Creekside, I called him and said ‘Yeah, we should do something.'”
The result was Ross’ Gold—now an international brand of cannabis products with more than 100 retail locations across Canada.
At the Lift Expo, the Ross’ Gold booth is one of the most-visited attractions, with Rebagliati himself onhand to meet and greet thousands—Olympic gold medal and all.
“Legalization’s going to be the catalyst, basically, for Ross’ Gold to really see its full potential,” Rebagliati says between handshakes. “What we wanted to do with the company five years ago was to be an all-encompassing cannabis company, so vertically integrated—we wanted to have our hands in the production side of things, we wanted to have our hands in the retail end of it. Seed-to-sale was our basic model to start off with.”
Under Rebagliati and Smyth’s new brand—Legacy by Ross Rebagliati—the full scope of that vision is starting to come into focus.
“Legacy is all the ancillary products that you need for growing, and even stuff that’s close to cannabis, like coffee,” Rebagliati says.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got the Ross’ Gold cannabis products, and you’ve got your Legacy growing products.”
Legalization will present broad new business opportunities for entrepreneurs province-wide, with some going so far as to call it B.C.’s new Gold Rush.
But with so much left to be determined, it’s tough to say at this point exactly who stands to cash in.