Cannabis could light up retail

Leading investors gathered at the Mayfair Hotel last week to listen to Cam Battley, chief corporate officer at Canadian firm Aurora Cannabis, wax lyrical about the marijuana industry’s vast potential. Make no mistake, this is going to become a large, global industry, bigger than global brewing,” he said. And I’ll tell you why. Beer has no legitimate medical applications, no matter what we tell ourselves on a Friday evening.”

He makes an interesting point. Various studies have suggested that moderate drinkers live longer than teetotallers, but there is no concrete science underpinning this. Instead the alcohol industry is under attack from a well-mobilised and well-funded anti-alcohol lobby that has enjoyed great success in limiting its availability and demonising it. Meanwhile, millions of patients around the world now use cannabis to treat a range of conditions, from epilepsy and cancer to stress and anxiety.

Right now only a handful of Brits have been able to gain a permit to source legal cannabis, but the Home Office has relaxed its stance after England’s chief medical officer gave home secretary Sajid Javid a positive review of the medicinal properties of CBD oil, a derivative from the flower that does not contain the THC that gets you high. Javid will allow British doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis from November 1, paving the way for a multibillion-pound domestic industry.

Canada will formally legalise cannabis for recreational use today, and it is on the brink of becoming a world leader in this area. Canopy Growth, Aurora and Aphria will produce huge crops, and they are busy battling for market share in Latin America and the Caribbean. Medicinal cannabis is permitted in Germany, Denmark, Australia and vast swathes of the US, while South Africa just legalised recreational cannabis use and the global industry is gathering serious steam.

Some people in the drinks trade talk fearfully about losing share of buzz” to cannabis, but others are taking a more proactive approach, the if you can’t beat them, join them” method. Constellation Brands, Molson Coors and Diageo are all making inroads into the burgeoning cannabis sector and could well become major players. Brewers are releasing cannabis-infused beers all the time. There are still plenty of studies that highlight the negatives of cannabis use, but nowadays marijuana has the sort of links to health and wellness that the drinks industry can only dream of. Smoking is always going to be bad for lungs, so cannabis-infused drinks and edibles will surely soar in popularity.

This represents an interesting challenge for British drinks retailers. As stores selling CBD and other derivatives spring up across the UK, with the potential for recreational cannabis use to be legalised and regulated in the not-too-distant future, it could be worth getting involved in this burgeoning industry from the beginning and establishing yourself as a credible retailer in a sector that looks only set to grow going forwards.

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