Mastering the art and science of cannabis through Canada’s first cannabis sommelier course

CannaReps has brought the course to Calgary, Vancouver and, most recently, Toronto

If one looks to industries like beer, wine or even coffee—each has its own exams and series of certifications to test one’s own sensory realms. Those who clear these high hurdles are called things like sommelierscicerone or Q-graders.

It seems only natural, then, that the cannabis industry would make and develop its own testing to evaluate a person’s practical experience with the plant—assessment skills, tasting prowess and the ability to differentiate varieties and terpene profiles, just to name a few.

This is where Vancouver-based CannaReps, a private education program founded by cannabis expert and headmaster Adolfo Gonzalez, comes into play.

Recently, CannaReps started delivering its very own Cannabis Sommelier Course, which provides attendees with the chance to practice academic and sensory skills with interactive activities, labs, tastings and discussions while also learning responsible product guidance by discussing plant botany and breaking down buds. The idea behind the course is to attract professionals from all walks of life who are interested in the cannabis industry and need mentorship and professional development support.

While Gonzalez explains the program previously offered a similar course, which specifically trained dispensary workers, the most recent iteration has been on offer for just six months.“It just had to morph a bit because of the laws, and also because we realize that we designed the course originally to train dispensary workers, but then when we actually started running the company, it was an incredibly broad section of the public that was attending, not only retail workers,” he says.

Since then, CannaReps has brought the course to Calgary, Vancouver and, most recently, Toronto.

Julie Domingo, CEO of CannaReps, says many of the cities selected to host the course largely depend on whether or not the municipalities will have government-run stores only. “We like to ensure that we can maximize the potential of us being there, and so when Ontario announced that they would allow some private retail, too, that was the perfect opportunity.”

Held at the Lifford Cannabis Solutions office in downtown Toronto, the Toronto course was sold out with a diverse group of 35 registrants and others on a waiting list. “We know that there’s hunger for this knowledge in Toronto, and we want to bring the same program back,” shares Domingo.

Over its history, the course has attracted a range of people, she says, including people who are patients, entrepreneurs, dispensary managers and owners, growers, medical professionals, researchers, career-seekers and students.

Gonzalez, with more than 15 years of hands-on experience in everything from cultivating cannabis to frontline patient advocacy, lead the two-day event. Jars of various cannabis strains lined each of the tables. Equipped with a pocket-sized microscope and medical gloves, each registrant was instructed to pluck a single bud from the jar. Many in the classroom would marvel at its size and beauty.
But as part of the “cannabis sommeliers” education, Gonzalez wanted participants (both as individuals and as a group) to challenge themselves to cut through the sensory noise and observe things such as extraneous aromas, flavours, shapes, colour and crystal residues to identify the essence of whatever bud was being presented. “It’s just the tools you need to practise because it’s like any sensory skill or understanding any culture,” Gonzalez notes, citing the value of truly immersing oneself in that culture.

Over the course of two days, people appeared to feel safe asking questions revolving around varieties and terpene profiles they have seen, the stigma they have faced and how best to handle specific customer service interactions. These discussions not only provided a deeper education beyond the course objectives, but also helped showcase the rich ancestry of cannabis’ roots.

Gonzalez admits the course is not just about education; it is about trying to destigmatize cannabis on a global level. “I really just want to take the opportunity to affect people’s way of thinking on a fundamental level,” he says, adding he wants to highlight that, beyond the medical dimension, there is a significant cultural dimension.

Sommeliers, cicerone or Q-graders employ a standard and universal language for evaluating wine, beer and coffee at the export level and at the consumer level. Domingo and Gonzalez say they believe the CannaReps program is the first of its kind that provides a fulsome related experience.

For the recent two-day course in Toronto, attendees were instructed by Gonzalez that they would receive a multiple-choice, test post-course, which would then qualify them for certification.

Between the course and test, attendees would gain access to an education portal, including resources for review and mentorship (in some form) from cannabis industry experts. Upon successfully completing the test and tasting (evaluated on-site in Toronto), certification would be provided.

While many other exams and boot camps in wine, beer and coffee can range from two days to one week, Domingo believes the course is the real deal: offering the experience to look, touch, smell and then, of course, taste. “If you’re going to be someone that wants to work in the industry, you want to be ahead of the curve.”

At the beginning of the two-day course, Domingo acknowledges the issues covered in that timeframe will not make a participant a full-fledged expert. Rather, it is a skill learned over time with plenty of practice.

That said, whatever people’s education level or wherever they are at in their cannabis journeys, the course will set them on the pathway to learning, much like a WSET Level 1, the beginner level introduction to wine.

The Cannabis Sommelier Course is offered for $680 + tax, with the next course taking place in Calgary on Nov. 24-25, 2018.

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South Korea first country in East Asia to legalize medical cannabis

South Korea became the first country in East Asia to legalize medical cannabis, marking a significant milestone in the global industry and a potential turning point in how the drug is perceived in traditionally conservative societies.

The country’s National Assembly voted to approve amending the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs to pave the way for non-hallucinogenic dosages of medical cannabis prescriptions.

Medical marijuana will still be tightly restricted, but the law’s approval by the central government is seen as a breakthrough in a country many believed would be last – not among the first – to approve any use of cannabis, even if it is just low-THC to start.

To receive medical cannabis, patients would be required to apply to the Korea Orphan Drug Center, a government body established to facilitate patient access to rare medicines in the country.

Approval would be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Patients would also need to receive a prescription from a medical practitioner.

South Korea’s cannabis law overcame a major obstacle in July when it won the support of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, which said at the time it would permit Epidiolex, Marinol, Cesamet and Sativex for conditions including epilepsy, symptoms of HIV/AIDS and cancer-related treatments.

The ministry said a series of amended laws passed in a National Assembly session will expand the treatment opportunities for patients with rare diseases.

A number of other countries had been vying to join Israel as the first countries in Asia to allow medical cannabis, including Thailand and Malaysia.

“South Korea legalizing medical cannabis, even if it will be tightly controlled with limited product selection, represents a significant breakthrough for the global cannabis industry,” said Vijay Sappani, CEO of Toronto-based Ela Capital, a venture capital firm exploring emerging markets in the cannabis space.

“The importance of Korea being the first country in East Asia to allow medical cannabis at a federal level should not be understated. Now it’s a matter of when other Asian countries follow South Korea, not if.”

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Buying Weed Online: A Guide to Online Marijuana Stores in Canada

On October 17th, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fulfilled a 2015 election pledge when Canada became the first major industrialized country to fully decriminalize cannabis for recreational use. The process has proved to be complex amidst higher than expected demand.

They saw shortages of legal cannabis in the early days of legalization and an insufficient amount of cannabis retail outlets in rural areas. For those cannabis consumers who don’t live near a dispensary, finding an online marijuana store in Canada is their best option.

So, for those who live in the middle of nowhere in The Great White North, we here at Leafbuyer have listed the marijuana sites for each Canadian province and territory.

Provincial Authority

Although the federal government is responsible for licensing commercial cannabis growers and authorizing their products, Canada’s 13 provinces and territories are tasked with regulating the distribution and sale of cannabis, and they have adopted differing approaches.

For example, in Ontario and the Western provinces, the sale of cannabis is administered by privately licensed and operated retail outlets, whereas in Quebec and most eastern Canadian provinces, marijuana is exclusively sold in state-run stores, similar to how alcohol is treated.

In most of the country, the legal age is 18 or 19, the same as for alcohol, but Quebec has promised to boost the cannabis consumption age to 21.

Not for Sale, Yet

As of now, no online marijuana stores in Canada can sell cannabis seeds for recreational use, even though the Canadian federal government has legalized cannabis cultivation for personal use.  Currently, cannabis seeds can be purchasedat medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the country.

And foods containing cannabis, such as cookies and candies, will remain illegal for the remainder of the year until the Canadian government completes its regulatory regime for edibles.

British Columbia 

The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) is the sole, wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis for the province. It operates public retail stores, as a standalone, and is also the only online marijuana store in British Columbia.

The British Columbia LDB is committed to keeping their residents informed about the transitions to the legalization of non-medical cannabis and continues to provide updates as well as online sales on their website,


The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) keeps a watchful eye over the gaming, liquor and cannabis industries in Alberta.  The AGLC also regulates distribution and private retail licensing of cannabis, and operates Alberta’s only online marijuana store – Alberta Cannabis.

As Alberta’s only legal, non-medical online cannabis store, Alberta Cannabis offers a wide variety of cannabis products, safely and legally, and you can have them delivered right to your doorstep.  In Alberta, just as the rest of Canada, you can purchase up to 30 grams of marijuana at a time with proof of legal age (18+ in Alberta).

For online orders or more information visit


Only around one-third of the 51 licensed locations were ready for business on opening day, according to the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authorities.

However, the following stores are open for business as of Oct. 17:

  • Rural Municipality of Edenwold – Eden, outside Pilot Butte off of Highway 47
  • Fire and Flower shops in North Battleford and Yorkton
  • Jimmy’s Cannabis Shop in Martensville

In Saskatchewan, private retailers already approved by the Liquor and Gaming Authorities are allowed to sell cannabis products through their websites.


Only a handful of retailers have been licensed and approved to sell cannabis in Manitoba so far, and they are all located in bigger cities in the south of the province. The good news for Manitobans out ‘in the boonies,’ is that you can purchase marijuana online from any of the retailers already approved.


  • Delta 9 Cannabis Store, Unit 1 ? 827 Dakota St.
  • Hiku/Tokyo Smoke, 55B Goulet St.
  • Meta Cannabis Supply Co./National Access Cannabis, Unit 23 ? 584 Pembina Hwy.
  • Tweed/Canopy, 120 Osborne St.
  • Tweed/Canopy, 1592 Regent Avenue


  • Tweed/Canopy, 1450 Main St. South
  • Online – Private retailers are allowed to sell product through their websites in Manitoba


The only way to buy legal pot in Ontario will be by mail order after recently elected premier Doug Ford reversed plans to sell cannabis through government-owned stores.

The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) is the province’s only legal site to buy marijuana online. The OCS website is full of information about cannabis, the legalization movement, and the laws surrounding it.

The OCS website also has a nice selection of dried cannabis flower (no pictures of buds though), and an impressive selection of cannabis accessories, like bongs, pipes, trays, and cleaning supplies.  You can browse the content or place a cannabis order at the OCS website.


The agency in charge of cannabis distribution in Quebec is the Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC).  At the time of writing this article, the website for this Canadian online marijuana store ( was down for maintenance after a huge few days of sales.

The SQDC recorded more than 42,000 cannabis transactions in 48 hours (12,500 in-store transactions and 30,000 online orders). The SQDC expects significant short-term supply challenges. Specifically, for online purchase, expect more products to be unavailable; especially cannabis oil, capsules, atomizers and pre-rolled joints.  There is supplemental information about the SQDC at

New Brunswick

Cannabis NB approaches the customer experience by focusing on the lifestyles of cannabis consumers; the occasions for using cannabis, and the activities they partake in after consuming for recreational purposes. By doing it this way, Cannabis NB gives great service, pointing out potential side effects and creates ambassadors for responsible cannabis use.

As the only online marijuana store for this Canadian province, Cannabis NB operates a clean, straightforward, and easy to navigate website. Check out for more information or to place a cannabis order.

Prince Edward Island

Online sales of marijuana are Prince Edward Island are administered by the PEI Cannabis Corp.  Their website offers cannabis as dried flower, pre-rolled joints, or oil/capsules, to adults 19 and older, in a no-nonsense format.

All orders from PEI Cannabis Corp. are delivered by a third-party (Purolator) and must be addressed to a physical address (no P.O. boxes). Also, no packages will be left unattended at the customer’s door. In the event you are not home to receive your package, you have the option of arranging re-delivery or obtaining the package at a designated pick-up location. Visit to place an order.

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) is in charge of cannabis distribution.  The NSLC operates a website called MyNSLC, where they handle online marijuana sales for the entire Canadian province.

In order to access any online cannabis content you must first visit an NSLC store with valid identification to confirm you are 19 years of age or more to receive an online access code.

Once you have your access code, visit to complete registration. After you’ve gained access, you may make marijuana purchases over the internet.

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador authorized the Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC) to regulate the possession, sale and delivery of non-medical cannabis. This new mandate spawned the need to create a unique brand Cannabis NL.

Cannabis NL is the sole cannabis provider online in the Newfoundland and Labrador. Due to the already large demand for legal weed, Cannabis NL has posted warnings about potential outages and delays in filling online orders.  To place an order online or for more information visit For online ordering assistance, call 1-844-757-5986 (7 days a week, 10am to 10pm)


In this province, the Yukon Liquor Corporation (YLC) is in charge of regulating recreational cannabis sales and in turn, the YLC created Cannabis Yukon.

The Cannabis Yukon website gives visitors access to all the relevant news relating to cannabis in the province, including laws and regulations, travel information, safety tips, and frequently asked questions about cannabis sales.  This Canadian online marijuana store also has a handy ‘equivalency weight’ converter for guests familiar with buying in American ounces.

All cannabis deliveries must show proof of age (19+) with a valid ID before you can receive your package. For more information or to place an online cannabis ordervisit

Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission (NTLCC) regulates the distribution of alcohol and cannabis ensuring Northwest Territories (NWT) residents have safe and legal access to alcohol and cannabis.  In the NWT, the only places to buy legal marijuana are from NTLCC-approved vendors or from the NTLCC online store.

The website for the NTLCC is one of the few online marijuana stores in Canada that shows photos of plants from the actual cannabis strain you are buying, unfortunately, at this time they only offer four strains:

And even though these are all well known and popular strains, experienced cannabis users might be used to a wider selection. For questions and online orders, visit


The Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission (NULC) is a public agency that sells and distributes alcoholic beverages and cannabis products in Canada’s most northern province.  At the end of each fiscal year, the NULC transfers its profits back to the Government of Nunavut, thereby using its excess revenues to support wider public priorities.

It’s illegal to purchase recreational cannabis in Nunavut from anyone other than the NULC or the NULC’s agents. Right now, Canopy Growth Corporation (Tweed) is the only approved agent in Nunavut and handles the all the online marijuana sales in the province.  More information about cannabis in the province can be found at

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Believe The Science – Over 29,000 Medical Studies Have Been Done on Cannabis Now

Medical Marijuana Studies are Booming

The proof is in the pudding, or so they say. But if you’d like the truth about cannabis, just look at the growing body of research.

From the years 2000-2017, there’s been over 29,000 studies focused on cannabis alone, according to a recent research review that’s been published in Population Health Management. The review, conducted by a research team in Israel, revealed that the spike in cannabis research surged dramatically within that time frame.

To conduct the review, they looked at online research databases including Web of Science and PubMed. There was an especially large spike starting in 2013, but what was interesting was that the jump in cannabis research outperformed all other areas of scientific research when you look at the big picture. Annually, all other scientific publications jumped up 2.5 times from 2000-2017 (from 531,664 to 1,282,220); meanwhile, cannabis-focused studies increased 4.5 times (from 620 to 2,388). The quantity of studies on medical cannabis increased a total of 9 times in the 17-year span; in 2000 there were just 82 but by 2017, there were 742.

“The results of the present study demonstrate an ongoing increase in the number of publications related to cannabis in general and to medical cannabis in particular,” the researchers write. “The spike in medical publications on medical cannabis that began in 2013 is impressive and encouraging.”

Types of Studies

The researchers found a little over 29,000 scientific studies on cannabis which were published within the 17-year time frame, and 3,300 of them were focused on the medical uses of cannabis.However, the most prominent increase in research went to psychiatry.

In the field of medical cannabis, a great deal of studies was dedicated to its ability to treat chronic painHIVepilepsynausea, and multiple sclerosis. There was also a notable increase in studies assessing the impact of cannabis in cancer and neurology from 2011-2013, and since then there’s been more studies analyzing the effects of cannabis on kids and the elderly. The researchers also note that more than 60% of these studies are “original research” with 66% of them coming from the United States.

The Role of Legalization in Cannabis Studies

The increase in cannabis research was found to be directly proportional to the spread of cannabis legalization in the United States. Since 2000, 25 states legalized cannabis for medical use and since 2012, 9 states legalized cannabis for recreational purposes.

“The absence of an increase in publications on cannabis until recent years would appear to be related to the United Nations Single Convention that prohibited the use of cannabis for recreational purposes and had broad support in most of the developed countries,” states the researchers. “It is noteworthy that the significant growth in the number of publications on medical cannabis since 2013 parallels legislation permitting the use of recreational cannabis in the states of Washington and Colorado in 2012 and in Alaska and Oregon in 2014, and subsequently in many other countries around the world,” the researchers explain.

What’s Next For Cannabis Research?

Experts predict that there will be a trend in funding more cannabis research in the next few years; more than ever before. Cannabis continues to be legalized in markets both in the United States and abroad, and the recent legalization of recreational cannabis by Canada could result in even more significant cannabis research.

Despite the evidence we have today that cannabis can be safely used to treat dozens of medical conditions, there is still much that we don’t know when it comes to efficacy and dosage. The impact of cannabis on the elderly, pregnant, and children are also areas that could do with much more research on cannabis.

The trend of more cannabis funding is already spreading in Canada and the United States, as well as Israel. Pharmaceutical companies are also continuing to pour funds into cannabis research, as well as other companies in the health and wellness sector. In fact, even colleges and universities have been on the receiving end of funding to do cannabis research. Some have even created entirely new courses so that students can have the option of studying the cannabis plant and its medical applications.

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After almost a century of prohibition, Canada has become the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to fully legalize the use of cannabis.

Accounting firm Deloitte estimates legal marijuana is expected to become more than a $6bn business in Canada in 2019, with up to $4.34bn coming from the legal recreational market and as much as $1.79bn from medical sales.

The global legal medical cannabis market alone could be worth more than $50bn by 2025.

The dizzying numbers surrounding Canada’s ‘green rush’ has triggered interest across Asia as hardliners soften their attitudes towards cannabis use, incentivized by the potential economic impact of legalizing the weed in their countries.

Here is some of what’s happening in Asia;


Sri Lanka will begin cultivating cannabis for medical purposes later this year.

Health minister Rajitha Senaratne said he plans for cultivation to take place across 100 acres of designated cannabis plantation land in the north-central Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts. This is estimated to produce 25,000kg of the drug annually, which will be used for domestic Ayurveda – a South Asian system of medicine – and for export to North America.

Farmers will be hired by the state to cultivate the cannabis, and production will be overseen by the military. Cannabis prohibition was initiated by British colonizers in Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) in the late nineteenth and earlier twentieth century.


Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is currently drafting a new bill to remove marijuana from the Category 5 Narcotics list. But it will only apply use for medical purposes.

The law is expected to be passed as law in April 2019, making Thailand the first Asian country to legalize medical cannabis and they will be competing in the market led by the US and Canada.

The country’s Governmental Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) has also begun researching mass-producing medicines from the drug. While 72% of Thais support the move to legalize weed for medical purposes, a Nida poll found half said it should be restricted to hospital use. Back in the 1980s, Thailand used to be the world’s top exporter of illegal cannabis.


The challenge for Malaysia, which still imposes strict punishment for some drug trafficking offenses, is how to draft new laws that are specific enough to differentiate marijuana for medical as opposed to recreational and other uses. The Ministry of Health, which has the final say, remains skeptical about the medicinal value of cannabis. The country’s cabinet was reported to have “very briefly” discussed its medical value last month. Land and Natural Resources Xavier Jayakumar described getting cabinet support for medical marijuana use as an uphill battle. “My own personal view is that if it’s got medicinal value, then it can be a controlled item that can be used by Ministry of Health for prescription purposes,” he said.


Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs that claimed the lives of thousands since mid-2016, the Philippines committee on Health in March last year endorsed the use of medical marijuana. House Bill 180 prescribes the rules for the proper use of medical marijuana, including the designation of a qualified medical cannabis physician, a medical cannabis patient who shall be issued an identification card, a qualified medical cannabis caregiver and a qualified medical cannabis compassionate centre. Lawmaker Rep. Seth Jalosjos believes legalizing marijuana for medical use, has the backing of the Philippine Cancer Society, “will benefit thousands of patients suffering from serious and debilitating diseases”. Medical marijuana has been frowned upon by Filipino leaders in the past, but Albano feels confident that his Bill will pass with Duterte in power.


The usage of marijuana is rooted in ancient literature and Hindu mythology.  Despite its illegality, it is well documented that marijuana is grown in many parts of the country, especially in villages in Himachal Pradesh and in the Indian Himalayas. Cannabis cultivation and trade are partially restricted in India. While its cultivation for industrial purposes (i.e. obtaining fibre such as industrial hemp or for horticultural use) is allowed, consuming it could lead to a jail term of six months or a hefty fine. Earlier this year Uttarakhand became the first State in the country to allow commercial cultivation of hemp crop. Yoga guru Baba Ramdev, whose Patanjali company, has already made a fortune selling ayurveda-based face cleansers, toothpaste, and detergents is now looking to cannabis as a growth avenue. “There exists a huge market for cannabis in India. A lot of scientific research needs to be done, especially for those who are framing the laws,” said Yash Kotak, founder and director of Mumbai-based startup, The Bombay Hemp Company, which is backed by industrialist Ratan Tata.


While cannabis remains illegal in the People’s Republic of China, the country itself produces 50% of the world’s supply. China’s crops are largely hemp, and thus the non-psychotropic and fiber-rich variety of cannabis. As of 2017, Chinese companies have 309 out of the 606 patents filed around the world that relate to cannabis. So while cannabis remains illegal in the People’s Republic of China, its massive economic potential poses a threat to cannabis interests around the world. In Hong Kong, manufacturing cannabis or any other drug included in the city’s Dangerous Drugs Ordinance is deemed the most serious of all drug-related offenses. Any person who cultivates any plant of the genus cannabis faces an HK$100,000 fine and 15 years in prison. For China’s pot to make a significant impression on the Western canna-economy, there must be state-approved logistics for global distribution and permissive banking regulations, experts say.

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Cannabis in Canada: Big banks are missing a boom

KushCo Holdings, a company that sells packaging and supplies to the cannabis industry, would love to borrow money from a real bank.

CEO Nick Kovacevich wants to secure up to $30 million in revolving credit, so he can hire more employees and build new warehouses.
But a line of credit or loan of that size isn’t an option because traditional banks are not willing to lend to marijuana businesses.
Even though Canada legalized recreational marijuana and opened the door to a flurry of business activity, big banks in the United States and Canada are keeping the industry at arm’s length because of pot’s muddy legal picture in the United States.
“Nothing [has] changed,” said Mark Zekulin, president and co-CEO of Canopy Growth (CGC), a cannabis company based in Toronto. “It takes time and dialogue for banks to see this as a legitimate sector.”
Cannabis, while legal for recreational use in nine US states, and Washington D.C., remains illegal under US federal law. American banks have largely stayed away from providing services to the industry because federal regulations prohibit lenders from working with any business that deals in illegal drugs. Lenders could face money laundering charges in the United States if they do.


Big money. Big opportunity

But banks could be missing out on a bonanza. The marijuana industry is expected to grow substantially in the next five years, with sales in the United States expected to hit $23.4 billion by 2022, according to cannabis market research group Arcview. Canadian sales are expected to hit $5.5 billion.
The size of the sector could eventually entice major banks to get in the game for fear of missing out on lucrative fees or lending agreements, or cash from deposits.
“It’s not a question of ‘if,’ but a question of ‘when,'” said Daniel Yi, a spokesman at MedMen (MMNFF), a chain of marijuana dispensaries based in Los Angeles.
Still, most of the largest banks remain on the sidelines for now — even in Canada, where banks have to worry about potential compliance issues abroad. TD Bank (TD), the Royal Bank of Canada (RY) and Bank of Montreal (BMO), all of which have an international presence, declined to comment for this story.
“It hasn’t, at this point, seemed to create a change in practice,” said Seth Goldberg, an attorney at Duane Morris who advises clients in the cannabis industry.
The American Bankers Association, the US industry’s powerful lobby, has said it wants Congress to resolve the conflict between federal and state laws so banks aren’t stuck in the middle, though it doesn’t have a position on legalization itself. Right now, banks that do decide to take a chance and quietly work with marijuana businesses are expected to file suspicious activity reports for every transaction related to those accounts — a huge and potentially expensive logistical headache.


How pot companies do business

The stasis has been disappointing for cannabis companies, many of which have to develop special, under-the-radar relationships with banks or credit unions so they can have somewhere to park their money. Borrowing is effectively off the table.
Canopy Growth uses the credit union Alterna for deposits. Bank of Montreal, a larger player, helped the company issue$500 million in convertible debt in June. Constellation Brands, the maker of Corona beer, took a large stake in Canopy Growth over the summer.
KushCo has a line of credit worth $4 million from New York lender Gerber Finance, according toKovacevich, but would like to borrow a more substantial amount at a more affordable interest rate.
KushCo, which sells cannabis products such as child resistant bottles and vaporizers, but not the drug itself, had a relationship with Wells Fargo starting in 2015, according to Kovacevich. The bank cut ties in 2017, he said.
“It only takes one person in compliance to say, ‘No, you’re not fine,’ for you to lose your account,” Kovacevich said.
A spokesperson for Wells Fargo (WFC) said the bank doesn’t comment on situations related to specific customers.
“As a national bank that is federally regulated, Wells Fargo must comply with federal law on the topic of marijuana, even in instances where state laws may differ,” the bank said in a statement in August. “Since federal law prohibits the sale and use of marijuana, national banks like Wells Fargo may not knowingly bank or provide services to marijuana businesses or for related activities.”
KushCo has since set up checking and savings accounts with a different “large national bank,” Kovacevich said. He declined to identify the bank out of concern that publicity would cause the institution to terminate the relationship.
MedMen’s Yi said that the company works with a collection of regional banks and credit unions that did not want to be identified at this time.
Zekulin of Canopy Growth said that while legalization in Canada hasn’t immediately changed the state of affairs when it comes to marijuana banking, he expects that conversations with banks will continue to get easier.
“This has been a process,” he said.
For now, it’s business as usual — or, for most major banks, no business at all.



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Despite Legalization, Canada’s Pot Black Market Continues To Thrive

Officials are hoping that dealers on the illegal market will be priced out.

Last week Canada became only the second country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana, but the black market for pot is continuing to thrive as customers seek out products that they can’t buy legally, including edibles, and sellers push back on government intervention in their industry.

“We’ll keep selling what we are selling,” Don Briere, the owner of an illegal Vancouver pot shop, told The New York Times. Briere sells edibles and other products that are currently illegal under the national law, which only allows for the sale of fresh or dried cannabis, seeds, plants and oil.

Canada—especially Vancouver—has long had a thriving illicit marijuana industry, worth an estimated 5.3 billion Canadian dollars each year.

One of the aims of legalization was to close the illegal shops that are common in cities like Vancouver.

However, Briere and other industry insiders object on principle. “The government taking over the cannabis trade is like asking a farmer to build airplanes,” he said. He’s not alone. In Vancouver, hundreds of illegal shops remain open.

At a lower level, street dealers try to entice customers by offering services like delivery and selling joints at a two-for-one price. Some customers who were frustrated that legal stores ran out of product went back to their illicit contacts.

“Definitely going to use my dealer from now on his business is going way up because of your crappy service,” one frustrated customer wrote on Twitter.

Despite the disregard for the law, Canadian law enforcement isn’t likely to step up consequences for people who are selling illegally. They have their hands full dealing with more pressing issues, including fentanyl overdoses, said Chief Constable Del Manak, police chief of Victoria and president of the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police.

However, this doesn’t mean that authorities are oblivious to the fact that the illegal market still exists. “It is naïve to think that just because cannabis is legalized, the criminal will walk away from a highly lucrative industry,” said Del Manak.

Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s minister of public safety, said that the government is hoping that over time the legal market will undermine the demand for illegal sales. “It’s a very Canadian way of doing things,” he said. “It won’t happen overnight.”

Farnworth added that there won’t be any police raids with “guns and head-bashing.”

However, in Toronto, police raided five illegal pot shops after the legalization law was passed. Others have voluntarily closed, showing that the government’s approach might be working. Even Briere has shuttered some of his stores across the country and is applying for licenses for the remaining stores.

Officials are also hoping that dealers on the illegal market will be priced out. Today, marijuana on the street costs about one-third of what it did five years ago, making it less lucrative for dealers.

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Cross-border buying binge as Canadian cannabis companies make U.S. acquisitions

  • The Canadian cannabis experience gives Canada-based investment companies an edge in picking likely winners south of the border
  • Tidal Royalty uses Canadian experience to aid U.S. cannabis firms to build capital and expand
  • Tidal Royalty’s royalty financing model works well for cannabis companies

With a fully mature cannabis regime that includes both recreational and medical marijuana at home, Canadian investment firms are looking south for greener pastures in the United States. Their analysis is that most Canadian cannabis companies are fully valued, and while there may still be money to be made by backing the winners, the real opportunity is south of the 49th parallel.

The experience of having spent years building the Canadian financing cannabis landscape gives homegrown investment firms an edge in picking likely winners south of the line. With the U.S. cannabis market worth an estimated US$6.75 billion to US$10 billion, the potential rewards are enormous. California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Vermont, and the District of Columbia have all legalized recreational marijuana, and other states are poised to follow suit. In all, 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized either medical or recreational use or both.

Little wonder that a cross-border buying binge has begun with Canadians acquiring dozens of U.S. cannabis companies. According to data from New York-based Viridian Capital Advisors, at least 40 U.S. cannabis firms have been acquired by Canadian companies during the first three quarters of this year — over double the number during the same period last year.


“They call it the Green Rush and it’s not without good reason. This is a generational opportunity to say the least.”
— Terry Taouss, President, Tidal Royalty Corp.

Tidal Royalty Team Sets Sights on U.S. Cannabis Market

Tidal Royalty Corp. (CSE: RLTY) was built specifically to get in on the “Green Rush” into the U.S. cannabis market. A leading provider of royalty financing to the legal cannabis industry, the company’s team has built, led, and advised some of the best-known cannabis businesses in Canada.

CEO and Chairman, Paul Rosen, was a Co-Founder of PharmaCan Capital, now operating as the Cronos Group, the first cannabis stock to be listed on the NASDAQ exchange. President Terry Taouss has an extensive legal background and was part of the founding management team at SiteScout, a successful advertising technology company.

“Tidal Royalty was created as a vehicle for investors to get access to the U.S. market,” says Taouss.

“There have been incredible investment opportunities in the Canadian cannabis market over the past 5 years, but those are now becoming harder to find. We think the U.S. will develop along similar lines — but in a market 10 times the size — and we are looking to place our bets early. The U.S. is our sole focus right now.”

Mining Royalty Financing Model Works Well for Cannabis Companies

Taouss says the U.S. market is in a place where the Canadian market was about five years ago. Bringing Canadian experience to bear has helped the company build a financing model to assist U.S. cannabis firms to get the capital they need to expand. Tidal Royalty uses a financing model adapted from the mining industry. In return for capital, cannabis companies give a percentage of future revenues to the financing company.

“It’s a suitable structure because like mining, cannabis has a lot of upfront costs,” says Taouss.

“The royalty model is the go-to model for financing mining businesses in Canada, so we just took that model and modified it for the cannabis industry.”

Tidal Royalty has raised over $40 million to finance U.S.-based cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and retail operations. The company recently announced financing of up to $12.5 million in Oregon-based cannabis cultivator Diem Cannabis.

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Tidal Royalty’s team understands the need for flexibility and support to build an enduring company.


Complex U.S. is Really “50 Different Markets”

Cutting your corporate teeth in Canada helps, but the complex U.S. market poses unique challenges. Each state has its own set of rules. Taouss describes it as “dealing with 50 different markets.” Add to that the fact that the U.S. federal government still treats cannabis as illegal pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act. That means investment firms and investors alike have to do extra due diligence, especially around the myriad of regulations.

“There’s a lot of operational challenges with investing in the U.S. cannabis market. There are tax issues, there are banking issues. There are diligence issues around security, operators, and regulations. So, there’s a lot of homework that needs to be done before investing in a U.S. licensed cannabis company,” says Taouss.

The Tidal Royalty team has done that research and is now working with a growing portfolio of U.S. cannabis companies to help them expand their operations. One of the biggest challenges those companies face is a lack of investment capital. Because cannabis still federally illegal, many institutional investors that would normally be financing the industry are sitting on the sidelines.

That opens the door to a company like Tidal Royalty to finance firms they’ve identified as well-established and poised not just to expand into multiple states, but to be players in the global cannabis market.

“We’re not an early stage investor. We don’t finance ideas. We work with companies that are already established and we provide them with the capital that they need to really expand their business and take it to the next level,” says Taouss.

U.S. Cannabis Companies Get Value Chain as Well as Capital

In addition to providing companies with much-needed capital, Tidal Royalty provides an extensive value chain to the firms they invest in. They help companies network, identify opportunities for acquisitions, and expand partnerships. From Taouss’s perspective, this kind of business development is good for both Tidal Royalty and the companies it has financed.

“We take a portfolio approach to our financings. Because we diversify across operators, states, and industry verticals, we can create opportunities that help both our portfolio companies and Tidal Royalty,” he says.

“We’re constantly thinking about ways that we can help them to grow, because at the end of the day, their success means our success. If they are able to generate additional revenue — the royalties are attached, so it’s definitely in our interest to see them grow their revenue and become successful.”

Getting in on the “Green Rush”

There are risks associated with the U.S. market, not the least of which is that regulated and comprehensive Canadian market to the north. Factor in the U.S. federal government’s position on cannabis and you have uncertainty that may cause some investors to think twice.

But Taouss says the smart money is on the U.S. cannabis market becoming a fully transparent, fully regulated, and legal industry in the near future. That is what makes navigating the complexities of the U.S. cannabis landscape worthwhile.

“They call it the Green Rush and it’s not without good reason. This is a generational opportunity to say the least,” he says.

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Vancouver, Canada’s Marijuana Capital, Struggles to Tame the Black Market

VANCOUVER — In the pot-friendly city of Vancouver, illegal marijuana dispensaries outnumber Starbucks outlets, and among the most popular is Weeds, Glass and Gifts. There, in a relaxed space reminiscent of the coffee chain, jovial “budtenders” sell coconut chocolate bars infused with marijuana and customers smoke powerful pot concentrates at a sleek dab bar.

When Canada legalized recreational marijuana, on Oct. 17, one of the central aims was to shut down the thousands of illegal dispensaries and black market growers dotting the country. But taming an illegal trade estimated at 5.3 billion Canadian dollars is proving to be daunting.

Many of the products sold at Weeds, Glass and Gifts are banned under the new law, which restricts licensed retailers to selling fresh or dried cannabis, seeds, plants and oil. Yet the retailer’s owner, Don Briere, an ebullient 67-year-old and self-styled pot crusader, has no intention of shutting down his four Vancouver stores or changing his product lineup.

He even has plans for expansion with a new line of outlawed canine marijuana treats, which purport to reduce pet anxiety.

“We’ll keep selling what we are selling,” said Mr. Briere, who in 2001 was sentenced to four years in prison for being one of British Columbia’s most prolific pot producers.


The Canadian government faces many challenges in stamping out the illegal marijuana industry. For one, there are too many black market shops like Mr. Briere’s for the government to keep track of.

And as sluggish provincial bureaucracies struggle to manage a new regulatory system, licenses to operate legally are hard to come by, giving illegal sellers added impetus to defy the law.

At the same time, the police and the public have little appetite for a national crackdown.

“The government taking over the cannabis trade is like asking a farmer to build airplanes,” Mr. Briere added.

Canadian policymakers say legalization is a giant national undertaking that will take years to be enforced. Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s minister of public safety, argued that civic pressure and market forces would help gradually diminish the illegal trade.

“It’s a very Canadian way of doing things,” he said. “It won’t happen overnight.” There will, he added, be no mass raids, “guns and head-bashing.”

Nevertheless, he noted, newly created “community safety units” in British Columbia, staffed by 44 unarmed inspectors, have been given the power to raid dispensaries without a search warrant, seize illegal products and shut them down.

In the week since legalization took effect, there are signs of a chill, if a modest one.


In Toronto, police raided five illegal pot retailers, two days after the law went into effect. Dozens of others in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa have voluntarily closed their doors to avoid being shut out of the legal market.

Even Mr. Briere, who once owned 36 shops across Canada, is applying for government licenses for his stores, and has shuttered nine shops, including in Ottawa, Alberta and Saskatchewan. He is steering those customers to his illegal online shop instead.

Yet hundreds of black market pot outlets remain defiantly open, abetted by provincial governments slow to implement the new law.

On Oct. 17, only one legal government pot retailer opened in British Columbia, in the city of Kamloops, nearly a four-hour drive from Vancouver. That assured that Vancouver’s illicit trade would continue to thrive.

And that day, none of the roughly 100 illegal pot dispensaries in the city had the provincial licenses they needed to operate legally, even those that had applied for one.

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In Ontario, where the government’s online Ontario Cannabis Store has been overwhelmed with soaring demand, some pot smokers unwilling to wait five days for delivery are reverting to their illegal dealers instead.

“Definitely going to use my dealer from now on his business is going way up because of your crappy service,” one frustrated customer wrote on Twitter.

In Montreal, some underground dealers, who do home delivery, are challenging the new legal market by offering two-joints-for-the-price-of-one deals.

As cities across the country grapple with a new national experiment, Vancouver offers a striking cautionary tale about the challenges of policing the illegal trade.

In this picturesque multicultural port city less than a three-hour drive from Seattle, marijuana is as much a recreational drug as a state of mind. Young professionals toke before work, take pot-fueled hikes and chat about strains of vaunted “BC bud” — grown illegally near snow-covered mountains in the southeast of the province — as if discussing fine wine.


For decades, cannabis has been so deeply embedded in the social fabric of the city that illegal pot shops operated with impunity as so-called compassion clubs for those seeking medical marijuana, with the police largely turning a blind eye.

But in 2015, City Hall officials, fed up with the proliferation of black market dispensaries, including some selling to minors, passed tough regulations stipulating, among other things, that shops must be about 1,000 feet from schools, community centers or other outlets.

After dozens of dispensaries brazenly flouted the new rules, the city in 2016 began fining transgressors, issuing 3,729 tickets amounting to more than $3 million in fines. But the dispensaries mostly ignored them; only $184,250 has been paid.

Then the city began trying to shut down illegal operators with injunctions.

In March of this year, 53 dispensaries banded together to file a constitutional challenge, saying closing the operators would breach Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms by denying patients access to medical marijuana they purchased at the black market stores.

“The City is using legalization to try and impose Prohibition,” said Robert Laurie, the lawyer representing the dispensaries.

The case is before British Columbia’s Supreme Court.

Kerry Jang, a left-leaning councillor on the Vancouver City Council who is also a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, and who helped develop the 2015 rules, said the injunctions were necessary to root out “a wild West” of illegal dealers.

Today, those who want to operate legally must pass rigorous criminal background checks and apply for a $30,000 license from the city.

But Professor Jang conceded that the restrictiveness of the new federal cannabis law posed enforcement challenges. “If you make cannabis legal but restrict where you can use it, it will just go underground.”

The challenge of enforcement is all too visible on Vancouver’s gritty downtown east side, an epicenter of Canada’s opioid crisis. Hundreds of addicts sit sprawled on the pavement every day, shooting Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid that Professor Jang said killed, on average, seven people a week in Vancouver.

Traffic is periodically interrupted by the sound of sirens as police officers break up drug deals.


Chief Constable Del Manak, police chief of Victoria and president of the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police, noted that the police had to grapple with Fentanyl overdoses, violent crime and sex offenders, and must prioritize resources according to public safety.

Investigating whether British Columbia residents are violating the law by growing more than four pot plants per household is not a priority, he said.

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Washington State and Uruguay, he added, has shown that “it is naïve to think that just because cannabis is legalized, the criminal will walk away from a highly lucrative industry.”

Nevertheless, as the government floods the market with legal cannabis, prices are falling, squeezing out illegal growers. Black market growers who were able to fetch more than $3,000 United States dollars for a pound of cannabis five years ago complain that today they can barely get $1,000.

The new legal marijuana supply chain was in full force on a recent day outside of Vancouver at Pure Sunfarms, where immigrant workers in surgical masks were trimming buds from cannabis plants next to a sprawling greenhouse that once housed tomatoes.

Rob Hill, chief financial officer of Emerald Health Therapeutics, a licensed producer which owns part of Pure Sunfarms, predicted that it was only a matter of time before black market growers went out of business as consumers demanded the purity of government-approved pot, free of contaminants found in some street marijuana.

“We expect a new consumer market of women age 35-45 who will smoke pot instead of drinking chardonnay,” he said.

But Dana Larsen, owner of several illegal dispensaries in Vancouver, countered that underground cannabis cultivation remained deeply entrenched.

Legalization is doomed to fail, he added, because there is so little will to enforce it.

He said he had accumulated heavy unpaid fines from City Hall, had no intention of applying for a license, and was far more concerned about being able to provide cannabis to the elderly and ill customers who relied on him. “In Vancouver,” he said, “you have to make an effort to get busted.”



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World first clinical trial – impact of medicinal cannabis on Australians with malignant brain tumours

The phase 2 trial will examine whether high THC medicinal cannabis* can be tolerated by people with glioma (a type of brain tumour) and if it can affect tumour growth when taken with standard treatment, according to lead researcher Dr Janet Schloss, the Clinical Trials Coordinator at Endeavour College of Natural Health. (*THC is the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis)

“This will be the first clinical trial worldwide to examine tolerability and tumour effect from orally ingested medicinal cannabis in humans with cancer of any type,” Dr Schloss said.

“Our Endeavour College research team will collaborate with Professor Teo to examine the impact of medicinal cannabis when it is used alongside standard treatment for cancer.

“As well as tumour impact, we’ll be looking at whether medicinal cannabis can improve quality of life, by reducing common symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting.”

Dr Schloss said glioma is a particularly aggressive brain tumour that often proves resistant to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

“This resistance means it’s vital for researchers to develop new therapies to treat this disease, which is one of the reasons why the clinical trial is important,” she said.

“Recent studies have shown that the active agents in cannabis may slow tumour growth and we believe further research is essential. If we can establish dosage guidelines and understand whether medicinal cannabis can assist standard treatment, this could be life-changing for glioma patients and their families.” (see page 2 for glioma details)

Coming together for better patient outcomes

Professor Teo, a former Australian of the Year, will be an Associate Investigator for the trial and will lead patient recruitment through his clinic at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital.

“This is a great example of complementary medicine researchers working in conjunction with the medical fraternity to bring about better outcomes for our patients,” Professor Teo said.

The clinical trial is funded by BioCeuticals, Australia’s leading provider of nutritional and therapeutic supplements, who have invested more than $500,000 as part of their commitment to provide practitioners with evidence-based solutions for health conditions.

BioCeuticals Director of Research, Development and Emerging Markets, Belinda Reynolds, said: “There is increasing public, political and practitioner awareness of medicinal cannabis, and it’s important that we have credible research into any health benefits”.

About the world-first trial

The trial has ethics approval and NSW ministry of health approval. Endeavour’s research team will assess the suitability of volunteers from among Professor Teo’s patients and other glioma patients who meet the inclusion criteria. The team will then administer the liquid medicinal cannabis and coordinate MRI, blood and other testing.

Patients will continue to see Professor Teo, his colleague Dr Mike Sughrue, or their medical specialists for treatment during the trial, while being monitored by Dr Schloss’ team during the three months of taking medicinal cannabis. The team will then follow patients for up to two years after the trial.

While medicinal cannabis is classified as a medicine, it is actually a plant. The herbal medicine expertise of Endeavour’s Office of Research, and their experience leading robust empirical research, makes them ideally placed to bring this world-first trial to fruition.

The clinical trial aims to strengthen complementary medicine’s evidence-based research and explore how it can impact on patient care and outcomes.

Dr Schloss said she hoped the trial’s findings would be valuable in guiding policy change, given the growing public demand for safe, reliable and legal access to medicinal cannabis through authorised doctors.

About gliomas

• Glioma is the most common form of primary brain tumour and among the most malignant cancers, often not responding effectively to surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

• Median survival time is one year. Gliomas remain a major medical challenge due to the tumour’s location, aggressive behaviour, rapid growth and low survival rate.

• Treatment usually involves surgical removal of the bulk of the tumour, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Prognosis for patients is bleak, with only half surviving for 15 months and less than 5% of patients still alive five years after diagnosis.

• Gliomas can affect any age group but are more common in older people (average age of diagnosis is 64). 1000 Australians are diagnosed each year.

• Common symptoms are memory and speech difficulties, weakness on one side of the body and changes to vision.

Lead researcher Dr Janet Schloss is Clinical Trials Coordinator at Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Office of Research. She has dedicated her career to supporting cancer patients and expanding the body of evidence-based research for complementary medicine and its ability to assist people undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Dr Schloss has coordinated and conducted clinical trials for more than 8 years on a variety of research topics involving cancer, chemotherapy and chronic disease.

She has 19 years’ clinical experience in the field of oncology and complementary medicine, and collaborates with many oncologists around Australia. She also currently practices at the Mater Private Breast Cancer Centre and Body Organics, alongside medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons and related health professionals.

Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Office of Research is dedicated to strengthening professional practice for complementary medicine professionals through an expanded body of evidence-based research for complementary medicine in Australia. It works to disseminate and critically examine all aspects of contemporary complementary medicine practice through the application of non-partisan, rigorous, and robust empirical research. The Office of Research is an arm of Endeavour College of Natural Health, Australasia’s largest degree conferring tertiary institution offering qualifications in complementary medicine and natural health. It has six campuses in Australia and two in New Zealand, five Bachelor degrees, four Honours degrees, 5,000 students, 350 staff and leading academics in the field.

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