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Drinks importing giant Southern Glazer’s moves into cannabis

The Canadian branch of distributor Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits has created an off-shoot of its business dedicated to cannabis products — the first drinks firm in the country to move into the soon-to-be legalised sector.

Great North Distributors — a subsidiary of Southern Glazer’s — has confirmed a deal with marijuana producer Aphria to distribute its products across Canada when the country officially legalises the drug for recreational use later this year.

The drinks firm will recruit a cannabis-focused sales team to act on behalf of Aphria’s product portfolio.

In return, Aphria will have access to all Canadian cannabis retailers when the law changes.

Aphria’s chief executive, Vic Neufeld, said that the drinks firm has the “right resources and expertise to allow us to capitalise on the opportunities in the industry on a national scale.”

Mark Holland, the health secretary of Canada’s Liberal Party, has said that he is “confident” that the drug will be legalised within months.”

He told Canadian television programme The West Block the party is “working closely with the senate and we feel confident, at this time, in that timeline of end of summer that we’re going to see a regime that will control and legalise cannabis.”

Since dozens of wineries and breweries have launched THC-infused drinks in the US following the legalisation of cannabis, any Canadians in the drinks industry have begun to turn their attention to the lucrative market ahead of the law change.

One Canadian company filed a technology patent for the production of beer brewed from cannabis last July, using a method that sees the grains traditionally used to make beer completely replaced with marijuana.

Province Brands filed the provisional patent for the “world’s first beers brewed from the cannabis plant”, further stoking interest since Constellation bought a 10% stake in Canadian marijuana company Canopy Growth Corp for £141 million with plans to make cannabis-infused drinks of its own.

Canada’s recreational cannabis market is predicted to be worth up to $6.2bn (£3.6bn) when it enters the mainstream.

Doug Weiland, vice president of Southern Glazer’s Canadian operations, said the deal reinforces the drinks giant’s status as an “innovative, first-mover position in the industry.”

“We are thrilled to partner with cannabis industry leader Aphria, and to leverage our experience and expertise to ensure the efficient, legal, and safe distribution of cannabis in Canada.”

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