Canada’s cannabis legalisation paves the way for innovation in the drinks industry

The Canadian government has officially passed a bill to legalise cannabis for recreational use, paving the way for a seismic shift in the nation’s drinks industry.

The Cannabis Act passed on Tuesday in a 52-29 vote in the Senate, and is expected to receive Royal Assent next week.

The new bill regulates how the drug can be grown, distributed, and sold, with laws varying from province to province.

Canada is only the second country in the world to legalise recreational cannabis use nationwide.

Over the past year, Canada’s drinks firms and distribution providers have been preparing to capitalise on the newly-legalised cannabis market.

Drinks giant Constellation Brands bought a 9.9% stake in Canadian marijuana company Canopy Growth Corp for £141 million last October, with plans to make cannabis-infused drinks.

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

Cannabis producer Hydropothecary signed a five-year deal with Quebec’s alcohol distributor — the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) — back in April, with total volume estimated at more than 200,000kg.

The deal sees SAQ become “the preferred supplier of cannabis products for the Quebec market for the first five years post-legislation”.

Last month the Canadian branch of distributor Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits created an off-shoot of its business dedicated to cannabis products — the first drinks firm in the country to so.

The new market has the potential to damage the drinks industry, as analysts in the US have already warned that drinkers are moving away from wine and beer to no-ABV alternatives infused with THC; the psychoactive chemical component of the plant.

Some have even questioned why there is a limit on legal possession of cannabis when there is not for alcohol or tobacco, which campaigners claim are far more damaging to someone’s health.

 

Bourcard Nesin, beverages analyst at Rabobank, told the drinks business earlier this year that wealthy middle-aged women — the biggest wine-drinking demographic in the US — say their cannabis use would increase if the federal government legalised the drug, while a recent survey in the US showed that young people are more likely to try the drug before alcohol or tobacco, and those that do are less likely to go on to use the latter.

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