CanadianCannabisWire Editorial Coverage: Despite legislative delays, the legalization of recreational cannabis will take place in Canada, likely by the end of summer at the latest. Companies are coming to grips with the licensing process and are ready to reach this new market. One of the leaders in the new industry is Choom Holdings, Inc. (CSE: CHOO) (OTCQB: CHOOF) (CHOOF Profile), which has gained licensing experience and developed a slick brand designed to appeal to the recreational market. Grower and seller Cronos Group, Inc. (TSX: CRON) (NASDAQ: CRON) is eyeing the international market through a cross-border deal with MedMen. Canopy Growth Corporation (TSX: WEED) (OTC: TWMJF) has been focusing on retail licenses and is now an approved supplier for every province that has gone through an approval process. Aphria, Inc. (TSX: APH) (OTCQB: APHQF) is moving from medical into recreational cannabis though an expansion strategy that has seen growth in profits and revenue. Hiku Brands Company. Ltd. (CSE: HIKU) (OTC: DJACF) has gained an early sales license for its subsidiary company and is setting up state-of-the-art growing facilities ready for the legal change.
A Matter of Time
Ever since Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party were elected on a pro-legalization platform, Canada has been heading towards an in-plain-view cannabis market. Bill C-45, legalizing the trade, was passed in the House of Commons by a two-thirds majority last November and is making its way through the Senate. The passage of the bill has taken longer than expected, but even the Conservatives are not trying to block its passage. A whole new consumer sector is coming to Canada.
The delays have largely been caused by concerns about practicalities. The recreational cannabis market will be tightly regulated, just as the medical market is now. Conservatives and Liberals alike want to ensure that the police and local authorities have time to prepare. Though this concern is causing delays, it also creates an opportunity for companies that are well prepared. A company that can show it is organized, responsible and compliant with government regulations will have an edge in getting licensed and started in the new market. Balancing that with a consumer-facing image of a fun, relaxing product may be key to early success.
One of the companies leading the way in this is Choom Holdings (CSE: CHOO) (OTCQB: CHOOF). A purpose-built recreational brand, Choom is led by an experienced management and leadership team that understands the complexities of the market it is entering. President and CEO Chris Bogart has more than twenty years of experience in international capital markets and was a co-founder of InMed Pharmaceuticals and Magnum Uranium. He has structured complex equity financing transactions in the United States, Europe and Canada.
The team has been preparing for the coming change in the cannabis market for more than four years. Choom has been going through the process of applying for an ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations) license in Vernon, B.C. In 2017, it has offers to acquire three additional applicants, including one already involved in the process in Vancouver Island, B.C. The company is working diligently to be ready to sell cannabis as soon as legalization comes.
Going through the cannabis licensing process could provide Choom with another advantage. Its staff has developed the skills and experience to quickly navigate the regulatory process and has proven to authorities its ability be become a responsible cannabis grower. The company has been working for future retail growth and distribution. With Alberta alone expecting to license 250 stores in the first year (http://cnw.fm/Wgt5F), regulators are clearly going to be busy working through all the applications. Companies such as Choom that have experience, a good reputation and a well-presented application may have a critical edge in successful retail licensing.
Effective Supply Chain
The Canadian cannabis industry is estimated to be huge. Deloitte notes that it could be worth as much as $22.6 billion per year (http://cnw.fm/eOkR5). Even the more conservative estimates predict a market larger than spirits and nearly as large as wine. That’s a lot of profit available to companies that can move in quickly and provide a reliable retail experience.
Choom could provide that through its fully integrated seed-to-sale supply chain. The company will be growing its own cannabis in ACMPR-licensed facilities. The company has four ACMPR licenses in late-stage review: one applicant has been acquired with three others under offer, as well as its first applicant expecting to receive a cultivation license from Health Canada in the next few weeks. There is approximately 68,000 square feet of facilities being retrofitted to increase growing capacity in time for legalization, with a further phase of expansion planned for later in the year, thereby building production capacity to produce a steady supply of cannabis.
This cannabis will be packaged as Choom brand products and sold through a series of Choom stores. The company will run corporate stores, with other stores being operated across Canada by independent retail investor/owners. This plan is designed to ensure that Choom products have a prominent place in the Canadian retail market and can be found easily by consumers.
While an efficient supply chain is important to placing products in front of customers, it’s the presentation of the product that will draw consumers in. Again, Choom appears to be well prepared.
With tight marketing restrictions in place, cannabis companies won’t be able to rely on mass advertising to raise customer awareness. Instead, they’ll need appealing brands that quickly attract consumers and lead to word-of-mouth recommendations.
Choom’s brand is built around a fun, relaxed style that draws on Hawaii’s mellow atmosphere and the cannabis culture on the island in the 1970s. The name of the company itself comes from island slang, including “the Choom gang,” a well-known group from that era that famously included the hippest president in American history, Barack Obama. It’s a strong, clearly identifiable brand style, firmly established to attract the recreational market.
The strength of the brand is supported by the design of the company’s retail stores. Designed by the team behind some of the most recognizable retail spaces around, Choom stores are designed with a cool and modern layout and are designed to appeal to serving everyone, from current users to “curious customers.”
The combination of clean white space and open concept creates a comfortable, familiar atmosphere that is meant to make the stores accessible to both existing cannabis consumers and new customers. Plants and sofas signal that this is not just a shop but a place to hang out, a part of that relaxing Hawaiian vibe.
Cannabis Companies Prepare for Growth
Other Canadian cannabis companies are also preparing for an era of huge growth.
Toronto-based cannabis grower and seller Cronos Group, Inc. (TSX: CRON) (NASDAQ: CRON) has become the first pure play cannabis company to be traded on Wall Street (http://cnw.fm/BQk4n). This shows the growing acceptance of the cannabis market not just in countries where the drug has been licensed but in the broader investment community. Investors see growth ahead for these companies and are taking the opportunity to invest before prices rise. As a cannabis company with international ambitions, Cronos is also distinctive. Its corporate goals include becoming a global force, and it has created a first-of-its-kind cross-border venture with Los Angeles-based cannabis retail brand MedMen (http://cnw.fm/wLhX4).
Canopy Growth Corporation (TSX: WEED) (OTC: TWMJF) is establishing its retail presence. The company has been chosen by the government of Manitoba (http://cnw.fm/fEb9K) as one of the first companies to set up licensed cannabis retail stores in the province. Of the four Canadian provinces that have established retail and supply frameworks, all have now chosen Canopy Growth as a trusted supplier, giving the company a strong place in the retail market.
Aphria, Inc. (TSX: APH) (OTCQB: APHQF) is a successful company in the medical cannabis market, with both profits and revenues consistently rising throughout 2016 and 2017. The company is looking to continue this expansion, with further growth in the medical sector alongside expansion into the recreational cannabis market. It has signed a deal to buy Nuuvera Inc. (http://cnw.fm/O3oHY) and shows no sign of slowing down.
Like Canopy Growth, Hiku Brands Company, Ltd. (CSE: HIKU) (OTC: DJACF) has gained one of the early licenses to set up cannabis retail stores through selection by the Manitoba government (http://cnw.fm/1EdHP). This license for its subsidiary Tokyo Smoke will put Hiku in a strong position to sell to a new customer base once Bill C-45 reaches its expected passage. The company is near the end of the ACMPR application process and has a state-of-the-art growing facility, with another set to be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2018. It should, therefore, have a vertically integrated business, with a complete supply chain from growth to sales.
Delays in the passage of Bill C-45 have caused no slowing in the growth of the Canadian cannabis market. If anything, the extra time has allowed companies to better prepare. When the recreational market opens later this summer, several strong businesses appear to be ready to step up and play their part.
For more information on Choom Holdings, please visit Choom Holdings (CSE: CHOO) (OTCQB: CHOOF).
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