Marijuana misconceptions and opportunities

CHIC Marijuana panel, clockwise from top left: Jason Arbuck, Jonathan Sherman, Jeff Ryan and Kristin Taylor.

CHIC Marijuana panel, clockwise from top left: Jason Arbuck, Jonathan Sherman, Jeff Ryan and Kristin Taylor.

TORONTO —If marijuana had been legalized in the '70s, the talk would have been about smoking joints. Now that there is vaping, edibles and even cannabis-infused beverages, the discussion of the opportunities and challenges for hotels at next week's CHIC conference will be very broad in scope.

Jason Arbuck and Jonathan Sherman of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP gave CLN a preview of the many subjects they will be dealing with April 24, in the plenary titled The Big Smoke: How the legalization of Cannabis in Canada will impact the hospitality industry, which is the final session of the day.

“We're asking, what does the world look like now and what will it look like after cannibis is legalized in summer 2018. We're also looking at what we expect to see or could see in two to five years from now,” said Arbuck.

Sherman points out that the outcome will vary province by province. “In the west, there will be private companies controlling and owning the retail stores. In Ontario and Quebec, it will be provincial government ownership. Ontario has already announced the first four outlets. Second Cup has signed a deal with National Access Cannabis Corp., and their stock was up 30 per cent.”  Many expect there will be cannabis consumption lounges at some point, maybe in the next two to three years.

The hospitality industry will also be involved in how marijuana is consumed in public places, since marijuana is now consumed in beverages and edible products. Then there's the debate about whether alcohol, cannabis and caffeine should be available on the same premises.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell partner Kristin Taylor, as part of the panel, will talk about what the immediate changes will mean for employer, employee and unions. What will this mean for companies' drug/alcohol policies? How will hospitality businesses deal with testing people at work once cannabis is more prevalent?

Cannabis is big business, said Arbuck, pointing out that big alcohol, big pharma and other big companies are involved.  For example, Constellation Brands, one of the world's largest alcoholic beverage producers, recently paid $245 million for a 9.9 per cent stake in Canopy Growth Corp., the world's largest publicly traded cannabis company.

Canopy vice-president, government and stakeholder relations, Jeff Ryan, will also join the CHIC panel, giving his perspective on what's coming down the pipe in terms of government regulations. Ryan's background includes almost nine years with Labatt Breweries of Canada.

There are entrepreneurial opportunities for the hospitality industry, Sherman pointed out. “Out west, they are currently moving ahead with applications for retail stores — not consumption lounges, but cannabis retail outlets.” Again, that process varies from province to province.

On-property consumption is another concern for the hospitality industry. Every province has different rules about vaping. “If it's non-smokable, non-vapable, guests should be able to consume it in private,” said Sherman. 

“Attendees will be looking at marijuana from two points of view — leveraging versus monitoring and/or mitigating risk,” said Arbuck.

Q&A will
be available throughout the timeslot, so bring your questions.  More information at