As Canada prepares to reintegrate cannabis into society after an almost 100-year deep freeze, the palpable anticipation in the retail sector is evident. This includes the massive wine, beer, and spirits industries as well.
Canada’s wine industry alone hovers around the $9 billion mark annually, according to a report commissioned for Canadian wine trade associations. For cannabis, a recent report from a major Canadian bank revealed conservative estimates that show the recreational marijuana industry could grow to $6.5 billion per year by 2020.
“The wine world is already really experienced with the supply chain in Canada,” said Lisa Campbell, the cannabis portfolio specialist at Lifford Wine & Spirits in an interview with Marijuana.com.
Campbell was also quick to point out some of the similarities between wine and cannabis.
“One of the things that is most important with wine is the terroir, which is the combination of the soil, the environment, and the genetics, which create the very unique smell and flavour.”
Campbell may currently work for a wine and spirits distributor that decided to venture into cannabis, but she is a marijuana expert in her own right. She founded and ran arguably the most successful cannabis farmers market in Canada for years, called the Green Market.
“In the wine world and the weed world, both have their version of master growers. Master growers are rock stars in the cannabis [industry]and, in that same way, winemakers have similar prestige as do sommeliers.”
A further parallel between the two sectors is their reliance on genetics as a driving factor for quality. Campbell pointed out that grape varieties have been smuggled when needed to achieve a high-end product. . Obviously, cannabis has had a similar history considering its soon-to-be-past illegal status.
“There are stories of growers sneaking in cuttings or plants into different countries, so grapes that you would traditionally associate with France are now being cultivated in the new world and sometimes those grapes were brought in illicitly,” Campbell said. “In the same way, a lot of the [cannabis]cuttings that are famous here were snuck through airports. For example, Cannatonic, which is a popular strain in Canada, came from Spain.”
As legalization takes hold, Lifford plans to move forward aggressively into cannabis and has its eye on licensed producers across the country.
“We plan on working with licensed producers, processors, and eventually micro-growers and microprocessors to be manufacturer representatives in the space,” Campbell said. “Our job is to help products get through the control board to retail using our sales force across all 10 provinces. We’ve just started to explore relationships with licensed producers and we’re hoping that, in the coming weeks, we might have a deal to announce.”
Wine and cannabis aren’t just similar. They have also, in some cases, become the same. Cannabis-infused wine does exist and could become a significant product because of the popularity of both substances. “One of the brands we represent is Rebel Coast Winery and they are one of the first companies in California to create an infused wine.”
Canada is on schedule to legalize recreational cannabis by the end of summer 2018, and it is expected edibles and drinkables would be legal in 2019. That gives Canadians plenty of time to prepare their palettes for weed-infused wine and other beverages.