With the medical marijuana industry gearing up for new regulations from Health Canada, slated to go into effect next spring, Olympic gold medalist Ross Rebagliati has his eye set on legalized markets in the United States, with the goal of introducing his brand in Washington and Colorado.
In January Rebagliati outlined his plans to establish a government-approved medical marijuana dispensary and retail outlet in Whistler, called Ross' Gold. The decision came on the heels of an announcement that Health Canada would start phasing out its production of medical marijuana, taking the process out of the hands of licensed home growers and turning it over to approved commercial producers that meet the government's stringent requirements.
"We'd like to test out our model, so we're in talks with some growers down in Washington and Colorado to have branded Ross' Gold marijuana cigarettes," Rebagliati said, adding that he's looking at launching other branded products in the U.S. as well. "We're talking with growers that are already established and at the top of their field. It's just a matter of building the relationships. We have a couple of meetings lined up in Colorado, I believe in the fall, to talk to some groups that are investing in the industry. It's a work-in-progress."
In November, Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states to legalize the sale and possession of cannabis for recreational use.
With plans to expand south of the border, Rebagliati's primary focus remains on establishing his brand in Canada and gaining a foothold in the industry once the federal government's new regulations come into play in April. Under the new Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, cannabis would be treated as any other narcotic used for medical purposes, enabling patients to acquire products as needed based on a health-care practitioner's prescription.
The Olympian's vision is to establish a storefront in Whistler, as well as Toronto and Vancouver, which would, along with his company's website, act as a directory of sorts for medical marijuana users, making it easier for them to obtain prescriptions from producers partnered with the Ross' Gold brand.
"What we're basically bringing to the table is a portal for the licensed producers that we are in partnership with, being that they're not allowed to do any advertising or marketing other than being a link through a government website. What we're able to do is all the advertising and marketing under the branded name Ross' Gold, and in the onset of the new laws, people will be able to either come to our storefront or go online to our website, and we'll basically act as a portal to the licensed producers who carry our brand and whose strains are carried under our brand."
The company will also produce a number of its own exclusive strains, said Rebagliati, called Ross' Gold, Silver and Bronze.
Under Rebagliati's model, patients will have the chance to customize their prescription to suit their medical needs, with plans to offer combination packs of various strains with different levels of THC or cannabidiol (CBD), two of the major constituents of the cannabis plant. Recent studies have touted CBD as an effective treatment for a variety of medical conditions, including epileptic seizures, certain forms of cancer and psychosis.
With no firm plans in place yet for a retail location in the resort, Rebagliati said his team is monitoring what spaces are available, and he's confident they'll be able to secure a property once further financing is acquired. So far, Ross' Gold has attracted over $100,000 from private investors that has gone towards product, brand and website development as well as basic start-up costs. The company has also attracted interest from existing operations in Toronto and Vancouver who are considering rebranding under the Ross' Gold label.
Under Ottawa's incoming regulations, medical marijuana producers and distributors will be required to respect municipal zoning bylaws in an effort to further enhance public safety.
There are more than 30,000 people currently enrolled in Canada's Marijuana Medical Access Program, who can either grow marijuana for personal use at home, or purchase it from a government producer. Leona Aglukkaq, Canada's Minister of Health, recently issued a statement saying the repeal of the current program, which will take place March 31, is aimed at ensuring "the safety of Canadian communities" and removing the criminal element from the medical marijuana industry.
Visit www.rebagliatigold.com for more information on Ross' Gold.