Pot is going to drive Canada’s next big economic boom, and the Okanagan Valley, particularly Kelowna, is poised to be one of the country’s major players.
Dave Martyn, the president of Kelowna’s Compass Cannabis, says legalization will pave the way for cannabis to be the biggest industry in the region.
Across the country, the amount of investor money pouring into pot is already staggering. But Martyn says the knowledge and infrastructure that already exists in the Okanagan has primed the region to capitalize on it.
“I think it [legalized marijuana] is a massive opportunity in the Okanagan. This would be like being in Texas in 1901, when the oil boom happened. I feel like that potential is here,” Martyn says.
The great experiment
Martyn says pending pot legalization in Canada has made the country “the global leader” in the industry, and that investors are flocking to get in on the action.
“This is the great experiment in cannabis legalization. I think from the results we’re seeing—the equity market being one—our stock markets are carried by cannabis stocks right now,” he says. “On the investment side of things, the cannabis sector is as hot as anything that I can conceive of.”
Martyn says it’s not just the amount of money coming into the industry that’s promising, but the people behind that money; he says everyone from the “average” to “strategic, high-value” investor is putting up cash.
“It is the best and brightest making these investments right now,” he says, “and they are making some staggering investments.”
Big cannabis loves Kelowna
Many of those staggering investments are being made in Okanagan Valley cannabis companies.
Doja, Trent Kitch’s “cannabis lifestyle brand,” recently raised close to $20 million of capital on the markets. Meanwhile, Lumby’s True Leaf Medicine is building a new, state-of-the-art production facility after raising millions of dollars of its own.
Not long ago, Kelowna’s Cannatech Plant Systems was sold to big-name pot producer The Flowr Corporation, which plans on setting up its “massive,” “flagship” production operation in the city, bringing in hundreds of jobs.
Compass Cannabis’ recent partnership with the American retail pot leader Starbuds will also see the Kelowna company undertake an aggressive expansion over the next year.
Black market makeover
While cannabis businesses are popping up across the country, Martyn says there’s no question there’s way more of them in the Okanagan than most other regions.
He says that’s primarily because there’s a ton of both intellectual capital and market infrastructure already established here, thanks to years of black-market activity.
“It’s an interesting situation for the Okanagan Valley, because the dirty secret of this valley is that there is a ton of cannabis money that’s come in here over the last few years in the black market,” he says.
Martyn says pot hasn’t really been acknowledged as an economic driver in the region, but that economic indicators (like house prices), show its impact.
He argues that most major cannabis markets in the country have seen “major economic growth,” and that that growth is at least in part because of black-market marijuana.
“Cannabis and rising house prices go hand in hand,” he says. “In my opinion that was one of the factors in the recent boom here in the Okanagan.”
Martyn says that, even though the Okanagan is poised for massive economic growth on the back of the cannabis industry, local politicians and the general public will have to accept cannabis’ legitimacy to fully capitalize on its potential.
“All the elements are here for cannabis to create a massive boom, and part of it is going to be the public accepting it as an economic driver,” he says. “Of course, the reality is it has been an economic driver in the past.”
“The challenge for anyone within government is how you go from black market to regulated market without causing a dip in the economy,” he says.
Martyn says Kelowna has the opportunity to “lead the way in this industry, and really be the next wave in prosperity.” He says he has faith that local politicians will make the decisions that allow that to happen.
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