Ross Rebagliati, the Canadian Olympic champion snowboarder, is bringing his name and brand to the medical marijuana industry.
The 42-year-old is founder of Ross’ Gold, a budding Vancouver startup which will seek to license a brand system and a consistent distribution process for medical marijuana through a distribution partner in Ontario.
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Rebagliati is betting Canadians will remember his story – his first-place snowboard win in Nagano, Japan; being stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana; and having the medal restored after it turned out the drug was not among those banned by the Olymic committee.
'We’re creating a brand that people can identify with, a brand that people can trust and a brand that people already know.' - Ross Rebagliati, Olympic snowboard gold medallist
“We’re creating a brand that people can identify with, a brand that people can trust and a brand that people already know,” Rebagliati said in an interview with CBC News Network’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange.
“From our standpoint of healthy lifestyle and sporting background of excellence – with my gold medal in Nagano – we feel that that’s going to be an attraction to people who are in the cannabis industry already and people who are new to it,” he added.
Ross’s Gold will lend its name to a line of products, with its Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze levels denoting varying strengths of THC.
It has a distribution centre in Ontario, where patients will be able to order a product online, and partnerships with several potential producers. The product will be sent via bonded courier from the distribution centre.
“The fact that we have multiple producers across Canada under our fold basically ensures that if there is any issues whatsoever with one of our producers, we have several other producers that can continue to meet the demand,” Rebagliati said.
Medical marijuana rush
Health Canada has so far licensed 13 producers of medical marijuana, and estimates the business could ultimately be worth $1.4 billion a year. None of the Ross’ Gold producers has yet won a licence, but they are all in process of trying to get one, Rebagliati said.
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There has been a rush to enter the business and Health Canada is swamped with applications.
Rebagliati said he’s aware how competitive the business has become and believes he can give his producers an edge in marketing their product.
“The biggest hurdle for anyone trying to get into this industry is becoming licensed and dealing with all of the requirements that Health Canada has put forward,” he said.
In the long run, those who have pockets deep enough to get medical-grade facilities into operation will succeed, he said.
Ross’ Gold began by raising money privately, but then bought a shell company on the Over the Counter Pink market, which helped raise still more capital.
Looking to create new products
Rebagliati and partner Patrick Smyth also foresee opportunities to improve on marijuana products, if Health Canada can be convinced.
“Right now it’s dried cannabis that the federal government is prepared to provide to patients and what we’d like to see is an amendment to that as soon as possible to see extracts and edibles,” Rebagliati said.
“The direction the U.S. is going in a roundabout way is something that is going to open doors for us to move into the recreational market in the future,” Rebagliati said.
“We feel this is something that is going to help Canada move down this road as well.”
An earlier version of this story said Health Canada has stopped taking applications for medical marijuana licences. In fact, Health Canada is still taking applications, though there is a backlog in processing them.Jul 17, 2014 1:38 PM ET