'Taste the feeling'? Coca-Cola mulls deal with Canadian pot grower for cannabis drinks
Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories
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- Beverage behemoth Coca Cola is considering a line of cannabis-infused drinks.
- Puerto Rico, still struggling to rebuild and recover a year after Hurricane Maria, is in the grip of a mental health crisis.
- Missed The National last night? Watch it here
The pot that refreshes
It has been more than 100 years since Coca Cola contained any significant amount of cocaine, the drug that gave the world's favourite soft drink its hard-edged name. But now comes news that the beverage behemoth is considering a line of cannabis-infused drinks.
A report this morning from BNN Bloomberg, citing "multiple sources," says the Atlanta-based company is in "serious talks" with Edmonton's Aurora Cannabis Inc. to create a line of beverages containing cannabidiol (CBD), a non-buzzy chemical found in pot plants. The concoctions would be marketed as "wellness drinks," purporting to reduce inflammation and joint pain.
The fizz was short-lived for Coca-Cola Co., which opened up slightly on the New York Exchange, but had lost 31 cents by midday, trading at $183.78.
It seems all but inevitable, however, that soft-drink makers are going to get into the booming pot market.
Soda sales have been falling for more than a dozen years, as consumers in the U.S., Canada and Europe turn away from "diet" and sugary drinks in favour of bottled water or "healthy" teas, coffees and juices.
Last year, the company announced a turnaround plan, and a promise to become a "total beverage company" by introducing more low and non-sugar drinks and focusing on "emerging categories."
CBD-infused drinks certainly fit that bill, with some analysts suggesting that market growth for the non-intoxicating compound will far outpace legal pot, hitting $22 billion US by 2022.
(There's speculation that Coke's biggest competitor, Pepsi Co., is also eying the pot-drink market.)
Last month, Constellation Brands, the maker of Corona beer and Kim Crawford wines, announced a $5 billion investment in Canopy Growth, a Smiths Falls, Ont.-based cannabis producer, with the aim of developing intoxicating pot beverages.
Molson Coors also got in on the action, striking a deal with Hexo, a Quebec-based company, to create cannabis drinks.
Canada's legal pot market — estimated to be worth as much as $9.25 billion by 2025 — is expected to quickly rival beer ($9.2 billion a year) and outstrip what Canadians spend on wine ($7 billion) or spirits ($5.1 billion).
And a possible investment by Coca Cola — still the world's fourth-largest brand — will only heighten interest.
Consumers who want to quaff cannabis instead of toke it will have to wait a while, however. The federal government isn't planning license edibles or drinkables until sometime in 2019.
And if the chaos around the rollout of recreational marijuana is any indication, it could well take longer.
Ontario will have 26 licensed producers feeding online sales, but no retail outlets until the spring of 2019.
Quebec will have at least a dozen stores, but perhaps no staff, since no one has actually gotten around to training them.
Alberta seems best-placed for the impending smokepocalypse, with a well-advanced plan to license 250 private pot sellers, more than the number of outlets in the rest of the country combined.
All of which might create a market craving for a nice, relaxing drink.
Mental health crisis in Puerto Rico
A year after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, The National's Ioanna Roumeliotis returned to the island check on rebuilding efforts. What she found was people stuck in bureaucratic and financial limbo, unable to repair their homes and return to more normal lives, and suffering from psychological issues due to the stress and the experiences of recent months.
On the one hand, there's a familiarity with the people and what they've been through. And yet you want to do more than compare the before-and-after — you want to capture the newness and the nuance of what's happening.
But a year after Hurricane Maria plunged the entire island into darkness, it was the sameness that was the most striking thing about Puerto Rico. The lack of progress was the biggest issue when we spoke to people, and it's a major contributing factor in what many are calling a mental health crisis.
Suicide rates have spiked since Maria, and as we travelled out of the capital of San Juan we could feel a sort of heaviness in quiet communities along the eastern coast of the island, where the eye of the hurricane hit.
In the town of Naguabo, our CBC crew — producer Jennifer Barr, camera operator Ousama Farag and I — met a man named Angel Luis Sandoyal Mendoza. He reminded us of another man we had met the year before when we first went to Puerto Rico to cover the disaster the hurricane had left behind — both have seen their rebuilding efforts snarled in bureaucratic red tape.
Angel is still waiting for FEMA, the U.S. disaster relief agency, to answer his plea for help and for money to rebuild his home. The agency is demanding he produce the deed to the house, to prove he owns it. But the modest home is an ancestral one (his family has lived there for generations) and that kind of paperwork, even if it did exist, would have been lost in the hurricane that tore away the roof and several walls of the building.
The plight of Angel, a man drained and exhausted from fighting an inhuman bureaucracy, was one we encountered again and again on the island.
When we left him standing in the ruins of his home and his life, we couldn't help but wonder how much strength he has left to face the sameness of all the tomorrows to come.
- WATCH: Ioanna Roumeliotis' story about Puerto Rico's mental health crisis tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online
- READ: Jennifer Barr's feature about the mental health crisis in Puerto Rico and what's driving it
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- You may also like our early-morning newsletter, the Morning Brief — start the day with the news you need in one quick and concise read. Sign up here.
A few words on ...
Running at full potential.
2:01:39 — Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge breaks the marathon world record in Berlin. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheMoment?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TheMoment</a> <a href="https://t.co/SnF54Yc21W">pic.twitter.com/SnF54Yc21W</a>—@CBCTheNational
Quote of the moment
"I know this is no justification. But Mia was never kind to me, never civil. And here was a chance for someone showing me affection and being nice to me, so of course I was thrilled and ran for it."
- Soon-Yi Previn addresses her 25-year relationship with Woody Allen in an interview with New York magazine, calling his shaming by his ex-partner — and her stepmother —Mia Farrow "unjust."
What The National is reading
- Missing 6-year-old Saskatchewan girl found safe after Amber Alert (CBC)
- Kavanaugh accuser willing to testify, her lawyer says (Washington Post)
- Typhoon Mangkhut: Hong Kong in tatters, millions evacuate in China (CNN)
- Germany's Merkel backs Austrian bid for stronger EU borders (Deutsche Welle)
- Pakistan's Khan pledges citizenship for 1.5 million Afghan refugees (Guardian)
- 5 former Bloc Québécois MPs returning to fold (CBC)
- Russia claims fresh 'proof' Ukraine downed flight MH17 (Agence France Presse)
- Leak reveals Assange plan to flee to Russia (Sky News)
Today in history
Sept. 17, 1985: The tainted Star-Kist tuna scandal
"Tunagate," as it was inevitably dubbed, might stand as the most Canadian scandal ever — no sex or intrigue, just a government minister extending a questionable bit of corporate welfare. This Fifth Estate documentary started it all by exposing the fact that one million cans of tuna, deemed "unfit for human consumption" by inspectors, had been quietly allowed to hit grocery store shelves. John Fraser, the minister of Fisheries and Oceans, initially defended his decision, suggesting that the standards were too strict, yet soon stepped down. No one was sickened by their sandwiches or casseroles, but it didn't matter. New Brunswick's embattled Star-Kist plant closed down after the company lost almost all of its market share overnight.
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