By Dawn Marie Paley / Toward Freedom

The 2018 Cannabis Act transformed Canada into the financial and legal jurisdiction for cannabis entrepreneurs and investors looking to do business internationally. Today, Canadian weed companies have their eye on a massive prize: the lucrative medical and adult cannabis markets that are emerging around the world.

Much of the hype around corporate cannabis is linked to the acquisition of lands and smaller growing operations internationally. The selling point is that cannabis can be grown overseas and exported to meet demand in Canada (and eventually the US), but also that Canadian companies position themselves as suppliers in emerging local markets.

Legal bud is a new gold rush, and some of the practices of the corporate cannabis giants are reminiscent of the modus operandi that tarnished the reputation of Canadian mining companies abroad. Lobbying to impact national legislation, supporting criminalization of traditional producers, and moving into remote territories with plans to implement plantation style economies are just some of the critiqued practices of Canada’s emerging cannabis sector.

By far the biggest name in cannabis today is Ontario’s Canopy Growth, with operations in 14 countries and shares outstanding worth nearly $8 billion. Then comes Tilray, a pharmaceutical and cannabis company headquartered on Vancouver Island; Ontario’s Aphria, with operations in 10 countries; and Aurora Cannabis, with sales and production in 25 countries. There are dozens of smaller companies across Canada, many of which are start-ups looking to do big business on the legal cannabis boom.

Canadian cannabis companies are active in Europe, in Asia and Africa and especially in Latin America. Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Mexico have all passed medical marijuana laws, Uruguay fully legalized cannabis for adult and medical uses in 2012, and in other countries herb is effectively decriminalized.