US wine distributors eye the cannabis market

Hemp by Hendrike/Wiki Commons
Hemp by Hendrike/Wiki Commons

With nine states currently allowing recreational marijuana use and another 21 that permit medical use, interest in legalizing cannabis across the USA is growing.

Several American wine distribution executives have moved into US cannabis distribution, such as Southern Glazer’s subsidiary Great North Distributors, which became the distributor for Canadian cannabis producer Aphria this May.

As major wine distributors have the storage and shipping facilities already in place for cannabis distribution, it comes as no surprise that many of them would like to get in on a piece of the sales action.

In order to do that, the distribution tier is maintaining that the sale of cannabis should be regulated similarly to that of wine and spirits. This month, the powerful, Washington D.C.-based Wine & Sprits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) confirmed its support of states’ rights to regulate and legalize cannabis, as well as enact regulatory distribution safeguards, said Dawson Hobbs, the organization’s senior vice president of government affairs.

Following a Pattern

Licensed wholesale distribution of cannabis is already mandatory, even if it results in the end product costing more in California, noted Lauren A. Mendelsohn, an associate attorney in the law offices of Omar Figueroa in Sebastopol.

“The industry understands that legalization is going to happen eventually,” said Josh Prigge the CEO of the Las Vegas-based Sustridge, a sustainability consulting firm. “With 83% of Americans agreeing that there should be some form of legal marijuana usage … the WSWA has decided to embrace this cultural shift and identify opportunities for the industry to benefit.”

It is likely to be a profitable move. “The expected margins from sale of recreational cannabis at the wholesale level are expected to be huge and WSWA members want in,” said John Hinman, a partner in the San Francisco law firm of Hinman & Carmichael.

National, regulated distribution of cannabis is not likely to happen immediately. “Issues surrounding cannabis legalization won’t be solved overnight but we look forward to being part of the conversation,” concluded Hobbs.
Liza B. Zimmerman


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