Canada’s marijuana giants advance coast-to-coast retail plans

Two of Canada’s largest cannabis companies – Aphria and Aurora – are working to establish networks of adult-use retail stores across the country in advance of the recreational marijuana market launch in October.

Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis reached a license agreement with Alcanna, the largest private-sector liquor retailer in Canada.

In February, Aurora paid 103.5 million Canadian dollars ($82.5 million) for a 19.9% ownership interest in Alcanna – then called Liquor Stores N.A.

The exclusive agreement allows Alcanna to open retail cannabis stores under the Aurora brand in provinces where private retail will be permitted.

Alcanna will build, own and operate the new cannabis stores, which will carry a suite of brands from licensed producers, including Aurora, MedReleaf and CanniMed.

Alcanna has started converting some of its 229 liquor stores to cannabis retail outlets.

Separately, Ontario-based Aphria struck a deal with British Columbia licensed producer We Grow BC.

The exclusive deal adds We Grow’s cannabis to Aphria’s coast-to-coast distribution network, which will include Aphria’s own products as well as those from Broken Coast Cannabis and others.

Aphria products will be shipped across Canada by Great North Distributors, a subsidiary of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, North America’s largest liquor distributor.

Last month, Ontario-based Canopy Growth inked a deal to acquire Hiku Brands, a retail-focused craft cannabis producer for CA$269 million.

Privately owned cannabis stores will be allowed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland. In Ontario, efforts to sign leases for Ontario Cannabis Store outlets have been put on hold as the new government weighs allowing legal marijuana sales in privately owned stores.

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