Ross's Gold is taking shape. The medical marijuana-coffee shop franchise planned by Olympic gold medal-winning snowboarder Ross Rebagliati, is developing slowly and carefully, said Rebagliati's business partner.
"We came out of the gates in January really quite unplanned and were crushed by media requests," Patrick Smyth of Ocean Eclipse Venture Capital said.
"Since then, we've developed the business model and branding per se. It has changed significantly. Originally, we thought we'd be able to be a dispensary. We cannot be a dispensary."
Smyth said they would create coffee shops in Whistler, Vancouver and beyond; if all goes well, the resort's first location will open this summer.
Ross's Gold has raised start-up capital and planned a storefront with a design concept incorporating a retail area, coffee bar, vapour lounge and a medical clinic. In terms of the latter, Smyth said the goal is to eventually serve people who meet prescription qualifications for medical marijuana.
"We cannot sell or distribute it. Our goal is to have people come in who are healthy enough to make the choice and meet the prescription qualifications, we'll get their prescription and then we'll recommend where they can buy some and then buy it directly from licensed producers and it will get shipped by Canada Post in the next day or two days," he explained.
This, he said, was "perfectly legal."
One innovation is for the company to look at creating a branded strain of medical marijuana called Ross's Gold.
"(It could be different strengths,) Ross's gold, silver or bronze — like Tylenol Extra Strength," Smyth said, but added it would depend on legal constraints. To this end, they had been speaking to growers with both farming and hot-house scientific experience.
They also have a letter of intent from a hedge fund in Britain and once this arrangement is finalized they "will be able to sit down and negotiate leases."
"We've developed relationships with product suppliers, we've actually have products sitting in Whistler ready to sell, sitting on a shelf. So we've done a lot of that," Smyth said.
"We want to have our design ready because we've had a lot of expressions of interest from people who want to license and brand our stores."
He said that some doctors have expressed an interest in becoming involved.
"That's the ultimate vision. Then we hope that one day down the line the medical clinic would one day become a dispensary, but only when we're allowed to do that. I'm sure the laws will change one day," Smyth said.
The Harper government is wedded to current policy of privatizing the supply of medical marijuana, due to take place in 2014. Health Canada forecasts medical marijuana users to grow from 26,000 currently to 300,000 in the next decade, creating an industry worth $5 billion.
Smyth said they hadn't approached the Resort Municipality of Whistler or the RCMP.
"We haven't approached anyone there, we did speak to one councillor and he said it sounds like (concerns would be) a bylaw thing," Smyth said. "Looking at a Vancouver location, we did approach the Vancouver Police Department and they said it was a bylaw issue. We're putting our feelers out there, getting responses. The big thing is that we want to make sure there is understanding, that everything has to be compliant."
Ross's Gold's plans come as former Microsoft executive Jamen Shively announced his intention to create a U.S.-based and eventually international marijuana brand, using cannabis imported legally from Mexico.
His company, Diego Pellicer Inc., would be based in Seattle and targeted at social and medical marijuana users in the Washington State and Colorado, states which recently decriminalized cannabis use, in hope of expansion to other markets as they legalize, according to the BBC. Shively also plans to bring in former Mexican president Vincente Fox as a partner.
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