FASTCOMPANY.COM 67 PHOTOGRAPHS BY NAOMI HARRIS FEBRUARY 2019
stream of customers flooded in, Power high-fived everyone in sight.
Linton signed bags and merch, clasped hands, smiled for photos, and
stayed up most of the night doing phone interviews, followed by a live
morning-TV appearance the next day.
Linton’s ability to captivate the press—along with lawmakers,
regulators, cops, and investors—has kept his company on a steadily
accelerating course for the past few years. Analysts estimate that annual sales of legal weed in Canada will near $5 billion (U.S.) by 2020,
exceeding the country’s sales of hard liquor. Based on its production
capacity and its widening retail footprint, Canopy could capture about
a third of that market. But competition is growing, and there’s a much
bigger playing field emerging to the south. Ten U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have legalized sales of recreational weed since 2012;
33 states and Washington, D.C., allow medical marijuana; and Big
Pharma researchers are looking to cannabis to find non-opioid alternatives for pain management. U. S. sales of products containing CBD,
a nonpsychoactive component of cannabis with a range of claimed
health benefits, will likely top $500 million for last year, and the 2018
Farm Bill expected to pass in December would make it federally legal to
grow low-THC hemp plants for CBD, removing legal ambiguity around
are somewhat inconceivably set a half hour
ahead of the next easternmost time zone. If
the plane’s all-too-apt ETA of 10: 17 p.m. local
held, he had a chance to make what would be
Canada’s very first “rec” sale.
Since obtaining one of Canada’s earliest
licenses for commercial cultivation of medical marijuana about five years ago, Linton
had built a global weed empire. His publicly
held company employed more than 2,000
people and had more than 4 million square
feet of marijuana under cultivation, an
80,000-square-foot warehouse stocked to the
rafters with inventory, and $78 million (U.S.)
in fiscal 2018 revenue. On October 16, its market cap had soared to $11 billion, and it had
billions of dollars in new funding from the
Constellation Group (owner of Corona beer).
Leading the biggest company in Canada’s
hottest new business sector since beaver
skins had made Linton one of the most famous CEOs in the country. But these next
24 hours would offer him something new:
a shot at cementing his top-dog status with
investors (who had driven up Canopy’s stock
price by nearly 100% between July and mid-October) and attracting millions of new customers who could become brand devotees.
Linton, wearing a black hoodie and jeans,
disheveled hair falling over the tops of his
ears, sipped a beer while thumb-typing on his
BlackBerry and making jokes with an in-house
filmmaker and a couple of reporters along for
the ride. The world’s biggest marijuana kingpin looked more like a middle-aged sports fan
on his way to a hockey playoff game.
When Linton arrived at the store, it was
nearly 11, and a line of customers stretched
around the block in the slanting rain. Inside,
photographers, TV crews, and reporters from
across the world mingled with the store’s
newly minted budtenders. They inspected
the crystals, orange hairs, and oozing trichomes of buds displayed in clear “sensory
pods” with magnifying lids, which were arrayed on blond-wood counters reminiscent
of an Apple store’s. Shortly after 11: 30, a few
dozen lucky customers were let in to browse.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven . . . .” At five seconds after midnight, local time, as cameras
flashed, Linton rang up the first sale: two tins
of a sativa-dominant hybrid, called Donegal,
to 24-year-old Nikki Rose and 46-year-old
Ian Power, a longtime medical cannabis user
and advocate. As a demographically diverse
Canopy Growth CEO
Bruce Linton (left)
has navigated complex regulatory
markets for most
of his career.
A WAY WITH WEED
A post-harvest supervisor handles
the product at Canopy’s main facility, near Ottawa.