“CANNNNNAAABIS! GETCHYA CANNNABIS HERE!”
That could soon be the selling cry of venue vendors across Canada thanks to the legalization of weed.
While marijuana in Canada won’t be legal until Wednesday (and edibles likely 12 months after that), it doesn’t take a vivid imagination to extrapolate what this will mean for live event venues and the people that fill them.
Sports venues and their tenants have never been shy about improving their in-stadium experience through the sale of adult beverages, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be the same when cannabis-infused edibles are made available. Edibles present a tempting alternative to the beer/wine/mixed drink offerings found in most stadiums, and frankly, a completely different spectator experience. And if the introduction of edibles means a reduction of the number of drunken brawls that break out when a rogue peanut shell hits a fellow attendee, even better. As long as the demand is there, stadiums will look to meet it. If legalization has taught us anything in the US, it’s that the demand for edibles will be there.
In California, where recreational marijuana is legal, cannabis-infused food and drinks comprise 10 percent of the state’s total cannabis sales, worth approximately $180 million per year. It’s the same in Washington and Colorado, where edibles’ market share of the marijuana industry has been steadily rising. All in, the market for edibles is already worth an estimated $7.2 billion per year. The appeal of edibles is simple: it delivers a similar experience to smoking, without the smoking part, which is appealing for smokers and non-smokers alike.
While it’ll likely take some time, pot brands have already been active in courting venues in other ways. It started when naming rights for Mile High Stadium became available, and several pot brands threw their names and money in the ring for them. The attempt was ultimately futile (and written off as a publicity stunt from some commentators), but it showed the ways in which marijuana brands are pushing for mainstream credibility and legitimacy. Marijuana brands in Canada are still figuring out the government’s restrictions on advertising and sponsorship, but if they settle on a similar set of rules governing alcohol, the push into high-value events like live sports is the natural next step. And they won’t necessarily have competition for shelf space.
Rather than dig in and go to war with cannabis, alcohol brands are instead buying in. Just this year Constellation Brands (the owner of Corona and Modelo) purchased a 38 percent stake in Canopy Growth Corp for a cool $4 billion dollars, while Molson Coors signed a partnership with The Hydropothecary Corporation to produce their own line of non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages. These brands have clearly done the math and understand they won’t necessarily cannibalize themselves by moving into cannabis, appealing to those who don’t enjoy consuming alcohol in the first place, and providing their own alternative for those who are looking to make a change. They correctly figured that if they can get away with charging a 400 percent markup on tall cans of beer at stadiums like the Skydome, imagine the markup on edible candies and cannabis-infused beers.
Cannabis in the concession stands doesn’t come without its own set of complications though. In most venues, alcohol sales are restricted after a certain point in the game, for health and safety concerns. Similar practices would likely need to be established and ironed out for edibles. Venue staff would also need to be trained to ensure fans aren’t over-consuming cannabis, which could be difficult since signs of intoxication from cannabis usually take longer to present themselves than those from alcohol. Venue staff will also need to learn how to provide assistance and medical support to any fans who have a negative reaction.
Whether it takes a year or two to work out all the hurdles and hiccups, one thing is clear. It won’t be long before that mid-summer, four-hour-plus marathon between the Jays and Rays suddenly becomes much more tolerable. And when it does, we’ll likely have weed brownies to thank.