(Trinidad Newsday) While his homeland hasn’t even begun to discuss whether or not to decriminalise marijuana use for medical purposes, let alone fully legalise the herb, Trinidadian Clint Seukeran is set to go on a financial high as he was among six people selected by the Canadian government to be licensed retailers of marijuana in Ontario.
Seukeran, who migrated to Canada in 1998, was one of 25 people/entities to hit the Ontario cannabis store lottery jackpot last Friday. It is the first group of licences to be issued since the legalising of marijuana in Canada last October. The 25 winners, who were notified by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, were selected from some 16,905 applicants by purpose-built lottery software.
In a telephone interview yesterday from his home in Brampton, Canada, Seukeran said he was sitting in his car with his brother when he got an email from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario informing him of his selection for a cannabis store licence.
“It’s really funny. When I got the email notification I looked at it and told my brother this must be junk mail. But when I opened the attachment and showed it to my brother we realised this was real and we immediately got excited. This was a once in a lifetime emotion that I never experienced before,” Seukeran said.
Asked about not having any experience in the cannabis business but applying for the license, he said: “A lack of experience doesn’t preclude me from the industry. For the last 15 years, in Canada, there has been talk of medical marijuana and after leaving university, I became an advocate for healthier lifestyles and the prevention of heath problems.”
In 1996, Seukeran started an undergraduate degree in chemistry at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, but said he became disillusioned because he felt a lot stronger about preventing medical problems rather than solving them, after the fact. .
In 2002, he opened his own company, CGS Foods Inc, which processes coconut water as a health drink. He said it was easy to get into the health foods business since he holds an MBA in the agriculture and food business from the University of Guelph.
Seukeran got one of only six spots awarded for the regions surrounding Toronto. According to a story published yesterday in the Toronto Star, “industry experts, such as Lift & Co. head Matei Olaru, say the store licences, which the lottery gave winners a chance to apply for, could be worth millions of dollars to the initial shop owners.
“Olaru, whose Toronto company acts as an industry resource and information provider, told the Star these first entrants into the brick-and-mortar pot sector will almost certainly prosper from being the earliest recreational merchants in Canada’s most populous province.”
Speaking on the process he has to go through from here on, Seukeran said: “We have to present our company’s ability to operate the store in Ontario. We have the financial ability, we have the managerial ability, as well as the ability to scale up operations.”
Seukeran also has a second manufacturing business in Trinidad & Tobago, therefore he doesn’t have a problem where his financial resources are concerned. How will he get the know how to operate a marijuana business? “There is an abundance of consultants here and we have retained the services of Cannabis Compliance Inc of Mississauga who will be helping us get ready for operations.
All applicants have to provide a Can$50,000 line of credit to the Commission and spend another $10,000 in non-refundable fees for licensing and store permits. The first stores must open by April 1, or face stiff fines. They are also required to train staff and install security systems, among numerous other compliance requirements.
Questioned on his thoughts about the marijuana decriminalisation drive in Trinidad & Tobago, Seukeran said: “I believe every market should be assessed individually. TT has to look at the merits and how it can benefit as a country and a people from legalised marijuana.
“TT must also look at the effects of marijuana and weigh the pros and cons. It (a decision to legalise or not) should not be forced but made with scientific facts. TT is just part of the global push to legalise cannabis but laws should only be passed when TT is ready for them.”
Last week, local social group All Mansions of Rastafari called on government to look at the full legalisation of marijuana and not just decriminalising the use of small amounts for medicinal purposes. The government has committed to starting public consultations with a view to bringing legislation to Parliament by mid-year to decriminalise marijuana.