Olympic Athlete’s Cannabis Company Navigates Canadian Regulations
To say Ross Rebagliati has spent his life conquering uphill battles may be an understatement.
The Canadian snowboard champion became the first of his countrymen to score an Olympic gold medal in the sport at the Nagano Games in 1998 after winning the giant slalom. To date he is one of only four Canadians to medal in snowboarding.
However, 10 years of training were thrown out the window the next morning when the International Olympic Committee began the process of eventually stripping Rebagliati of his medal, the result of a drug test that showed cannabis in his system.
Unfortunately for the committee, THC was not a banned substance at the time, so it had no choice but to return the gold medal to him.
Rebagliati found success after the Games in real estate and residential development, all the while partaking recreational marijuana.
Then, while sitting at home watching the news in 2013, a light bulb went off. The native of British Columbia realized he could make a difference in his country and lay the groundwork for further investment and development of the marijuana industry in the Great White North.
“I realized this was it, the card I was dealt in 1998 was finally ready to be laid back on the table,” Rebagliati says on his website, www.rossgold.com. “If I couldn’t shake the stigma that was put upon me, why not embrace it and use it to my advantage.”
Soon after, he and business partner Patrick Smyth launched Ross’ Gold, which sells premium branded medical cannabis at four levels, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze. Each level is based upon the amount of THC necessary for specific ailments.
In April 2014, Rebagliati and Smyth took the company public after a reverse merger with a company called Green & Hill Industries. It now trades as an OTC stock.
Which brings us to Rebagliati’s latest challenge: navigating the maze of national regulations regarding the use of medical marijuana. He’s already had to change his business model from a storefront to selling only online due to Canada’s health regulations.
Rebagliati, however, says his company has already taken steps to adapt to whatever the future holds.
“The federal government has already laid out the regulations for selling medicinal cannabis,” Rebagliati said by phone from his home province of British Columbia. “The way we have our company structured we’re able to fall in line with those regulations.”
At the present time, cannabis is technically outlawed in Canada. However, there remains a lack of consensus on the drug’s actual legality in the country.
Courts have ruled that patients can use medical marijuana if obtained with a prescription, and to date no doctor has ever served jail time for prescribing the drug. At the same time, numerous challenges to the cannabis laws have been ineffective, as language banning the drug still exists in Canada’s Criminal Code.
What is clear is doctors can prescribe cannabis for patients in need of end-of-life care, or for those suffering severe pain or debilitation as the result of HIV or AIDS, MS, spinal cord disease or injury, or epileptic seizures.
Not surprisingly, with national elections coming Oct. 19, the country’s major political parties are split on the issue.
The Conservative Party supports the complete ban of cannabis, even for medicinal purposes. The New Democratic Party supports decriminalization, but not legalization, while the Liberal Party supports legalization and regulation. The Liberal Party’s candidate for prime minister, Justin Trudeau, the eldest son of former PM Pierre Trudeau, has defended his party’s stance since announcing his candidacy last September.
Rebagliati sees a time, perhaps 20 years down the road, if not sooner, when cannabis production and distribution will be as big an industry as user-friendly technology, like that represented by Google and Facebook, are today.
“I think the public is mostly optimistic about the use of medical cannabis,” he said. “There’s lots of people in the medical industry, doctors and nurses, who support it. Mostly because we’re seeing more and more opiates being over-prescribed, there’s a lot more hospitals and others in the industry that are prescribing medical cannabis instead.
“We’re also seeing a big shift in education as well from companies like ours and doctors and hospitals who are reaching out to the public to educate them more on medical cannabis.”
If the positive consensus continues, and more and more elected officials in Canada and the United states, as well as in other countries around the globe, continue to break down the legal barriers to medicinal marijuana, then perhaps Rebagliati is onto something about the industry becoming one of the largest in the world.
At the present time, he seems to be on the ground floor of something that, with increased information, education and investment, could translate into not only a healthy alternative to traditional medicine, but an economic boon for investors and other entrepreneurs.
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