Cam Battley is the executive vice president of Aurora Cannabis — a publicly traded medical cannabis company — which still sort of blows his mind when he thinks about it: His background was working with traditional pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and he was initially skeptical when approached about working in medical cannabis.
“When I was first asked to get into a medical cannabis company I kind of chuckled,” he says. “It was one of those moments where you are absolutely delighted to find you are completely wrong about something… I did the research and the light bulb went off; I could see it as a massive unmet medical need for symptom management across many conditions and I developed this tremendous sense of mission.”
And since Battley joined the team at Aurora, the company has begun expanding, largely based on the anticipation of recreational legalization coming in July 2018 and the increased demand that would be created.
The company recently broke ground on a grow facility directly adjacent to the Edmonton Airport — Battley said it will be the largest such facility on the planet.
But Aurora’s ambitions are far from limited to domestic expansion: Battley said the company raised $75 million in its last round of financing, which has all been dedicated to international expansion.
“We’ve already moved into our first two international markets: We’ve acquired a 19.9 percent stake in Australia’s fist producer — The Cann Group in Melbourne — and we are supporting them in every way we can so that they can become a leading player for the long term in Australia,” he said. “We’ve also acquired Germany’s largest distributor — Pedanios. They control the majority of the cannabis distribution market in Germany, and that is a market that is going to take off it’s already growing incredibly fast.”
He added that the investment in Germany was only the first step in a planned European expansion.
“The demand is there, and more than that, medical cannabis is reimbursed through the national health system; that’s a market of 80 million people,” he said. “But we have our eyes on markets far beyond Germany, because Germany acts in many ways as the leader in the European Union, and I believe all those markets in the EU are going to cascade over the net 24 months — that’s 500 million people.”
Aurora and other Canadian cannabis companies are in a unique position: Other than the Netherlands, Canada is the only country legally exporting medical cannabis. Some market observers say this will give the country’s industry a “first mover advantage,” meaning they will enjoy market dominance because they got to the market first.
In other words, the global cannabis market may not take off for some time, but when it does Canada will be networked, established and ready to capitalize. This doesn’t bode well for an American cannabis industry that, thanks to federal prohibition, still doesn’t even have access to banking.
Battley know that, in all fairness, California should probably be driving the global cannabis market. He’s well aware of this legal advantage Canada currently enjoys — and he’s deeply grateful for it.
“For a handful of large Canadian producers like Aurora, the world is our oyster,” he said. “Every night, before I go to bed, and every morning when I wake up, I say a little prayer of thanks to the DEA.”
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