Bruce Linton on why cannabis research should play a role in the federal election
Nearly a month after being ousted from the cannabis company he founded, former chairman and co-chief executive officer of Canopy Growth Corp. Bruce Linton joined BNN Bloomberg to discuss everything from the CannTrust Holdings Inc. “mess,” to cannabis as a federal election issue, and what his plans are from here.
Here are the highlights from the wide-ranging interview.
ON THE TERMINATION OF CANNTRUST’S CEO
“Somebody’s going to take the fall – it’s Peter [Aceto]. But I don’t necessarily know that that’s going to be the final end. He came into a play that was probably half or three-quarters of the way finished … I think it will probably turn out that there’s quite a few more actors way before him that knew more than him. Maybe he didn’t stop the bus once he figured it out. But I suspect there’s quite a lot more to it than simply firing one CEO.”
ON HEALTH CANADA’S INVOLVEMENT
“I believe that if you don’t attempt to mislead the regulator with what you provide them, you will get licensed what you should get licensed. In the case of Canopy, I don’t believe we ever attempted to mislead the regulator and the result was we always knew what we had licensed and we knew what we didn’t have licensed. I don’t buy it that it’s actually on the government.
“It’s not like they were going five kilometres over the speed limit. They were going three times the speed limit. And there are penalties if you want to go three times over the speed limit, you probably need to get your car taken away. This is not a minor infraction – this is a lot more than that.”
ON A POTENTIAL CANNTRUST ACQUISTION
“Any company that’s going to buy them – if I was running that company – the last thing I want is the circus that comes with the acquisition result of owning the shares, meaning you’ve got 15 or 17 class action lawsuits. I would want to leave that mess over there, and I would want to buy the assets at whatever price, and run the business and let somebody else deal with the big pile of problems. Someone’s going to have to, I think, step in who’s trusted with Health Canada, make the acquisition, solve the problem, and get it put away before the election comes.”
ON CANNABIS AS AN ELECTION ISSUE
“I think this is a big mess which could be [an election issue]. But what I want the election to be about isn’t this. I think the election should be about the fact that cannabis companies have created more jobs in Canada in the last year than the tech companies whose stock are booming.”
ON COUCHE-TARD’S FORAY INTO CANNABIS
“That’s unbelievable. To me, what that says is one of the biggest, most global companies Canada has in retail really sees this space. Canopy dealt with them early – very professional, amazing organization. I think they’re saying, ‘How am I ready for every U.S. state? … How am I ready for every European opportunity?’ I think they believe what I believe, which is the world is going to regulate cannabis so they can tax it and educate with those taxes. I think they’re going to be right, and they’ll probably be rewarded for being early.”
ON GETTING FIRED
“I had no idea how many people want to be involved in so many things until I got fired. So I would recommend getting fired as soon as possible, because you might find so many more opportunities.”
ON KEEPING CANOPY STOCK
“Mark [Zekulin] will be leaving once the new CEO is appointed and then they will, I think, probably accelerate on earnings and profitability. I think a lot of folks will really like that. I’m not selling my stock now because I think it is actually going to go up because of that ... I’m sitting on it going, ‘Let’s make this thing go bigger.’”
ON CANOPY’S NEXT CEO
“I think it would be an amazing thing if a woman of some expertise in pharma came in as the CEO. I say that because the cannabis sector, for a variety of reasons that I can’t even understand, really got to be a guys’ club at the top. And so I think this would be quite an iconic position to say: This is not a guys’ club, but a really evolving place.”
ON LINTON’S NEXT STEPS
“I live kind of two lives. One is, on a daily basis I’m pushing the folks at Martello on how we pull the trigger on some acquisitions, what we’re doing under organic growth. The other tech thing is a thing called Ruckify. It is the Uber of things … We want to have more that one million objects in our stores and take that public in the first part of next year. I’ll keep those two tech things going -- and I don’t run either, I help push them. And then in the marijuana world, I found four spaces.
“Part of the reason I came on shows when I got terminated was if I said I stepped down, it sounds like I’m retiring. And you know what the core word in retiring is? It’s tired. Do you know what I’m not? I’m not tired.”