Bramp­ton man hits the jack­pot in prov­ince’s pot lot­tery

In­dus­try ex­perts say li­cences for cannabis stores could be worth mil­lions to shop own­ers

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - JOSEPH HALL

Clint Seuk­eran has no ex­pe­ri­ence in the cannabis busi­ness.

But he’s long been an evan­ge­list for the health and artis­tic ben­e­fits of the newly le­gal­ized plant.

Now Seuk­eran will have the chance to put his pas­sion to prac­ti­cal use, as one of the first 25 peo­ple and com­pa­nies given the chance to ap­ply for a cannabis store li­cence in On­tario.

He was a win­ner of the provin­cial lot­tery held last week to open up the first group of li­cences.

“I thought it was junk mail. I thought there’s no way,” the Bramp­ton man said of be­ing no­ti­fied of his win Fri­day evening. “I just thought it was a joke.”

Seuk­eran — who claimed one of the six spots awarded for the GTA re­gions sur­round­ing Toronto — quickly shifted from dis­be­lief to glee as the news sank in.

“I was elated,” he said. “I was ab­so­lutely thrilled to be­come part of this move­ment.

“Ba­si­cally I was in bliss … once I dis­cov­ered it was real.”

Seuk­eran faced long odds to claim the op­por­tu­nity.

The 25 win­ners, who were no­ti­fied by the Al­co­hol and Gam­ing Com­mis­sion of On­tario, were se­lected from some16,905 ap­pli­cants by pur­pose-built lot­tery soft­ware.

That gave en­trants a 1-in-676.2 chance of win­ning. By com­par­i­son, Lotto 6/49 of­fers ticket buy­ers a 1-in-6.6 chance at some sort of prize.

But 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 that these en­trants into the brick-and-mor­tar re­tail sec­tor will al­most cer­tainly profit from be­ing the first recre­ational mer­chants in Canada’s most pop­u­lous prov­ince.

But Seuk­eran, who owns the co­conut water bot­tling com­pany CGS Foods Inc., says he’s more in­ter­ested in the health ben­e­fits he’ll help spread than in the mon­e­tary re­wards.

Once an aspir­ing doc­tor, he said he’s been in­ter­ested in the health ben­e­fits of mar­i­juana since he came to Canada in1996 to study medicine.

“I didn’t fin­ish my de­gree in medicine be­cause I wanted to do some­thing that was pre­ven­ta­tive rather than a so­lu­tion,” he said. “So I de­cided to get into health foods and healthy nat­u­ral prod­ucts, and I was in­ter­ested in (the ac­tive cannabis in­gre­di­ent CBD) specif­i­cally.

“The ef­fi­cacy of these new com­pounds were so en­tranc­ing for me. I thought they (had) so many uses that I wanted to be part of that health move­ment.”

While he never sold med­i­cal mar­i­juana, Seuk­eran did earn an MBA in the agri­cul­ture and food busi­ness from the Univer­sity of Guelph.

And with a sec­ond man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness in his na­tive Trinidad and Tobago, he says he has the fi­nan­cial re­sources to open and op­er­ate his new en­deav­our. But Seuk­eran read­ily ad­mits the busi­ness is new to him and that he lacks enough knowl­edge to run one by him­self. “I’m not in­volved in the in­dus­try. I know noth­ing about it,” he said. “So I’ll de­fer to the ex­per­tise of the ones who do have it.” To that end, Seuk­eran has turned to Cannabis Com­pli­ance Inc. of Mis­sis­sauga to help him nav­i­gate his en­trance into the trade.

That ini­tial foray in­cludes a rig­or­ous and ex­pen­sive li­cens­ing process that de­mands ap­pli­cants pro­vide a $50,000 line of credit to the com­mis­sion and spend some $10,000 in non-re­fund­able fees for li­cens­ing and store per­mits.

The first stores will be re­quired to open by April 1 or face stiff fines. They will also need to train staff and in­stall se­cu­rity sys­tems, among nu­mer­ous other com­pli­ance re­quire­ments.

Of the 25 win­ning ap­pli­ca­tion spots, five are in Toronto proper, six in the rest of the GTA, five more in eastern On­tario, seven in the western part of the prov­ince and two in the north.

Seuk­eran, 39, says he’ll have to wait un­til Jan. 22 — the dead­line for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to de­cide whether they will al­low cannabis re­tail shops — to choose a store lo­ca­tion.

Seuk­eran, who will sub­mit his li­cence ap­pli­ca­tion un­der the CGS Foods Inc. la­bel, was one of only seven win­ners who did not en­ter the lot­tery as in­di­vid­u­als.

Some 64 per cent of all ap­pli­cants were listed as sole pro­pri­etors, 33 per cent as cor­po­ra­tions, and 4 per cent as part­ner­ships and lim­ited part­ner­ships.

Clint Seuk­eran has turned to Cannabis Com­pli­ance Inc. of Mis­sis­sauga to help him nav­i­gate his en­trance into the trade

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