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.
Seukeran — who claimed one of the six spots awarded for the 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 some 16,905 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 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.
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 effects of marijuana since he came to Canada in 1996 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 pot business is new to him and that he lacks enough knowledge to get started on his own.
“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.
Joseph Hall is a Toronto-based reporter and feature writer. Reach him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org