Jim Pattison Group taking wait-and-see approach to cannabis business

Company operated for decades before getting into alcohol retail in 2011

Billionaire Jim Pattison founded the Jim Pattison Group in 1961 and has turned the venture into a conglomerate that is involved in a wide range of businesses – from grocery retail to automotive dealerships to radio stations to tourist attractions, such as Ripley's Believe It or Not! | BIV photo illustraion

While executives at several cannabis-retail companies have told Business in Vancouver that they intend to have more than a dozen cannabis stores open in B.C. by year’s end, some business veterans are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

“We have no plans at this time to get involved with marijuana,” said billionaire and Jim Pattison Group owner Jim Pattison to BIV on June 20.

“The reason is that, at this time, we have no interest.”

The Jim Pattison Group for decades had nothing to do with alcohol sales either, but then, in 2011, it bought the Everything Wine chain of independent wine stores.

When the B.C. government made it legal on April 1, 2015, for licensed grocers to sell wine, Pattison’s Save-On-Foods chain became the province’s first grocer to do so, at its South Surrey location.

There are now 18 Save-On-Foods stores that sell wine, including one in Campbell River, which started selling wine last month.

Pattison founded the Jim Pattison Group in 1961 with a car dealership and has expanded the venture to become a conglomerate that has interests in media, entertainment, forestry and many other sectors. 

The Cannabis Act received royal assent on June 21 and is set to fully come into effect by October 17. Entrepreneurs now await clarity on federal and provincial regulations that will govern how business can be conducted.

Federal regulations are expected to come as early as June 27; provincial rules would follow soon after.

Deepak Anand, vice-president of business development and government relations at Cannabis Compliance Inc., said many of his clients are relieved to have 17 weeks between the act’s June 21 royal assent and the launch of legal sales, given that the government had previously said they would get between eight and 12 weeks to get ready.

“Everybody can use a bit of extra time,” he said.

If you are interested in learning more about opportunities in the cannabis sector, and hearing a panel presentation that Business in Vancouver is hosting on July 12, check out BIV's Business Excellence Series: Legalizing Cannabis at the Vancouver Club.