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Circle K Slowly Going to Pot?

CEO talks about selling marijuana, as FDA chief expresses worry

LAVAL, Quebec -- The CEO of one of the largest convenience chains in North America smells something in the air—money.

And pot.

Meanwhile, the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) openly worries more about teens are using marijuana than electronic cigarettes. Then there are those who don’t want to get involved, with the CEO of one major tobacco company just saying no.

All three spoke to the media recently on the topic.

The potential of cannabis as its sale becomes legal in Canada and in many states in America is not lost on Brian Hannasch, CEO of Alimentation Couche-Tard, Laval, Quebec, and parent of Circle K, one of the largest c-store chains in North America. In an interview with Bloomberg, Hannasch said the retailer has “interest in the space,” noting how “we’ve got tremendous capability with age-restricted product.”

Hannasch has concerns about branding, and in the past, company officials have expressed the potential of launching another chain rather than use their existing banners, such as Circle K.

“With all of Canada and a third of the U.S. [legalizing marijuana], it’s something we can’t ignore,” Hannasch said. “We need to understand it.”

The Circle K parent will probably “go slowly” as the various Canadian provinces and U.S. states each determine their own rules, but he believes “the train is gathering momentum. It will be more available in 10 years, and we’d rather carve a solution than wait too long.”

Canadian lawmakers voted to legalize marijuana this past June, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing it would be officially legal beginning Oct. 17, according to USA Today.

FDA, PMI Comment on Cannabis

Meanwhile, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke to CNBC, expressing concern over the growing legalization of marijuana in the United States and the potential increase of its use among teens and young people.

“I’m worried about the inhalation of a product and the risks associated with that,” he said. “I’m worried about the perception that somehow there’s no risks associated with youth use of the product.”

In light of recent FDA warning letters sent to retailers who allegedly sold e-cigarettes to youth, Gottlieb said the nation should be concerned about teen use of marijuana in the same way people are concerned about teens using e-cigarettes. Gottlieb then went a step further, saying, “We should be even more concerned about youth access to marijuana and cannabis.”

Studies in the past have evaluated occasional marijuana use, Gottlieb said, but as marijuana becomes legal in more states and its use becomes more of a regular, ongoing behavior, “that’s going to create a different set of risks.”

Separately, Bloomberg asked Andre Calantzopoulos, the CEO of New York-based Philip Morris International (PMI), about the company’s plans for cannabis. “With the task we have in front of us in switching people out of cigarettes, we have enough on our plate, and we don’t have any plans for the cannabis business today,” Calantzopoulos told the news outlet.

Photo: Shutterstock

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