Copilot Cannabis Blasts Off with Bid to Open Store in Canadian Airport
The Purchase of Cannabis Products could Soon be Available for Passengers Traveling in Canada.
Jokes about the Mile High Club notwithstanding, cannabis use among airline travelers is certainly the next frontier, especially since on-flight refreshments have traditionally been saturated with alcohol. Yet while Americans wait for the embargo to lift, Canadian airports already provide cannabis consumption areas for their customers, and passengers can bring up to 30 grams with them while traveling within the country. And if all goes well for Copilot Cannabis, they’ll soon be able to purchase their own cannabis products at Prince George International Airport. While the final permits from the British Columbia Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch and the City of Prince George have yet to be granted, Copilot moved closer to the necessary rezoning needed in February after a positive public hearing allowed them to move forward on the historic project.
Should all go as planned, Copilot Cannabis, a business founded by two Dartmouth graduates based in Langley, BC, intends to open its doors this summer. According to the company website, Copilot was borne out of the founders’ interest in bringing cannabis closer to the travel experience. “Cannabis is a product that people use to relieve stress and travel is a stressful experience, and it’s a practice that already exists,” co-founder Owen Ritz told the Marijuana Business Daily.
Initial response to the proposal has been mixed amongst those in the airline industry. The Prince George Airport Authority has already signed off on Copilot’s plans, should they get their permits. However, Canada’s two largest airlines, Air Canada and WestJet, have already expressed their disapproval. Among their concerns were the rise of intoxicated and potentially disruptive passengers and the possibility that some passengers might end up arrested if their flights were diverted to America. In addition, WestJet concurred with pilot Wade Erickson at the public meeting that the company name gave the wrong message. “It would be no different than calling the store 'Cop Cannabis' or 'Mayor Munchies,'" scoffed Erickson.
Copilot stressed that they would limit their sales to passengers and would not sell to pilots or airline staff. Employees would also check travelers’ itineraries to assure purchasers were only flying domestically. The store itself would be positioned just between the main entranceway and the security checkpoint. At the moment, Prince George Airport is a non-smoking space, but PGAA will commit to creating consumption spaces for passengers should Copilot secure their license. The space will be located outside of the airport and segregated from the tobacco smoking space.
The concept of an airport cannabis dispensary, for now, appears light years away from adoption in Canada’s southern neighbor, where acknowledgement of in-state legalization ends with amnesty boxes at airports in Nevada and Illinois. But it does provide food for thought on what the endgame for cannabis in airports might be. For instance, duty-free stores may eventually decide to enter into the fray, which could create strong incentives for consumers interested in circumventing heavy cannabis taxes. “A model [like] that would bring more sales turnover than if you have a separate shop with this one product,” retail consultant Alan Bork told Marijuana Business Daily.
Regardless of Copilot’s fate this time around, apparently the seed has been planted. Considering that the FAA has seen an uptick in unruly passenger incidents since the beginning of the pandemic and fined eight passengers a total of over $160,000 for alcohol-fueled disruptions, it’s possible that Copilot offers a saner alternative. As Prince George Councilmember Cori Ramsay told her colleagues at Copilot’s public hearing, “I know it’s strange going first. (But) looking 10-15 years down the line, I can see cannabis stores available in most airports in Canada.”