Convenience-Store Giant Couche-Tard Wants to Hop on Pot Wagon

(Bloomberg) -- Will North Americans soon be able to buy some pot when filling up?

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., the owner of the Circle K chain, is already considering that possibility at some point down the road. One of North America’s biggest convenience-store owners, the Laval, Quebec-based company says it’s looking into the cannabis market, where it feels its expertise selling age-restricted products such as beer and tobacco can help.

“This is a train that’s gathering momentum and the chances are it’s going to be more readily available 10 years from now than it is today,” Chief Executive Officer Brian Hannasch said in an interview on BNN Bloomberg. “We’d rather be part of that solution, part of that journey, than sit on the sidelines and wait too long.”

While recreational pot will become legal next month in Canada, and several U.S. states consider following in the footsteps of Colorado and California, there are still many hurdles, including different regulations in each jurisdiction. Plus, pot remains prohibited at the federal level in the U.S.

The company also needs to consider the implications for its brand, Hannasch said. For now the word is “go slow,” he said.

“Just given the size and the fact that it will now be legal in all of Canada and about a third of the U.S., it’s something we can’t ignore, we need to understand it,” he said.

Couche-Tard, which started with one store in a Montreal suburb in 1980, has been gobbling up rivals small and large -- especially those that also operate gas stations -- to gain customers from Louisiana to Ireland.

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