Here’s what some panelists at Canada’s largest cannabis business conference had to say
Evolving trends and potential advancements, along with developments that may bode well in the Canadian cannabis industry, were key talking points during three lively panel discussions at the recent three-day O’Cannabiz Conference & Expo.
Speakers for three panels on industry-only Apr. 26—Organic and Beyond: Growing Better Medicine; The New Cannabis Entrepreneur; and High-Tech: Advancements in Consumer Protection—had plenty to say about how to apply valuable lessons learned from other industries, like tech or advertising, into this budding cannabis market.
Held Apr. 25 to Apr. 27 in Mississauga, Ont., the business-focused event attracted industry experts ranging from licensed producers to law firms, investors and entrepreneurs and even recreational and medical cannabis thanks to a full roster of speakers and networking sessions.
Does Canada have the terroir to grow outdoor cannabis?
Kelly Coulter, founder of Slo Farms, a future regenerative cannabis and forest food garden, has been part of a movement to keep outdoor growing in the federal government’s legal weed legislation. More and more people are realizing the advantage of outdoor growing, Coulter told attendees of the Organic and Beyond: Growing Better Medicine session. She further believes third-party certification will become very important, suggesting the Sun + Earth certification will become a niche way to brand the bud both here at home and around the world.
Coulter reports farmers recently met government representatives in Nelson, B.C. It has been suggested that the region has the potential to become “ground zero”, similar to the fertile land of the Appalachians, for cannabis outdoor grows.
In the future, Coulter believes, places like Prince Edward County, located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, and anywhere that grows grapes in Canada will be able to position themselves as cannabis growing regions.
But isn’t all cannabis organic?
Jeanette VanderMarel, co-CEO and director of vertically integrated cannabis company, 48North Cannabis Corp., noted that there were some challenges working within the Health Canada system. Cannabis is not yet recognized as a food product in the country.
Sherry Boodram, CEO and co-founder of Canadian regulatory and scientific cannabis consulting company, Cann-Delta Inc., explained that all certified organic products are certified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). As part of this, there are certain standards that go along with the labeling of products that are organic, she said.
VanderMarel told attendees that 48North has been working with Ecocert and Pro-Cert Organic Systems to obtain its own organic certifications, while Myrna Gillis, CEO, and co-founder of Aqualitas Inc., shared that the company worked with the Clean Green certification program, a U.S. group, and are now working with Pro-Cert Organic Systems to obtain another certification of organic.
It seems that although there are certifications in place, there is still a lot of education to be done on the consumer side.
Are regulations holding back new entrepreneurs?
“It’s been a tremendous job navigating the marketing and regulations,” Greg Pantelic, CEO of cannabis curators AHLOT, shared with the crowd during The New Cannabis Entrepreneur panel. Pantelic wasn’t alone in his sentiments, as fellow panelist Joseph Ricard, co-founder and CEO of SeedERP, which provides a software platform that integrates multiple business management functions into one system, argued that “regulation in the industry is a nightmare.”
Many panelists explained that one of the main goals, as business owners, is to keep up-to-date with changing regulations, figure out how best to navigate things and move forward. But Pranav Sood, founder of Trellis, which offers cannabis compliance software, was the only panelist who reported feeling positive about things, explaining that Canada’s Cannabis Act seems to be starting to reflect the structures that are now in place in California. “I’m actually very positive about how regulations are happening here in Canada. At least, you know the guidelines and the boundaries. When I worked in California, there were none,” Sood told attendees.
Does Canada’s cannabis supply chain need help?
The buzz from the High-Tech: Advancements in Consumer Protection panel was about how cannabis companies can implement a successful supply chain strategy. Panelist Robert Galarza, CEO of TruTrace Technologies Inc. (formerly Blockstrain Technology Corp.), said he thinks the retail infrastructure in California, where he previously lived, is very sophisticated.
Galarza suggested it is an approach Canada could potentially model itself after. “The issues that I have,” he explained, “are we are looking at it from a bird’s-eye perspective, and understand the realities of the punitive damages from the limitations being put on cannabis?”
Narbe Alexadrian, president of Canopy Rivers, shared a similar sentiment, pointing out that many customers don’t like the legal product as much as they like illegal products. “It’s up to people like us and other producers to really understand what needs to be fixed,” Alexandrian said.
Some looking to get in, without any long-term investments
Throughout his time in the industry, Alexadrian told attendees that many people walk the walk, but don’t talk the talk. For those in the audience thinking about getting into the cannabis industry, he advised putting together a long-term strategy. “If your forecasts are fictitious, we will understand that. We’re in the business and this industry is moving so fast.”
Lisa Harum, chief marketing officer and co-founder of medtech company, Vapium Inc., added that most new businesses she’s encountered want to be the next Apple. “Just be the next you. Be the next something that actually matters,” Harum said.
Want to keep up to date on what’s happening in the world of cannabis? Subscribe to the Cannabis Post newsletter for weekly insights into the industry, what insiders will be talking about and content from across the Postmedia Network.