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3 Reflections from the World Cannabis Congress

As an observer of the Canadian cannabis industry, it is often striking how quickly things move, morph and change – from regulatory frameworks to stock prices to new markets. That’s why the second annual World Cannabis Congress, produced by Civilized, was an interesting moment for reflection on how the industry has changed in one year. On the flight back from Saint John, New Brunswick, three thoughts came to mind that highlight this moment in time:

An Industry Growing Up

At last year’s Congress, the Honourable A. Anne McLellan spoke to delegates about the responsibility with which the industry must act in order to gain social license to operate among Canadians – and throughout the world. The theme of key leaders speaking truth to industry carried over this year as Ken Weisbrod, VP Pharmacy Business Development and Initiatives – and lead on the medical cannabis file – at Shoppers Drug Mart, responded to what they are seeing in the industry by announcing a partnership with TruTrace Technologies in order to verify the provenance and genetics within their medical cannabis platform. As well, the Responsible Cannabis Framework put together by 45 leading cannabis companies that are members of the Global Cannabis Partnership was announced. Both the Shoppers Drug Mart announcement and the Global Cannabis Partnership framework suggest the industry understood what Anne McLellan was saying last year and went to work.

Legalization 2.0 and the Emergence of the Brand

What will start late this year in Canada – but take real form in 2020 – is being considered ‘Legalization 2.0’. The introduction of new form factors – edibles, concentrates, beverages, etc. – will change the landscape dramatically for consumers and for the industry. This was a thread common in nearly every conversation and presentation at the Congress, but summarized well by Sumit Mehta from MAZAKALI: currently, consumers are buying by strain, but they will soon be buying by brand. Real and lasting brand building in Canada will start with Legalization 2.0 – and with that, winners and losers will emerge.

The New Brunswick Factor

The emphasis that municipalities, the Province, the economic development team and academia have placed on cannabis in New Brunswick is palpable. Most visibly at the Congress with a pop-up CannabisNB shop within the conference centre, New Brunswick is showing that responsible, thoughtful and impactful investments in supporting a fast-growing industry pay off. Kudos to all involved – from government to NGOs to leading companies in New Brunswick.

Understanding where the industry was a year ago, where it is today and looking ahead to tomorrow provides unique perspective on opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Spending time among friends old and new at the World Cannabis Congress proved as insightful and engaging in year 2 as it was in year 1.

Written by Jay Rosenthal, Co-Founder + President, Business of Cannabis

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