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A look forward in Canadian cannabis

On this episode of BofC Live, we connect with Matt Maurer of Torkin Manes LLP. Torkin Manes it the Official Law Firm of Business of Cannabis. Maurer and his team at Torkin Manes co-presented an event on August 18th with Business of Cannabis titled: Canadian Cannabis: What’s Next? – a full day, online event highlighting perspectives from throughout the Canadian cannabis supply chain.

Maurer and Business of Cannabis Managing Director Jay Rosenthal penned a piece following the event titled: Three things to know about what’s next in Canadian cannabis – and this conversation highlights that post.

BofC Live is the daily news and interview program of Business of Cannabis. Business of Cannabis highlights the companies, brands, people and trends driving the sector.

A full recap of the event conversations and presentations are available online:

Listen to this episode of BofC Live, and all BofC Live episodes, as a podcast:

BofC Live Transcript

Rosenthal: A few weeks ago on the 18th of August, Business of Cannabis and Torkin Manes hosted an event called: Canadian Cannabis: What’s Next? I learned a ton, so thank you for making it happen. I wanted to go over some things that we both learned, but more than that to say thank you for making it happen because I think it came at a really interesting time in the sector and sort of want to get your thoughts about the timing because I thought it was a compelling day. 

Maurer: First of all, thank you for helping to put everything together and all you do. It was a great event. It was very broad-based and sort of an end of summer/start to fall. When we talked about putting it together, we thought “end of pandemic” – maybe not, we’ll see. I thoroughly enjoyed it. One thing for me that we were hearing a lot of, that doesn’t surprise me, is consolidation, which we were seeing. We’re seeing it. You’re seeing a lot of people, anyone who’s really looking at it is seeing the same thing.

So whether it’s Licenced Producers, Redecan, 48 North being acquired by HEXO, Fire and Flower buying Friendly Stranger, Kiaro buying Cozy Cannabis – it’s happening at the LP level and it is happening at the retail level, which are really your two main levels of the industry right now. There could be more in the future as we see things unfold and maybe we get consumption lounges or other hospitality type establishments, but that was something certainly a theme that kept popping up for me and I expected to to hear about it, but it was definitely something I heard about a lot on the 18th.

Rosenthal: I think it came across as your point, like every point in the supply chain and lots of people talked about it was this era of consolidation sort of sink or swim or consolidate.  You have to choose a lane potentially if you’re even if you’re doing well, like all those things mean scale and consolidation. One of the other things that I heard a lot, and it was both from people in Ottawa working  government channels on the lobbying front and from patient advocates and from LPs, from Hybrid Pharm and from Shoppers Drug Mart –  there’s going to be a need for change to the medical cannabis program, full stop.

And it’s because I think largely because with the medical cannabis program patients get access from doctors and give that authorization to LPs and that’s a direct relationship. That’s one end of the spectrum and the other end of the spectrum is recreational cannabis.  But there’s a lot of people in the middle like health and wellness consumers of cannabis are and even patients are really driven to the ease of access to recreational cannabis through that system and retail. I think that’s not great for patients, that’s not great for medical cannabis. That’s not great for R and D. It’s not even great for retail because those budtenders can’t have those conversations with potential patients and those people should be in the medical stream. I think there’s going to be something that gives there. Even conversations about Cannabis Health Products being considered by Health Canada, I just think that is right for new regulations or new ways of access.

Maurer: And that’s why it was great to hear from Hybrid Pharm in Ottawa because it is an interesting model that they have crafted out of the current regulations where they are a proper pharmacy and you can get medical cannabis consultations and medical cannabis basically with a recommendation and with an authorization. So I think that conversation was interesting to hear a lot of sides of and it lends itself to look at the regulations. That’s what people have been talking about the need for a distinct medical market since before legalization occurred. And since legalization occurred, there’s been a lot of criticisms of the medical system or the system in general. The fact that there’s, two systems, that a lot of things don’t make a lot of sense. There’s issues with taxation, there’s issues with access.

Rosenthal: It ties right into regulatory review, which we heard a lot about on the 18th as well. You have got the Cannabis Act review coming up. There’s a lot of things that I think people in the industry would say don’t make sense. When you’re creating a new industry, you’re regulating a brand new industry. The Cannabis Act and its regulations were drafted in the abstract and then you put it into practice and it’s only when you start putting it into practice that you see where these little quirks happen and where these loopholes happen and where these deficits are that need some adjustments. So whether it’s the medical market, whether it’s Cannabis Health Products, whether it’s just a general review of the Act, whether it’s marketing and promotion, density around retail, letting the Province allow the municipality set some rules – there’s a whole host of things. You know, we should be looking at the regulations proactively and what can be changed. 

Any favorite moments or things that sort of really stuck out aside from sort of the big three themes we just talked about?

Maurer: I really enjoyed the, “what’s next” clips. We’ve never done anything like that before. It’s funny because maybe the virtual event is more amenable to it. You think back a few years ago and I can’t envision a live event where someone would come on stage for five minutes or less, talk about where they see the future of the industry going and walk off into the sunset right after. There’s been some industry events where people come up and pitch their company for 3 to 5 minutes, but that’s different. So it was really nice to hear a lot of different people, some of whom I don’t know at all in a lot of different areas of the industry, business owners, regulatory people. And in different segments of the industry, talk about what they think because we all see different things in the industry depending on what we’re exposed to and what’s right in front of us. So it’s interesting, it was interesting to me to sort of aggregate all those thoughts and opinions and sort of see what people have to say in general.

Rosenthal: There were two things that sort of struck me one was there was a retailer on a panel of retail associations talking about cannabis retail in Saskatchewan and that he has a partnership with the music festival and they’re going to be delivering to parking lots at a music festival. The other, I’m a cannabis tech geek, hearing Albert Kim and the folks at Elevatged Signals talk about this ecosystem of cannabis technology that’s really evolved in Canada. And that the regulations that are in place have actually helped because the standards licensed producers need to adhere to. Same thing on the retailer side, created this need for really dynamic cannabis technology that was business operations, but also regulatory and compliance. So it was interesting to talk about that and they’re both based in Vancouver. So having hotbeds of subsets of technology is always a good thing for Canada. So I really appreciated hearing that as well. 

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