By Neill Dixon, President, O’Cannabiz Conference & Expo
When Canada legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, a buzz of excitement and speculation resulted as industry experts made predictions about which countries would follow.
Fifteen months later, Canada remains only the second country to do so after Uruguay, and the only G7 country to legalize consumption, cultivation and sale recreationally.
It is hard to overstate the significance of this: the world will continue to focus on Canada, as cannabis integrates into the lifestyles of its people, with implications for the justice system, healthcare and hospitality.
With the advent of Cannabis 2.0 products appearing in stores and online, the second year of legalized cannabis in Canada may start a march toward profitability and sustainability for leading cannabis growers and retailers that was largely absent in 2019.
Initial reports already show great consumer demand for approved Cannabis 2.0 products. This could be just the shot in the arm the industry needs, given its relative newness and the fall from unrealistically high expectations and pressures growers and extractors faced in the days following legalization.
As Cannabis 2.0 continues to roll out, it will certainly be represented at the O’Cannabiz Conference and Expo, taking place in Toronto April 23 through 25, 2020. Featuring exhibitors, speakers and conference sessions, topics range from policy and regulation to growing and cultivation, and managing your cannabis business.
So, what is Cannabis 2.0 and why all the excitement? It is the second phase of the Canadian government’s master plan for cannabis legalization. In the first phase, a limited selection of cannabis products and derivatives were made available, including dried flower, pre-rolled joints, sprays, caplets and oil. In the second phase, we will see a wider array of products such as edibles (including chocolates and candies), vape cartridges and equipment (smokeless inhalation), beverages, and topical applications such as lotions and transdermal patches. More concentrated material such as shatters, waxes, and high-potency concentrates will not be available to Canadians via legal distribution channels.
A number of licensed producers are excited and relieved that the new regulations are in place, and already have products in distribution. “This new chapter in Canada’s cannabis story brings with it a renewed sense of excitement in the industry,” says Niel Marotta, president and chief executive officer of Indiva. “At Indiva, we’ve had our sights set on this phase of legalization since day one. In 2018, we established a joint-venture partnership with Bhang® to deliver their award-winning chocolate to Canadians. We are using the expertise of national and international cannabis pioneers to create premium, well-priced and fun products.” Later this year, Indiva will also bring cannabis-infused sugar, salt and chewable candies to market.
Mark Gobuty, former CEO and founder of the Peace Naturals Project, who pioneered the first ACMPR license in Canada, is also actively developing products for the next wave. His new enterprise, CBD Acres, is pioneering new cannabis delivery systems, including topicals to treat pain and inflammation. Given his lengthy history in the industrial cultivation and refinement of cannabis, his insights are unique, and he shares his thoughts on some of the challenges of Cananbis 2.0.
“One of the most difficult nuances, which I don’t think the [manufacturing] community in Canada has found a way to manage is to make a consumer-packaged good that is accessible,” he says. Citing an example from his own company, which manufactures topicals, he points out that tamper-evident, safety-sealed products could pose significant access challenges to arthritis sufferers – the very people these products are intended to help.
While Gobuty says Health Canada is keeping cannabis “the best-regulated jurisdiction in the world,” he also recognizes packaging regulations as “a bit of a miss.” Cannabis packaging is complex, expensive and ecologically wasteful, he says. Regulations require companies to rethink how products like a divisible chocolate bar, a bag of cookies, or any item that cannot be effectively resealed, would commonly be packaged.
He goes on to describe what he sees as another shortcoming.
“My greatest disappointment though Cannabis 2.0 is that it’s all recreational,” Gobuty continues. “The medical consumer in Canada, who is singularly responsible for us having any cannabis notionally at all, has been left out of 2.0.” He uses the gummy bear as an example: if a medical consumer benefiting from the anti-inflammatory qualities of cannabinoid therapy combines that with the inflammatory qualities of sugar (one gram of sugar in a 2.1 gram serving, for example) they ultimately negate those benefits.
The ongoing development, related debates and nuances of Cannabis 2.0 will be discussed at this year’s O’Cannabiz Conference & Expo in Toronto, along with many other timely and relevant topics. Registration is open now at ocannabiz.com.