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The Crystal Ball – WE Cann Discusses the Future

Main Photo: Chuck Rifici

Cannabis industry leaders and executives gathered to discuss the challenges, victories, and overall future of the sector moving forward at the recent WE Cann event. Chuck Rifici, Chairman and CEO of Auxly, and Dieter MacPherson, SVP of Operations at Aurora, were among the list of featured speakers for the event, which was co-presented by the Cannalysts and Grant Thornton LLP.

“[Trends] change over time, so the key things that would have come out of the first event in November last year, and what came out in May was very different,” said Trisha LeBlanc, Partner and National Industry Leader at Grant Thornton in an interview with Cannabis Retailer.

LeBlanc went on to add that from her perspective there were two key takeaways from the event. “The first being excitement about edibles. Excitement about the next wave of, what we call, cannabis 2.0. The second thing that clearly came out was a little bit of frustration with what’s happening with retail.”

The frustration over brick-and-mortar stores across Canada related directly to how fragmented it is across the country, with different roll-out strategies in every province. Couple that with the lack of supply, and it has left both the industry and consumers shaking their heads.

LeBlanc said that each province has had their own unique challenges as the legal cannabis industry gains its legs, and cited Ontario as a good example.

“If you were to drive around Ontario you would be hard-pressed to really even notice that it was legalized in Canada,” she said. “I’d have to check to see how many we have today, but it’s 25 [stores] or less that are open right now. Given the size of the province, that does make it very difficult.”

LeBlanc went on to add that Alberta has had challenges with their retail, but for very different reasons. “Alberta, in particular, would be one of the provinces that has done one of the better jobs in terms of actually rolling out the retail strategy. There are lots of stores and the consumer has lots of choice as to where to go.” However, LeBlanc explained that because there are so many stores, the province is now dealing with a lack of supply. “They are running out of product, and in some cases, having to shut down because they don’t have anything to sell.”

Regarding edibles, although the anticipation from the entire cannabis sector is almost palpable as we get closer to a time where they will be legalized, LeBlanc said that the industry does not know exactly how much market share edibles will garner when released.

“We can take a look at some of the other [places] that have been legal for a while, like Colorado and California, and if we take our cue from some of those other markets, edibles do have a fairly decent market share,” she said. “The thing is, we don’t really know, and this is what’s kind of difficult for the whole industry. You almost have to produce and sell to figure out what people actually want before you can go back and pivot to maybe change to something else.”

LeBlanc was also quick to point out that cannabis 2.0 will be more than edibles, and will include a number of products that will significantly broaden the scope of cannabis availability. “The next wave of legalization will include things like concentrates, beverages, topicals, lotions, and creams. Those derivative products are going to take off well.”

All in all, the main takeaway that came from the recent WE Cann event seems to be optimism. Despite any frustrations over the growing pains of legal cannabis, it’s here, and there’s a lot more to come in the near future. One can only imagine how the conversation will change moving forward.