CANNABIS CULTURE – Friday was Industry Day at the second annual Ottawa Cannabis and Hemp Expo. Nick Pateras of Growth Lift and Co was the emcee and moderator for the hundred buck a plate lunch. As part of his opening remarks Nick Pateras said, “It’s important for us to be somewhat thoughtful about the world we want to live and integrate in because the onus is on us to manage expectations against performance, for the capital markets and indeed ourselves because this is our first time doing this. And because this is our first time, it’s also going to be our worst attempt as well, with mistakes ahead of us, no lessons behind us from which to learn, no historical data to anchor to.”

“The difference between success and failure, in my mind, is building into our DNA the ability to identify our missteps and the ability to react to them.”

I listened to Trina Fraser of Brazeau Seller Law, Danielle O’Beirne of Auxly Cannabis Group, Adam Miron of Hexo, Rahim Dhalla of Hybrid Pharm, Dr. Sana-Ara Ahmed of Health Boutique, Rory Copestake-Goodall of Aurora, Niel Marotta of Invida and Ming Berube-Sam of MedReleaf as they engaged in lively, often deep and incisive discussions involving science, pharmaceutical deconstruction and biological delivery systems, regulations and frustrations.

Niel Marotta of Indiva had this to say of the vapor lounge. “We are waiting for people to consume in licensed establishments, which I expect with the 2.0 version of the Cannabis Act,…we’re gonna get there. There’s never going to be a day, in my opinion, when you’re going to be able to smoke cannabis indoors, in a bar, in an establishment, or a restaurant in Ottawa or Toronto, really, anywhere in Canada, I think; because these by-laws are strict on smoking. But if you can put sugar [infused]in your coffee, this is not offensive when people are having you in.  Eventually, what I think, you’re going to see, whether it’s the sugar or the salt, restaurants are actually cooking with these products to create infused meals.”

On product availability Marotta noted, “It’s almost impossible to have 100% of the products 100% of the time. Biosecurity and attention to detail are so important.”

Danielle O’Beirne of Auxly and Trinna Fraser of Brazeau Seller Law both spoke at length about some of the process of dealing with regulators and agreed, “We are thirty-seven days into the Cannabis Act. Innovation means understanding regulations.”

The Regulators sound like they ride horses, shoot fast and hang rustlers without a trial so your cannabis company for sure needs Jazz Cabbage Ninjas.

Adam Miron of Hexo said, “Double digit growth doesn’t cut it anymore, three times, four times. The transformation of cannabis is the greatest disrupter in the cosmetics industry, the wellness industry.”

“As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Canada has the Gold class standard,” Miron said.

Nick Pateras again pointed out, “We will suffer all the mistakes. There will be a graveyard…be cognizant of that fact.” On branding, Nick lamented, “The black market can tell great stories. The regulators won’t let us tell our story.”

Chuck Rifici of the Auxly Cannabis Group discussed the future, “Demand is greatly outstripping supply. In the summer of 2019 Auxly will have a line of products in every formulation. We have grown from twelve to two hundred people. Medical customers come first. In the last six to eight months our energy was in cultivation. In Plan 2.0 we will offer all the products available in the black market, vape pens, edibles. Vape pens will be the fastest selling. Our Crown jewel and favourite child is Robinson’s, Dosecann and Uruguay. Oh, Robinson’s white ash on a joint…By 2022 half the world will have some form of legalization and five years from now…”

“Will stores have product on the shelf in April 2019?”

Chuck Rifici, “Our medical customers will come first. It will be an issue. Shortages, I believe. I don’t know. There will be value in having the license but there might be a burn rate while you wait for inventory.”

Rifici was quite vocal on his thoughts about legalization since Oct. 17th, “British Columbia had the worst roll out, I think they forgot legalization was coming. I like the Alberta model. There will be lots of winners and losers. Saskatchewan retailers can sell on line. Manitoba is progressive, and Ontario has a large market. Quebec has too few stores and has a t-shirt problem. The Maritime saw an opportunity with hybrid stores. If you’re starting today, you need to be well capitalized.”

In relation to getting strains; it seems like a bureaucratic cloak and dagger game with the regulators standing on a crumbling Berlin wall monitoring secret marijuana agents trying to come in from the cold. It’s a madhouse with direction being plotted out like Twister.

Particular cannabis strains are a big thing. Each one has its chemistry. Each one has a love affair with someone.  Every strain has a story and as Nick pointed out, we want to tell those stories. The legitimate acquisition of strains – that’s where bureaucratic James Bonds’ come in. The strains of Canada were legendary, and we are in danger of losing them. Odd ball amnesty is an intermittent answer.

Niel Marotta had this advice for investors, “You shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket but it’s tempting. Don’t buy bad stories that are expensive. Opportunities come by and you take advantage of it. We have a corporate office in Ottawa. It is rare to find a sector starting from scratch.  Access to legal strains is interesting.”

The Expo featured colourfull tables of bongs, supplies, consultants, divination experts, paper tigers of every description, small indoor grow systems and many franchise and investment opportunities.

Angelo Muscari, an Ottawa pioneer – now of Hybrid Pharm, seemed to have it right when he said, “Westboro [Ottawa] was a great move for us. Whatever you are doing, add marijuana.”

Saturday and Sunday had over a dozen speakers with many more seminars covering cooking, health, investing, home growing, beauty and more.

Josh Tinholt of Zerk glass displayed his technique beside Anna Cook known as Glass by Anna on Instagram. Anna said, “I studied four years at the Haliburton School of Art, program for glass blowing.”

Angel, a consumer from Gatineau, Quebec said, “I came here for a vaporiser and got one that was exactly what I was looking for.”

Reid Seguin from the Cannabis Emporium had a big bong display, “We’ve had to pull out a lot of merchandise from Quebec because of their new laws. But we are going to be fighting that in court.”

Another merchandiser said, “Several exhibitors pulled out this morning because their product conflicted with the new branding laws.”

I spoke with wholesale cannabis suppliers, cannabis consultants, wellness consultants, event planners, franchise sellers, head growers, company presidents, cannabis sales representatives, software providers, magazine publishers, paraphernalia sellers, would be licensed producers, and a couple of transitioning rogues.

There is a future for cannabis. What’s going to happen? Africa, Asia and South America are going to eventually come into the market place with both plant material and derivatives. Right now, no cannabis of any kind can be imported into Canada without a Ministerial permit. Future and present companies will have to cope with regulations, technical and biological issues. Canadian Cannabusiness is in the process of getting a foothold in every country they can. And like the man said, we have the gold standard.

There was a lot of interest from people who wanted to grow small craft cannabis. Some wanted to do so in stand alone buildings, others discussed the problems of dividing up pre-existing buildings into units. Powdery mildew seemed to be a thorn in many people’s side with as many cures.

Cannabis is a plant. There are many strains of this plant and some of them are legendary. Licensed producers would like those strains and in fact do have people out in the field, knocking on doors, perhaps canoeing up  the Sunshine Coast.

How does a licensed producer inhale a strain of marijuana that has been developed and fixed by an old-time underground producer? How does a small craft licensed producer get their hands on the incredible seeds and strains that are out there? Bringing strains into the legal framework is a fuzzy green area filled with Ministerial permits, involved discussions with regulators, odd-ball amnesty and some one-time leaps over the Berlin wall of cold war acceptance. There isn’t a super clear answer written in stone. In fact, I sense that a lot of the rules are written in sand.

I didn’t hear a lot of discussion on the industrial applications of hemp as in replacing chip-board, toilet paper, plastics and the like. I was surprised to hear that the LP’s are forced to destroy all of their biomass and not experiment with it. They would be delighted to take an interest in a company that was set up for industrial application experimentation but would not undertake it on their own.

Some things were clear and can’t be underscored enough, as O’Beirne said, “Innovation means understanding regulations.” The Cannabis Act regulations are not to be confused with Alice’s Restaurant Cook Book – you can’t get anything you want, and you could throw everything down a rabbit hole if you don’t puzzle it through first.

When investing, it’s good to think about intellectual property, especially in a field with so many medical benefits to explore. Patents and who owns a patent is a list composed of inventors and lawyers. One patent can be worth more than a football field of dreams.

Right about now, you can’t push a button and get any inventory you want when you want it, certainly not from the standpoint of someone proposing a dispensary and you certainly can’t start cloning your best Skunk Number One/Pink Kush/ Durban Poison cross, to feed into the industry soon. There are some complicated hoops to leap through and like the population of Toronto, it will be different in about a week. Patience was a buzz word.