News
EDMONTON – Alberta expects to issue 250 licences for cannabis stores this year, and says anyone who wants to run a weed shop will first undergo an exhaustive check ranging from tax records to mob ties.
Canadians will have to wait until at least early August — and maybe as late as early September — to legally purchase recreational marijuana.

That's the bottom line now that senators have struck a deal to hold a final vote by June 7 on the legislation that will usher in the legal cannabis regime.

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SMITHS FALLS – Canopy Growth Corporation has been conditionally selected by the Government of Manitoba to operate cannabis retail stores in the province. 
TORONTO – Sun Life Financial Inc. is adding medical marijuana as an option for its group benefits plans, marking an industry shift and the latest sign of growing public acceptance of cannabis.

The Toronto-based insurer's chief executive Dean Connor says the move was influenced by rising interest from Sun Life's employer clients.

Sun Life provides health benefits coverage to more than three million Canadians and their families, or one in six Canadians.

Starting March 1, plan sponsors will have the option to add medical cannabis coverage to extended health-care plans, ranging from $1,500 to $6,000 per covered person per year.

Sun Life says its medical cannabis coverage will be available for specific conditions and symptoms including cancer-related nausea, rheumatoid arthritis pain and palliative care.

Patient advocacy group Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana says this comes after years of litigation to gain this level of acceptance for medical cannabis, and hopes the landmark move will lead plan sponsors to include coverage in their benefits plans.

The Canadian Press
TORONTO – The Ontario government has inked a deal to use Shopify Inc.'s e-commerce platform for cannabis sales online and in stores as part of its plan to be the province's sole distributor of legal recreational marijuana.
Cannabis producer MedReleaf introduced its first adult-use recreational brand: San Rafael '71, inspired by and designed to celebrate the spirit of classic cannabis culture.
CHARLOTTETOWN – A U.S. tobacco leaf merchant has acquired majority stakes in a PEI licensed medical marijuana producer and a cannabis company that is developing indoor growing operations in Ontario.

With the legalization of cannabis just around the corner, 89 licensed producers (and counting) will need to find ways to make their businesses competitive in what is predicted to be one of the most lucrative industries of 2018.

Quantity, (take the 800,000 sq.-ft. “Aurora Sky” facility owned by Aurora Cannabis in Edmonton, for example) quality, and innovation are the primary factors that will affect the economic health of marijuana companies.

But another important element that LPs will have to consider – especially in winning over new, untested demographics – is branding.

The consumer landscape for cannabis thus far has been dominated by two easily- identifiable brands: the pot shop lifestyle, and the white-collar, pharmaceutical alternative.

But there are others out there.

There are women, baby-boomers, and public professionals who indulge or have interest in recreational cannabis, but don’t necessarily feel comfortable walking down to their local dispensary in broad daylight. They need a brand that represents them.

Toronto-based cannabis mentor Modern Leaf plans on turning this issue into an opportunity in the coming months.

Modern Leaf Director Preston Drummond said that his organization puts emphasis on education, touting workshops that feature a 60 minute session followed by a 30-minute Q&A. The aim is to dismantle the stigma surrounding cannabis, and to help these new users to make informed decisions when purchasing cannabis.

“We’re going to be working very hard to bring people the most exciting, free and informative education before we even make a penny on it,” Drummond said.

“It is a calculated risk, but we want to show our customers value, and gain their trust.”

The group is also in the process of acquiring leases to set up schools in Winnipeg, Regina, and Saskatoon.

When cannabis is legalized, and the rules are established in each province, Modern Leaf will have a better idea of which cannabis products they can advertise, promote, and sell on their website.

And the products they do select for ads and distribution will undergo in-house batch testing.

“We won’t put a single product in customers’ hands that hasn’t been tested by us first,” Drummond said.

The strong desire to build trust with the consumer comes from a passion that the core of a business needs to have to be successful, he said.

“A brand needs to convey emotion”.

“There needs to be an immediate sense from the customer that says ‘this brand is right for me,’ and that creates recurring revenue.”

Cannabis Communications co-founder Katie Pringle agrees that passion is a critical ingredient in building a brand and with keeping up with the cannabis movement in Canada.
Katie Pringle

The communications agency helps LPs create ambassador programs, build powerful campaigns to bolster reputation, and to increase their online presence through influencers, bloggers and social media.

“With legalization, to a lot of consumers, it’s going to look like a light-switch came on in terms of brands flooding the market,” Pringle said.

“So having a strong brand position and understanding their value and what differentiates them is going to be key in competition.”

Katie Pringle, Co-Founder of Cannabis Communications


And unlike most other markets, cannabis has the additional challenges of dealing with advertising restrictions and the laws of each province.

But at the end of the day, Pringle said it’s about aligning company values with those of your desired audience.

“It’s not about everyone, it’s about providing for your core customer, she said.”

Since cannabis is in such a hastened start-up mode, many managing directors of cannabis operations are the investors who are more in touch with business than they are with marketing.

This, Pringle said, is where a communications firm can step in and relieve some pressure.

“Our strength is in relationships,” she said.

“Given how murky the industry around cannabis is, partnerships, and collaborations is really a cornerstone of the industry right now, so as an agency that’s deeply routed, that’s what we’re able to bring to the table.”

OTTAWA ­– A doctor’s group representing most of the country’s physicians wants cannabis labeling controlled by federal government.
GATINEAU – The Hydropothecary Corporation today released Elixir CBD Peppermint, Canada's first CBD medical cannabis oil mist.
TORONTO – Licensed marijuana producer Aphria Inc. has signed a deal to sell its stake in Arizona cannabis company Copperstate Farms to an affiliated U.S. company, Liberty Health Sciences Inc., for $20 million.
Sunrise Genetics is the first organization to provide a complete assembly of the cannabis genome. They presented their work at the 26th Plant and Genome Conference, which ran from Jan. 13 -17 of 2018.

I gave the President and COO of Sunrise Genetics, Matt Gibbs a call in Colorado to talk about the advent of cannabis genomics research and what it means for licensed cannabis producers in 2018 and beyond.

This is our interview:







Justin
: Let’s start by talking about what it is that Sunrise Genetics does.

Matt: Sunrise genetics is a biotechnology company that specializes in cannabis genomics.

We develop different genomics tools to advance the breeding effort of cannabis and to better understand the plant.

Through understanding of the genes in the cannabis genome, we’re able to build different tools to understand how the plant works or produces a certain chemical or fights off pests, or how drought-tolerant it is.

J: How does investing in genetic research benefit licensed cannabis producers?

M: Consumers want a consistent product whether it is recreational or medicinal. The LPs want to make sure they can deliver what it is the consumer wants.

These tools can identify a plant genetically so that there is transparency from the very beginning. And give their customers assurance. We can provide that.

It’s also important for LPs to differentiate themselves. To create novel and consistent plants and monetize their new creation. There are a variety of ways we provide value to LPs.

J: The most commonly known cannabinoids are THC and cannabidiol. With your mapping of the cannabis genome, what other cannabinoids have you found in the plant so far, and what would their applications be?

M: Actually, there are many genomic maps of cannabis. But what we’ve done is we’ve created the first one that is actually ordered into the 10 chromosomes of the plant.

Think about it like a map that’s now been ordered into the shape of Canada – it’s been put into all the provinces, and broken down further into the cities. And we also know the topography of the map.

And so this means we can put flags in different places that identify where to find THC or cannabidiol, or anything else, in the genome.

J: And before the genetic map, scientists and researchers would run into problems like…?

M: Well, there was no agreed upon standards from which to replicate anyone else’s work, so from a scientific perspective, there were claims that could not be reproduced or proven.

With a map, we can all agree on boundary lines, where things are, and the distance between them and it allows us to accelerate breeding, it allows us to accelerate the discovery of genes, and eventually it will allow for legitimate clinical trials.

We’re just starting to understand the plant at its DNA level because now we can agree upon a map from which to experiment from.

J: So really it’s similar to the 23 & Me product in that I can give their lab a strand of my hair or some skin cells and they would analyze it and send me a package in the mail detailing my likelihood for male pattern-baldness, autism, or high-blood pressure?

M: That’s what it will move towards. Think of 23 & Me but go back to painted chromosomes. It won’t be able to tell you you’re going to bald yet, but it can in a year or two.

What I would say is the assembly of the genome itself will be the basis from which we can launch a whole bunch of new ways to identify and categorize the plant that may be useful to you as a consumer.

We’re just at the beginning but that is what we will get to, and a lot of it will depend on what the LPs want.

J: At what level should an LPs use this kind of research on the traits in their plants? Small? Mid-level? International?

M: These tools can be used at every level. From simple things like sex testing, or producing markers, to help understand the stability of cannabinoids and terpenes and other traits related to the plant’s growth.

It’s about understanding what your plant catalogue is and identifying what you’d like to breed for improvement.

J: Do you see any push-back or skepticism about cannabis genomics?

M:Plenty. It’s science that’s been applied to many other crops and organisms in the world but it’s new to cannabis, and cannabis is new to legalization, so it’s part of us all growing as an industry and understanding what’s available to us, not being afraid of the unknown.

So the skepticism is understood, and it would be weird if there wasn’t any.

J: What’s an example of something that producers would want to see accelerated in their plant?

M:  Any of the cannabinoids really. THC and CBD – they (the clients) want to know how to regulate and stabilize those two in a variety of ratios.

The goal could also be to produce seeds that are much more disease free, that have greater vigour, are cheaper to manage, or identifying the seeds that are capable of high THC production.

We can save them time and resources they would otherwise spend on “pheno hunting”. (Breeding for a specific phenotype expression in a plant, like high bud yield)

J: Do you see the work you’re doing now as an industry standard in the future? And why?

M: It likely will be a standard in the industry. It has broad implications for plant improvement and discovery of plants abilities so I think genomics is going to be the scientific basis from which the LP can choose what to commercialize and leverage for their benefit.

For more information about Sunrise Genetics, click here. 






On January 25, Health Canada announced two changes to the physical security requirements under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), which impact licensed producers (LPs) of cannabis for medical purposes. 
TORONTO – Licensed marijuana producer Aphria Inc. announced an agreement Monday to buy medical cannabis firm Nuuvera Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal that it says values the company at $826 million.
LIVERPOOL, NOVA SCOTIA — Aqualitas Inc.  has been granted a licence to cultivate medical cannabis pursuant to Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).


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