O’Cannabiz Goes Beyond Regulatory Talk with Talent, Taste and Transparency
June 7, 2022 By Haley Nagasaki
Sessions, breakfasts and after parties were buzzing with excitement over the 3-day O’Cannabiz conference in Toronto, held June 1st-3rd, including the garden awards gala at Casa Loma on the first night of the show.
Industry experts were rewarded for their innovation, leadership and style by host Gerry Dee, who had the audience in stitches over an elegant two-hour ceremony on the terrace.
Some of the awards handed out that night went to Marigold Marketing & PR for best PR/advertising agency in cannabis; High North Laboratories for best cannabis lab testing facilities; and David Hyde and Hyde Advisory for best business consultancy in cannabis.
Back at the trade show and conference at the International Centre, industry leaders took to the stage and traversed the exhibitor floor, networking while educating and providing full transparency — a theme which appears to be repeating in an industry that continues to evolve against rigid regulations and make-or-break hurdles.
While consolidation and a bearish market trend at the forefront, some lay their hands on the table, perhaps to keep from folding, in order to connect with possibilities and to refine themselves moving forward.
Valuable Education: Group organizations & the consumer
On Thursday, June 2nd, panelists shared proven strategies to reach consumers during the “How organizations are effectively educating the masses” discussion. Methods like storytelling, email lists and push notifications, podcasts and in-person meetups were among those mentioned in response to the gap in education as a result of government and corporate ignorance and/or lack of incentive.
Organizations like Cannabis Wiki, Afro Cannada Budsistas, HelloMD, Mimi Cannabis and Fritz’z Cannabis Company are putting in the work to ensure that education is permeating into the public sphere at every level of interaction. Whether that’s cannabis marketing within pharmacies or better educating the insurance companies, panelists agree that outreach and specifically tailored programs are essential for the demystification process surrounding cannabis use.
Moreover, groups are continuously challenged as a result of the cannabis stigma.
Panelists affirm that cannabis is not “alcohol 2.0,” but a unique ecosystem and distinguished product meant to enhance user experience under a medical umbrella, first.
Megan Henderson, head of Revenue Operations at HelloMD, knows that the education simply isn’t there on the corporate side, a topic later echoed by Trina Fraser and Deepak Anand as seen through their work with Health Canada.
Weaving the education thread, that afternoon Mika Unterman, CEO of Apical Ethical Cannabis Collective, spoke about retail and revealed to listeners that it’s up to companies to provide info on the products and operations so that consumers can make informed decisions.
While the value of THC and CBD is one component of a product, so too is the environment in which the plants are produced, which methods are used (e.g., living or recycled soil), and whether the employees are paid a living wage.
What are the other inputs or “externalities” involved in production of a certain product? Mika upholds that these are the types of questions the consumer not only has the right but perhaps even the responsibility to ask and be informed of.
Recent Regulatory Shifts with the AGCO
Fern Glowinsky, CEO of Merrco Payments, moderated a panel called “Breaking down the rules & regulations with a focus on the recent AGCO report,” where panelists Trina Fraser, Denis Gertler and Chad Finkelstein discussed a recent report released by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
How enforcement will unfold with the new AGCO decision is yet to be seen, although the panelists agree that businesses are encouraged to reach out and seek clarity because the commission wants to work with people; they want to better understand the industry.
Still, there remains an awkwardness surrounding some issues, such as proof of fair market value as it relates to placing products on the shelves of retailers versus receiving information from said retailer, explains Fraser, partner at Brazeau Seller Law.
Gertler adds that the “federal-provincial relationship in any area is fraught,” that the communication is not great, and as a result, there’s a lot of finger-pointing going on insofar as who’s responsible for what.
“The AGCO has, more often, been reactive rather than proactive in responding to a relentlessly creative industry”, said Finkelstein, which he believes furthers this sense of uncertainty. “If you receive a warning letter form the AGCO, you’re not going to jail, you’re not losing your license. It’s an invitation, often times, to have a discussion about what the rules and standards are and how they should be interpreted as it relates to what you’re doing.”
The regulator is not there to stop or suspend businesses and should instead be seen as an opportunity to seek more guidance.
Panelists believe it’s a good idea to begin discussions surrounding compliance and the federal-provincial interactions, and as a retailer or an LP, it’s important to focus on relationship-building in response to this.
Satiating Experiences, Invigorating Senses: Let’s not forget why we’re here
Psychedelics, sexual health, infused food and bath products are not to be overlooked during the recap of any Canadian cannabis conference.
Whether that includes exhibitor networking and gift bags, panelist sessions and main stage cooking demos, or even a 12-course infused meal event hosted by a cannabis chef at his own home, the necessity of taking time for fine dining and exploring sensuality is essential to this space and to the interests of cannabis and psychedelic users alike.
The Psychedelic Summit made space for the mystical within a traditional paradigm where magic mushrooms were welcomed into the room, as well as discussions surrounding mental health and the “psychedelic revolution”, even in relation to sustainability.
Two cooking demos were held on the expo floor: one with Chef Pat Newton and NFL player, chef and cannabis advocate Justin Renfrow, and a second lively demo hosted by James Beard Nominated Chef, Jordan Wagman.
Gratitude to Chef Wagman for his private infused dinner party organized by Tanner Stewart, CEO and founder of Stewart Farms, where guests relished an unforgettable evening paired with unbeatable gifts in the form of premium organic flower, bath bombs, salts, and salves.
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