This is my personal tale on the Canadian Cannabis Industry. Please don’t take what I am about to write as ultimate truth. That is correct, I am hoping you will google the heck out of everything I put forth in this entire little blog series on Cannabis in Canada.
I am NOT an expert, just someone speaking about Canadian Cannabis.
Warning: This post is going to be long and contain a lot of feelings.
This is the third blog in the the series I have been writing for those curious about the impending Cannabis Legalization in Canada, and written for those that value my personal take on it. This installment is about the Canadian Cannabis Industry as I have experienced over the last 4 years. It has also been the most challenging blog for me to write, because it is really personal. I have tried to write it for weeks, and hesitated doing so because its a sensitive subject with varying opinions...
Everyone in this industry experiences it in their own unique way. My way is from the perspective of a 40 year old, white female. Heterosexual wife. Mother of three. “Middle class” (whatever that means). I have been involved as a person interested in the topical application of Cannabis products. I have NOT been growing, or extracting, which seem to be the major areas of interest in this industry to date (that's about to change). <THIS IS MY TAKE ON IT> I will briefly chronicle for you where I went and what I saw, through my lens. So here it goes, Hipbees and the Cannabis Industry:
My first introduction to the Canadian Cannabis industry was in 2014, I went on a dispensary tour in Vancouver. I was SHOCKED that you could walk in off the street and buy "weed” from a store. It was very eye opening and where I first discovered that people were making all sorts of products with Cannabis in them. Next I went online, and learned as much as I could from Canadian people applying to be Licensed Producers and people that were advocating for the legalization of Cannabis. This was really fun and exhilarating! It was enlightening to see so many knowledgeable people so excited about making this plant accessible to everyone that would stand to benefit from its use.
Fast Forward to early 2016 when things really started to get exciting! I joined a group in Alberta called “Women Grow” and attended my first of many Cannabis Networking events. It is not what most people would maybe think it was. It was a group of very smart and interesting people meeting to discuss HOW ON EARTH ARE WE GOING TO LEGALIZE THIS, and what will the industry look like. “Normal” looking folks meeting at a pub to listen to amazing speakers (Terry Booth CEO of Aurora spoke at one of those early meetings). No one was high, and almost no one was belligerent or rude. It was awesome to say the least. I enjoyed this time very much :) Then me vs. the trade shows started…
HempFest in Calgary fall 2016, was my first Cannabis trade show, it was very illuminating. HempFest was VERY relaxed. Lovely vendors, lovely people. Everyone was working together and so friendly and supportive. There was no BIG business yet, and it was not intimidating at all. A similar situation happened in the spring of 2017 at HempFest in Edmonton. Then I attended Lift, a much larger and ‘serious’ trade show, where some of the big players were starting to flex their muscles. What does that mean? It means that the large scale licensed producers were putting together HUGE displays and booths, with loads of marketing materials and giveaways etc. And then I went to Vegas…..
I attended the MJBizCon in the fall of 2017. It was a 6 day American Cannabis conference for all things weed related. It was intense. And this was the place I started to feel REALLY out of place. It really was just so DRAMATICALLY different than anything Canadian. LOADS of money. LOADS of men. LOADS of BIG BUSINESS. At the same time lots of really informed people speaking on the economics of Cannabis. It took three days just to cover the trade room floor, and two days to hear 25% of the speakers. It was a snapshot of what the Canadian Industry will look like (just on a smaller scale). It was glimpse of the future for this gentle plant and I came home feeling scared, unsure, nervous, and not entirely certain this was an industry I even wanted to be a part of. Yet I persisted.
Winter of 2018, Lift Vancouver. A MASSIVE Canadian Cannabis trade show. As I walked around that huge place full of so much BIGNESS and so many people I wanted to just run away. Mostly because I tend to shy away from large crowds with lots of energy and partly because I was overwhelmed at the size and scale of this show and the industry it was flaunting. Pharmaceutical companies were re-branding as Cannabis companies, and while we all know the problem with some big pharma, they bring some very important pieces to the puzzle (this is a debate for another blog). All the Big Licensed Producers were there; some had DJs or Huge lounge style booths, and tonnes of swag. So much swag. It was daunting and much different than the other trade shows I had been to in Canada, I could tell that the independents that were very much present at all the other ones were almost non-existent there.
Since that Vancouver show it has been much the same for me: seeing lots of money, lots of big flashy booths, lots of men, lots of white people, lots of giveaways. So what I have I learned? That like most great things it starts small and then grows when money is involved. In this particular case it grew SO FAST. And now it is a giant machine. The sweet little networking events in a quiet pub are now big, busy, loud events with tonnes of people, but they are still great - which truly gives me hope. The industry is excited, and pumped up and full steam ahead; to stay grounded I just need to remember to look for the good, and the good people doing honest work.
I have also learned that this industry IS very political, all the decisions ARE being made by government AND big business, that is not a joke, nor is it a conspiracy. What we are seeing played out was planned years and years ago, it has just taken us this long for us to catch up. If you are reading this blog you are still WAY ahead of most Canadians on understanding what the Cannabis industry is. Because make no mistake it IS an industry, a very very very well funded industry. It is well funded because Canadians are not just participating in this for Canadians, we are also the world's largest exporter of Cannabis and Cannabis Goods. I will say that again: because we are federally legal Canada is the largest exporter of Cannabis ON EARTH. There is a lot of money involved here, and people that like money like to make a lot of it, and know how to invest so that they will make a lot of it….and guess what? In that process people are left out, and people are hurt. In Canada we are shifting from a medical model of Cannabis access, to a recreational one...and this is what I am talking about when I say: prepare to be dazzled!
The industry leaders have millions and millions of dollars to spend on product development and marketing, and they are about to knock your socks off when they showcase their products. Most of the Licensed Producers have kept their plans for October 17 tightly under wraps, but they are bursting at the seems to show you what they have prepared for you. It is going to be something to see that is for sure. I am excited myself to see what is going to happen, BUT I will be watching with an awareness of how they grow, whose toes they stepped on, how much they sacrificed to get their genetics, and the people that have been hurt along the way. Am I cynical and jaded? Not at all, just aware that it is a business industry and in business this type of nasty stuff happens!
There are still lovely Cannabis Conferences that really highlight all the people working so hard to stay true to a more gentle approach, to supporting and nurturing one another, as opposed to upstaging and out performing one another. I do feel we need both/all types of conferences, summits, networking events and educational seminars. This is plant medicine, and the more understanding we have from as many different sources will help determine what is right for each and every person that is interested.
My personal beliefs on this is that as Canadians it is a privilege to have the opportunity to experience the legalization of Cannabis, we are leaders in this arena and need to set the stage for other nations following suit. We need to be aware of WHO is growing our cannabis and how they are doing it. WHERE they are growing it, and how they can reduce the enormous carbon footprint that comes with this industry. WHAT are they treating the plants with and HOW they are processing them. This is an agricultural production so we NEED to take care of our farmers! We need to HONOUR the people that did all the hard work to get us here, and fought for years and years because they believed so strongly in the healing powers of this plant- these people did it out of love and care, NOT for money and fame. Watch for the women in the industry, and other under-represented groups (so basically anyone not a white male, sorry but its true)...because if they have stuck around in this giant machine they MUST believe in it.
I will most definitely stay a part of this industry, if only to represent the “other side” and prove there is room for everyone. We NEED both male and female energy in this industry, we need the softer side. I will also continue to blog about this industry and relevant topics. I truly hope you keep reading and participating. I am happy to answer any questions and offer any resources I may have: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is a video that I love and brings me to tears when I watch it. It is American, but it might as well be Canadian too, the issues are the very same. We are all in this together, pay close attention and let's do a good job everybody!
To view video click on link and scroll down a little bit to play : LADY BUDS