'Epic moment for cannabis': Industry celebrates third anniversary of legalization in Canada
Cannabis grower and retailer Tony Giorgi says the past three years have been "a wild ride."
On Oct. 17, 2018, The Cannabis Act came into effect. The Act regulates retail cannabis for adult use, medical cannabis and industrial hemp in Canada
The CEO of Sensi Brands sees similarities between the cannabis industry and the dot-com boom in the mid-1990s.
"We now have almost 700 to 800 licensed producers in the country," says Giorgi, who has done six startups in the past 30 years.
"With the retail rollout, the federal government had bestowed responsibility at the provincial level on the retail framework here in Ontario. We've made a lot of great progress and now rolling out over 1,000 retail stores in Ontario."
He feels the industry has come to a fork in the road, on how to deliver both recreational and medical products.
"We're starting to see more tinctures, gel caps and cannabis in the form of pills and powders...more medical delivery forms versus recreational," says Giorgi.
"Edibles, obviously are becoming a big thing, beverages, and I've even seen freezies are being released. So you're seeing all these innovative, fun ways of releasing recreational products and recreational format comparatively to the medical market which you are seeing more clinical trials and evidence based use of those products."
Even after three years, new and innovative products are being introduced.
"I think cannabis is divided between, you know, those who want to use it recreationally, but I think there's a huge interest in people that want to use it for their wellness benefit," says Samantha Marchione, brand ambassador for Nuveev.
Nuveev is a company who has a product line which includes skin care products and beverages.
"We combine the benefits of CBD specifically with plant extracts to create a product that is a well rounded product ideal for every single age, race, consumer ,skin concern, " says Marchione.
"Anything from hydrating, nourishing your skin, all the way to, helping your skin age gracefully and attaining healthy skin".
They also make a beverage which focuses on internal and external wellness.
"We have a 25 milligrams CBD (cannabidiol) beverage that is CBD only, and really focuses on the technology of getting CBD into your system acting fast but without the worry about THC," says Marchione.
New industry creates a number of revenue streams and channels. The retail side is booming with six stores in St. Thomas, Ont. alone. With a population of around 40,000 people, that's one for almost every 7,000 residents.
"I would say a massive success in terms of employment, jobs created, and tax revenue that's been created as a means of of launching into this new industry," says Giorgi, who recently opened Southwestern Ontario's first farmgate cannabis store in St. Thomas.
When Canada became the first G7 country to legalize cannabis, the federal government knew there would be a significant economic impact, but they claim the policy decision was made for health and safety reasons.
"It ensured neighborhoods are safe and young people in particular, don't have access to illegal sources of cannabis which were plentiful prior to the change," says Peter Fragiskatos, MP for London-North Centre.
'That's not to say that the black market has been eliminated entirely, because it does exist, but we are seeing some important changes in the evolution of this. I believe that the next few years will show that the black markets, if not defeated when it comes to the distribution of cannabis, is mitigated in terms of its role in very significant ways."
Other G7 countries like Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands are exploring pilot pilots according to Fragiskatos.
"There is a very live conversation happening in the United States right now about whether or not cannabis should be legalized," he says.
"There are particular states that are quite anxious to go about it, while other states do not have an interest so I think you'll end up with a kind of patchwork quilt approach. In Canada, there are particular municipalities, Mississauga being one that have taken the decision to prevent cannabis from being distributed in their communities. Most communities are open to it, because they recognize that cannabis use was a fact long before legalization."
Giorgi says a stigma still exists in the marketplace, and consumers are still trying to wrap their heads around the fact that cannabis is legal.
"We are expanding the education, and over time we're optimistic that this will be truly mainstream," says Giorgi.