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“It should be treated like every other vegetable or plant out there”: Cannabis entrepreneurs talk about their dream scenarios

Around 200 investors gathered at the Eaton Centre Marriott earlier this week for two days of pitches from the executives of fledgling marijuana businesses from across the continent. The event, hosted by the Arcview Group, a cannabis investment network, aimed to connect these aspirants with high-net-worth backers interested in getting a piece of the probably-soon-to-be-legal recreational pot business. We asked a few attendees to tell us what they hope Canada’s new cannabis laws will look like.

"It should be treated like every other vegetable or plant out there": Cannabis entrepreneurs talk about their dream scenarios
Wendschuh at last year’s conference for marijuana-based businesses at the Eaton Centre Marriott. Photo by Giordano Ciampini
Dooma Wandschuh

CEO of Province Brands, from Miami

What does your company do? We make beers and spirits that are brewed or distilled from cannabis, that have many of the attributes that alcohol has, in terms of onset time and duration of effect, and which are designed to take on the $1.2-trillion alcohol industry.

What’s your dream legalization scenario? The dream would be if they legalized all cannabis products—not just marijuana flower and oil—as quickly as possible. If they don’t do that, we’re going to see more people turning to the black market even after legalization. Imagine how bad that is, when you have a young industry that you’re trying to support and grow. You’re taking money out of the pockets of people who are doing this legitimately and giving that money to drug dealers.

"It should be treated like every other vegetable or plant out there": Cannabis entrepreneurs talk about their dream scenarios
Amanda Ostrowitz

CEO of CannaRegs, from Denver, Colorado

What does your company do? CannaRegs is the LexisNexis of cannabis. We aggregate all the state, county and municipal laws into one, searchable platform.

What’s your dream legalization scenario? Canada’s really setting the stage for what federal legalization can look like. You have the ability to show the world how this can be done. I’m not entirely on the “no laws” side. I’m on the side of legalize, tax and regulate, so that we can have a free and open marketplace. Fifty years from now, we could look a lot more like the tobacco industry—except you know, not doing anybody harm.

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"It should be treated like every other vegetable or plant out there": Cannabis entrepreneurs talk about their dream scenarios
Walker Patton, Andrea Dobbs and Jeremy Jacob

Strategic growth VP, “brand wiz,” and president (respectively) of the Village Dispensary, from Vancouver

What does your company do? Jeremy: We’re reinventing the cannabis retail experience.

What’s your dream legalization scenario? Jeremy: The dream scenario is where Canadians are free. The history of cannabis is one of ownership by the people, so we want to see that extended through legalization. Regular Canadians should be able to enter this industry, participate and let the market decide who’s doing the best job and who the customer wants to patronize.

Andrea: I’d like to see something based loosely on the craft brewery industry. We have a really rich craft brewing culture in BC, and we’d like to see something happen that way for cannabis in BC, at least.

Walker: What we’re afraid of is that it’s going to go strictly through the liquor stores, or strictly through the pharmacies. These people may be equipped to deal with certain kinds of medicine, or certain kinds of alcohol, but they are not necessarily equipped to deal with cannabis, and it’s going to put retailers like us in jeopardy.

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"It should be treated like every other vegetable or plant out there": Cannabis entrepreneurs talk about their dream scenarios
Daniel Yazbeck

CEO of MYDX, from San Diego, California

What does your company do? We build an ecosystem to empower consumers to get feedback on what they put into their mind and body, so that they can trust, verify and find a strain of cannabis that works for them.

What’s your dream legalization scenario? Everything has to happen in stages. You can’t just shove something in somebody’s face. Cannabis still smells bad, you’ve got to be subtle about it. You have to make it legal, but not flagrant. Create a legal framework for business to operate and slowly teach people about the science of cannabis, and people will come on board, because it’s unequivocally there: this plant helps people.

"It should be treated like every other vegetable or plant out there": Cannabis entrepreneurs talk about their dream scenarios
James Winokur

CEO of CannaKorp, from Boston, Massachusetts

What does your company do? We have developed a single-use, pod-based vaporizer system. The idea is to make it really clean, convenient and consistent, so that a consumer or patient knows exactly what they’re getting, properly labelled.

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What’s your dream legalization scenario? The dream scenario for us is that we can operate as other businesses do: we can promote our product, go across state lines in the U.S. In Canada, when each province comes up with their distribution, we can be in a drug store or in a retail store.

"It should be treated like every other vegetable or plant out there": Cannabis entrepreneurs talk about their dream scenarios
Ashley Preece

Executive director of the Cannabis Certification Council, from Portland, Oregon

What does your company do? The Cannabis Certification Council is a nonprofit certifying body, offering certifications and seals for organic methods and fair-labour practices within the cannabis industry.

What’s your dream legalization scenario? That it would be federally legal in the U.S. and that anyone could have access to the plant—including children, for medicinal purposes.

"It should be treated like every other vegetable or plant out there": Cannabis entrepreneurs talk about their dream scenarios
Ron Basek-Smith

CEO of Sona Packaging, from Boulder, Colorado

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What does your company do? We make sustainable hemp-based packaging for the cannabis industry.

What’s your dream legalization scenario? I believe that cannabis should be treated like every other vegetable or plant out there. That said, I think there needs to be some regulation of the growing process, and people should still have to be above a certain age to purchase it. I don’t know what that age should be.

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