While it wasn’t the only subject of discussion, those dollars were clearly on the mind of the crowd at Crafting the Future. The event was organized by Lisa Campbell, a long-time advocate who recently began working with Lifford Wine & Spirits, one of many beverage companies and importers aiming to add cannabis products to its portfolio. The summit was held this past Wednesday at Lifford’s Toronto headquarters, a renovated old Victorian on Jarvis Street where 100 or so people, at least 90-per-cent white women, mingled in the early evening. Before a set of speeches, we learned how to infuse olive oil with the correct dosage of cannabis before making a pureed beet hors d’oeuvre, snacked on an impressive spread of smoked salmon and meats sponsored by hot Mississauga-based cannabis company TerrAscend and sipped on a very tasty sangiovese. Vapers and smokers gathered on the lawn outside.
“[Cannabis edibles] are expected to be legal within one year of legalization,” says Lisa Campbell, cannabis portfolio specialist for Lifford Wine & Spirits. “Now legalization has been delayed to late summer or fall essentially, so within that year we are expecting that Health Canada will approve other cannabis derivative products.”
Campbell went on to add that for a company not already in the cannabis sector to get involved, overhead costs such as added security need to be factored in due to the fact that cannabis is a controlled substance. One of the ways to negate some of these costs would be to work with an existing licensed cannabis producer, of which there are many. “A lot of licensed producers are looking for turnkey businesses they can partner with, or potentially acquire, to add to their product portfolios.”
Along with ascertaining any added costs in logistics, interested companies should consider if they will be processing cannabis oil on-site or acquiring the substances they need elsewhere from an existing manufacturer.
“[Most people] would be dealing with a processed cannabis extract from a licensed producer, but if someone has a processing or micro-processing license they could have that equipment in their facility to process the cannabis flower,” says Campbell.
As Canada prepares to reintegrate cannabis into society after an almost 100-year deep freeze, the palpable anticipation in the retail sector is evident. This includes the massive wine, beer, and spirits industries as well.
Canada’s wine industry alone hovers around the $9 billion mark annually, according to a report commissioned for Canadian wine trade associations. For cannabis, a recent report from a major Canadian bank revealed conservative estimates that show the recreational marijuana industry could grow to $6.5 billion per year by 2020.
“The wine world is already really experienced with the supply chain in Canada,” said Lisa Campbell, the cannabis portfolio specialist at Lifford Wine & Spirits in an interview with Marijuana.com.
Campbell was also quick to point out some of the similarities between wine and cannabis.
Yesterday was a historic day for Canadians, as the Cannabis Act passed through the Senateafter two years of intense debate. The landmark decision makes Canada the first G-7 country to legalize cannabis recreationally, with the first legal stores expected to open by October 17th 2018.
The bill passed on a vote 52 to 29, with several opposing Senators cited concerns that legalization for non-medical cannabis violated the UN drug control treaties. Yet despite heated opposition, Bill C-45 is now making its way into law and is expected to come into effect 8-12 weeks after Royal Assent which is expected by the week’s end.
Independent Senator Tony Dean who sponsored the bill was elated celebrating the end of cannabis prohibition in Canada, “We have seen in the Senate tonight a historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition of cannabis in this country, 90 years of needless criminalization, 90 years of a just-say-no approach to drugs that hasn’t worked.” Dean emphasized, “I’m proud of Canada today. This is progressive social policy.”
Lisa Campbell, who recently joined Toronto-based wine distribution company Lifford Wine & Spirits to work with cannabis companies, says craft producers will be able to distinguish themselves by growing better-quality marijuana than large-scale producers.
“A lot of the licensed producers right now, their goal as publicly traded companies is producing the cheapest cannabis possible for the commercial market,” says Ms. Campbell. She says craft producers will be able to use different genetics, grow in different soil and use other methods to distinguish their cannabis. “A lot of people say hand-trimmed buds is craft, so the trim is really important. If it’s dense and not fluffy, it’s great, and obviously, smell and flavour are factors … It’s like getting a bottle of wine for thousands of dollars – there will be certain products that will fetch a premium.”
A cannabis vape pen is essentially an e-cigarette, but for cannabis oil instead of nicotine oil. A rechargeable battery powers a heating element, which vaporizes cannabis oil contained in a replacable or refillable cartridge. (Disposable, limited-used vape pens are also available.)
"Vape pens are super-discreet, so unlike smoking cannabis there's very little odour," said Lisa Campbell, a cannabis portfolio specialist with Toronto-based liquor distributor Lifford Wine & Spirits, which is adding cannabis to its product mix. Because vape pens avoid combustion by producing vapour instead of smoke, Campbell and others consider them a less-harmful alternative to smoking.
Lisa Campbell, “a badass lady in the cannabiz,” according to the popular online cannabis resource, Leafly, used to run Green Market, an underground marketplace for specialty products and a hub for makers, artisans and members of the growing Canadian cannabis community.
Green Market, which stopped running events earlier this year due to mounting liability issues, mostly showcased edibles, which Campbell also sees as one of the most promising sectors in cannabis.
As of March, she’s the brand new cannabis portfolio specialist for Lifford Wine & Spirits, an established national agency that this year is adding both beer and weed to their more traditional portfolio.
“We’ve gotten a lot of interest from Licensed Producers now that provincial regulations are coming out, and it’s looking like cannabis will be distributed similarly to alcohol,” Campbell says.
“I’ve heard that edibles may be on the shelves of the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, or OCRC, as well as [infused] beverages, but it’s just rumours at this point.”
The Attorney General has announced that cannabis lounges will be considered in the second phase of legalization, and the AGCO will be in charge of laying out the licensing structure, which will regulate them.
Although it’s not likely that cannabis will be co-located beside alcohol in Ontario anytime soon, Campbell notes that several provinces in Eastern Canada will be allowing co-location and in an industry so young and disruptive, nothing is fixed.
“Ultimately, I think it should be about consumer choice. If we’re at a restaurant, you should be able to order your cannabis beverage and I can have my glass of wine – it shouldn’t be a problem,” Campbell says.
As independent producers and canna-corporations gear up for legalization, expect a torrent of innovation to create new products and design ways of marketing them.
“People are building up these cool brand and niche products, like EP Infusions and Canna Cocoa, which make beautiful hand-painted chocolates,” Campbell says.
“And big companies like Canopy Growth Corp have patents and trademarks for all of these brand new products.”
April’s announcement that Lifford Wine and Spirits, a major supplier of wine to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, created Lifford Cannabis Solutions to help licensed producers market and sell their products.
With the greener seasons rolling in, we thought it was high time we showcased 13 cannabis industry influencers.
Over the years, Lisa Campbell became a true cannabis expert by working extensively in international drug policy with Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. As the founder of the Women Grow Toronto chapter, Lisa is now founding a cannabis subsidiary for Lifford Wine & Spirits, helping cannabis companies navigate the emerging cannabis industry across Canada and beyond. Lifford Cannabis Solutions will work with cannabis companies to help their brands come to market across all ten provinces, leveraging Lifford’s national salesforce and longstanding relationships.
From wine to weed
We're still waiting to see who will take the lead as educators in this new market, but some in the wine industry say they are up to the task.
That means Manitoba could soon be home to not just wine reps but a number of cannabis reps.
"We have a lot of experience handling controlled substances and dealing with liquor boards across all 10 provinces," said Lisa Campbell, cannabis portfolio specialist for Lifford Cannabis Solutions, a subsidiary company of Toronto-based Lifford Wine and Spirits.
"Now that cannabis is being regulated similar to alcohol, there are a lot of parallels in terms of the supply chain and the services that producers will need getting to market."