Right now I’m a problem solver, armed with a camera, disguised as a writer. School taught me that the mark of a great photographer is in their ability to solve problems on the spot. The cannabis industry has a big problem that needs solving right now: education. The lack of content and engagement it will take to re-educate the masses and de-stigmatise the plant is hard to estimate, but there will be a great demand as transition out of prohibition continues. This was part of the reason I dropped everything in January to form Ethical Image, a cannabis content creation agency. The other big reason was working philanthropically, for instance Ethical Image has planted 100 trees in honour of Louis Kyron. Thank you for the advice you’ve shared, and the four day media pass that enabled my first cannabis expo experience, recapped below.
“The eyes of the world are on us.” – Eric Coston, to set the tone for State of the Cannabis nation, the first panel of the Lift Cannabis Business Conference. And it’s true, Canada is the first G7 country to legalize adult use cannabis, and is setting precedent for the rest of the world to follow. Not everyone has to like it, but the reality is that reefer madness doesn’t work anymore and the tide is shifting. Lift 2018 happened to fall just weeks before the 3rd vote on bill C45, and royal assent if all goes accordingly to plan. While Thursday was very information dense, there were a couple common refrains that I picked up on: Education, Marketing, and compliance.
Compliance is what this legalized shift has rooted itself in, thorough procedure and protocol, to the chagrin of some. It was a tale of two different worlds within the same country when Brian Harriman of Liquor NB and Mayor Chris Friel of Brantford exchanged their experiences. While New Brunswick is debatably the most prepared province in the face of legalization, Ontario seems to have made slow progress, and stumbled very obviously at times. When asked if ontario municipalities were ready, his answer was a resounding “no”. According to Chris, the “doritos” stoner stigma associated with the plant, as well as lack of scientific fact based evidence, has muddied and slowed rational decision making, and policy as a result. For perfect anecdotes from the senate, look no further than #toasterbud, 5 grams 4 tokes, or concerns of dope stealing drones.
Speakers from most panels over the weekend circled back to education quite often, and for good reason. There is a lack of quality, reputable information available to the masses, and as a result misinformation is abundant. A big barrier between legalization and widespread acceptance is the education gap that is altogether too wide right now. Chris went as far as to state that the lack of public education on the federal level is “deplorable”, and needs to be addressed. There are companies such as Lift&Co that aim to bridge that gap, but even they face tremendous challenges, such as recently having their youtube and facebook pages shut down. How can one educate with limited access to the audience?
Education and compliance should be well synchronized, yet seem to be at odds with each other lately … enter marketing. For cannabis companies, this frontier is won by a combination of creativity meeting opportunity. One panelist described it accurately right now as “an industry of loopholes”, and until specific regulations are laid out it will continue as such. I for one would love to try out some Broken Coast, Supreme Fire, and trailer park buds once royal ascent is implemented! Marketing works when you build relationships with your consumer. As an investor in OGI I went out to Moncton for a tour recently and it not only solidified my investment thesis, but also won me over as a consumer. I like their brands and thought they had the strongest brand portfolio at lift – but will advertising them to me be illegal by this time next year? We’ll see.
Both the Industry day and Retail weekend programing brought together the worlds of corporations, consumers, and activists alike under one roof to celebrate the industry as a whole. The energy in the air was electric, and the overall presentation was clean and professional while also comfortable. On Friday while shooting CEO headshots, they were all kind and accommodating even with such busy show schedules! As said by Louis Kyron “much like the industry itself, the expo has transformed since its debut and is a much needed bridge connecting businesses, patients, and the public raising awareness and education”. I’m already looking forward to my next trade show with CannaInvestor, O’Cannabiz on June 8/9… thanks for the ticket again Louis! Embedded are some photos & Video from Lift 2018, hope you enjoy the visuals.