Don’t worry, don’t quit and hang in there — it’s going to get better.
That was the general message given by panelists on Thursday, during the first day of The Lift & Co. Corp. (TSXV: LIFT and OTCQB: LFCOF) cannabis expo at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
The first day of the expo is reserved for the corporate Lift & Co. cannabis business conference where attendees, for the price of the $550 ticket, could listen to a full day of panelists and network with people from across the industry.
The three-day expo kicked off with the sound of crickets, following Lift CEO Matei Olaru’s bone-dry joke about how much money the industry has lost over the past year. But energy picked up as the day progressed.
“Don’t be pessimistic, be optimistic,” Arcadian Capital Management CEO Matthew Nordgren told the audience.
Cannabis companies have already come so far — despite institutional global markets still being closed off to weed — and that’s great news, Nordgren said. The whole industry is going to boom when everything opens up for weed, so hang in there, he said.
Companies should still choose their business partners and investors carefully, said Narbé Alexandrian, president and CEO of venture capital firm Canopy Rivers. He sat on the same capital-raising panel as Nordgren.
When someone invests in a company, it takes an average of 9.5 years to make money in Canada, and 9.2 years in the United States, Alexandrian said.
That’s about the same time as a the average marriage length in North America, so choose wisely, he added.
Not all sunny skies at Lift & Co expo
That’s not to say the whole day was positive.
Panelists talked about how the entire industry is feeling the financial pinch, and how cannabis 2.0 products have been slow to rollout.
The lack of money in the cannabis industry means there will be a lot of mergers and acquisitions in 2020, Michelle de Cordova, principal at ESG Global Advisors, said.
Companies will benefit from recognizing that while some companies suffer from unique challenges they largely all suffer from the same problems, according to de Cordova.
The financial pinch and cannabis 2.0
There was the feeling in the industry that cannabis 2.0 was going to be like flicking on a light switch, but a seismic policy shift like legalization isn’t as easy as that, Emerald Health Therapeutics, Inc. (TSX: EMH and OTCQX: EMHTF) VP of institutional relations Allan Rewak said. He was part of a panel on the second wave of legalization, and was critical of the hype built around cannabis 2.0.
« We’re designing things before we can drive them, » said GreenSky Strategy Ophelia Chong. Canada was given a lot of money and didn’t know what to do with it, she added. #lcbc pic.twitter.com/lxUjZja8Nx
— Michelle Gamage (@Michelle_Gamage) January 9, 2020
The cannabis industry didn’t invent the iPhone, Rewak said, and should be cautious about running towards new and shiny products. Producers should be paying close attention to the illicit market and trying to offer those products to consumers, while still following regulations, he added.
Regulations shouldn’t be viewed as only hindering the market, said Dan Demers, VP of government relations and regulatory affairs for the Canadian Health Food Association.
Regulations create consumer trust, especially in Canada where a company is only allowed to make a health claim when it can back the claim up with proof, Demers said.
Combining that consumer trust with the export of Canadian edibles, and you have a competitive edge in the international CBD market, he added.
Psychedelics could be legalized in five years, says Lift & Co panel
Canada might legalize therapeutic psychedelics in the next five years, and its thanks to cannabis, was the consensus of one panel.
Drugs like MDMA and psilocybin mushrooms are starting to be recognized for their therapeutic properties, similar to how medical cannabis was originally recognized for its health benefits.
“The difference is cannabis is a product, psychedelics are a service,” said Mark Haden, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Psychedelics should be used within the transformative context of therapy, he said.
Canada will likely see MDMA and psilocybin mushrooms legalized for therapeutic uses. Haden gave the example of treatment for women between the age of 25 and 45 who suffer form PTSD.
Psychedelic therapies will then spread as doctors first prescribe it outside the age group, and later to other genders, he said.
Eventually the treatment could be available for everyone, from people with clinical depression to “healthy” people just interested in bettering themselves, Field Trip Ventures Inc. founder Ronan Levy said.
What tomorrow holds in store
The second day of the Lift & Co. expo will feature 280 exhibitors as well as more presentations from big industry players, such as Aurora Cannabis, Inc. (TSX: ACB and NYSE: ACB) and Shoppers Drug Mart.
Mugglehead staff will be back at the expo tomorrow so keep an eye on the website and our social media channels for full event coverage.
After all, you never know what will happen at expo.