CanadaCultureHealth and SafetyRetailOCS commercial chief teases craft designation, dodges pricing question in Reddit AMA

'Why are prices at Ontario's provincial store so much higher than Quebec's?' was the top question that initially went unanswered
Nick Laba Nick LabaApril 21, 202015 min

The top-rated question in a Reddit AMA with the Ontario Cannabis Store’s chief commercial officer remained noticeably unanswered until a full day later.

On Monday, Cheri Mara underwent the brave task of making herself available to anonymous commenters on the world’s biggest internet forum. The ask-me-anything event ran from 2 p.m.–4:20 p.m. EST on the r/TheOCS subreddit.

Mara clearly put in an effort to answer many of the questions posed to her and the provincial retailer she works for, but also seemed to fall into a trap characteristic of many AMAs: getting asked hot questions in a very public, anonymous format.

Just last week, Jeff Lowe from Netflix’s hit documentary The Tiger King got a no-holds-barred roasting in his Reddit-hosted question period. Other famous AMA flops include Woody Harrelson and MSNBC journalist Rachel Maddow.

OCS Cheri Mara
Cheri Mara was VP of digital merchandise at Indigo before her role as chief commercial officer at the OCS. Photo via the OCS website

Naturally, Mara’s thread was more civil than a convicted felon turned documentary villain, but it appears she stepped into at least a small public-relations hole when asked why the OCS has higher price points relative to other provincial stores.

“I currently live in Ottawa and have the ability to compare prices between the OCS and SQDC and have noticed that your products are consistently more expensive,” a Reddit user named Adam Phool said. “Can you shed some light on what is driving the price difference, and if the OCS plans to become competitive on pricing with the other Canadian provinces?”

The first part of Phool’s question is a valid one. A 3.5-gram pack of Jean Guy by Good Supply sells for $24.90 at the OCS and $18.50 at Quebec’s provincial store. However, the same product sells for $23.99 at the BC Cannabis Store and $24.99 at CannabisNL.

It’s not news that Quebec has some of the best deals on legal cannabis in the country, and neither is the related query: With the stated policy objective of reducing the size of the illicit market, why are other government stores not doing more to encourage legal sales?

Read more: Illicit pot market now 44% cheaper than legal industry: StatsCan

“The silence is deafening /u/ONCannabis,” commented sasquatch_jr.

“Don’t worry she’s still busy drafting up some non-answer PR response,” user NightSpears replied.

Another commenter pointed to research from Deloitte saying that Quebecers are less price tolerant. A 2018 report said that only 47 per cent of people in Quebec were likely to access the legal market, compared to 63 per cent of Canadians overall.

It wasn’t until after 4 p.m. Tuesday — after the draft of this article had already been written — that a response appeared on the thread.

“Hi u/AdamPhool. The fascinating part of Canada being the first G7 nation to legalization is that we have 13 provinces/territories that each have put in place a unique model that is aiming to achieve some common, but also unique objectives,” the official response read. “On price – our job is not to compete with other provinces. My team constantly monitors prices of products across the country and for the most part we are aligned. Sometimes we’ll be cheaper, other times others will.”

The response also said prices are constantly under review, noting a price drop on the OCS of 240 products since January.

Mara answers spicy questions from Julians_Sexy_Shirt and others

Aside from pricing, Mara provided enthusiastic responses to many other questions.

A user going by the moniker Julians_Sexy_Shirt asked why the OCS lists such broad ranges for THC and CBD percentages of its products, especially when other storefront dispensaries are more specific.

Mara said that she understood the frustration and has been working with LPs to reduce the ranges.

“THC/CBD percentages are unique to the Lot of plants the products were derived from,” she wrote. “In each shipment from producers, we receive a number of Lots, making it challenging to post the exact percentage every moment, but we are working on technology to make that happen. At the end of the day, it’s a plant and growers are working hard to dial in their environmental conditions, but the plant is going to express itself from Lot to Lot.”

“Seriously?” GatewayNug contended. “Just update the potency for each successive SKU batch. Not hard to do, you can use literally any database software. Forcing cultivators to grow every crop of a cultivar into a 6 per cent window is a costly and difficult challenge for growers, and the lack of transparency is unfair to consumers.”

sexy Julian Trailer Park Boys OCS Cheri Mara
Reddit is no stranger to hot topics. Sexy image of Julian via the r/TrailerParkBoys subreddit

One of the other top-voted questions asked how the OCS plans to help support craft growers in Ontario.

There’s no question craft cannabis is a core pillar of Ontario’s legal market, Mara said, citing a recent hire of Peter Shearer.

“Pete is drafting a framework for us on craft cannabis. This framework will start with a clear definition of what craft means for the Ontario market,” Mara said. “And this definition is going to go beyond just marketing and actually reflect into the roots of craft cannabis growing in the legacy market.”

Read more: How craft could save legal cannabis

Read more: Canada’s first micro weed ready for retail

Before his role as a senior manager at the OCS, Shearer worked for almost seven years at The Supreme Cannabis Company as a cultivation advisor and a director of product development.

The OCS has hired a number of legacy market players in recent months including Abi Roach, who was named a “cannabis hero” by Cannabis Amnesty on Tuesday.

“Once the framework is finalized – it will allow us to be clear with any licensed producer, large or small, about what it means if you want to bring a craft branded product forward,” Mara said.

Home growing has become a popular option in Canada since it became legal to grow your own recreational plants. Are more seeds and possibly clones coming to the OCS? asked TheTeaGuide.

“Seeds have been very tough to source,” Mara said. We are open to sourcing seeds from any licensed producer willing to bring them to market. This spring our seed selection will be better, to start, we’re adding six additional seed products from ANC Cannabis based out of Alberta, and more in the weeks ahead.”

Until shipping options improve for clones, Mara said the OCS won’t offer them. We hope to have a solution for clones in time for next year’s growing season, she said.

Ending the session with a pot pun and saying she was going to sign off to celebrate 4/20, Mara said she promised to come back to the thread to answer more questions over the next couple days.

This article will be updated if there changes to its related content.

Top image by Lëa-Kim Châteauneuf via Wikimedia Commons

 

nick@mugglehead.com

@nick_laba

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *