What We Heard at Lift & Co Cannabis Conference

As the first major Canadian cannabis conference since legalization, this year’s Lift Conference was a concentration of the trends around and state of the cannabis industry today. From January 10th to 13th visitors from all over the world came together in Vancouver to celebrate and learn at Lift’s 2019 Vancouver Cannabis Expo. The Token team joined their industry counterparts to attend the expo, business conference and varied events. I had a chat with those who were there to find out what they took away from the weekend.


Science and research are gaining their rightful traction

Lauren Berkman, Director of Marketing: There is an increasing industry-wide focus on scientific research to drive strategy and product development. With restrictions and stigma beginning to lift (pun intended), the industry is able to recruit top-level researchers and scientists to unlock evidence-based insights and inform product innovation.

Zubair Hussain, Community Manager: Science and research are now huge components in the market. Research and development focused on uncovering the effects of a variety of cannabinoids and terpenes is underway. This will help grow and develop this industry in a thoughtful way.


Cannabis is no longer an underdog

Keenan Pascal, CEO and Co-Founder: The cannabis industry in Canada is becoming more and more sophisticated and is now attracting top talent coming from a variety of sectors. We could see this evidenced in the panels, the networking discussions and on the expo floor. As was to be expected, legalization gave the industry a huge jolt, but the extent to which we are seeing growth and evolution is still impressive.

Zubair: With legalization, scientists are now more readily able to work hand in hand with businesses and regulators, which means the industry can bring credibility to statements and develop more refined products.

Keenan: The mistakes of industries past mean we are clearing the way for a younger, more diverse and forward-looking industry that will build a sustainable future.


The upcoming regulations are driving the most excitement

Keenan: Obviously the new regulations allowing for concentrates and infused products is the most exciting thing happening in cannabis right now. We saw a tonne of buzz at Lift about this – everyone can’t wait to get those products to the market.

Zubair: Even with all the energy around the regulations, we still heard that companies have a strong focus on the adherence of regulatory requirements. This will help keep consumers safe as product options expand.

Chad Gendall, Project Manager: Joint venture and partnership deals are ramping up as the industry prepares for those regulations. Vertically integrated companies, efficient supply chains and well thought out partnerships with shared values are the ones who will succeed.


Export opportunities are rising

Zubair: Lift attendees were particularly interested in the legalization of hemp in New York, with speakers speculating how viable of a market that will make the US going forward.

Chad: CBD is already a huge market, and we are expecting Ireland and New Zealand to jump right into recreational legalization in the near future. There are very good opportunities for translating quality products and brands to English-speaking countries.


Auxiliary companies are thriving profiting, and it’s not too late to join them

Lauren: The conference had excellent representation from data and technology companies who specialize in the cannabis space. We now have access to tools and applications that were previously hesitant to jump into the industry prior to legalization.

Keenan: The increase in services and support companies in areas such as packaging and consulting was very evident in comparison to last year’s conferences. All of a sudden, people want access to a brand new market. We expect interest will continue to go in waves.


There are still unanswered questions

Lauren: There are topics that the industry is wondering about, such as intellectual property. What is patentable?

Chad: There are also unanswered questions about heritage genetics and breeder’s rights claims. Is it worth investing in a breeding program if we are unclear about genetic protections?

Keenan: For every facet that becomes more clear we find another opened up to more questions. Right now, I’m looking forward to getting the regulations enacted so that we can collectively start finessing the details. It seems like there will be a certain amount of trial and error that the market leaders will have to endure, but ultimately this could be good for consumers as it will force accountability in product development.  Ultimately, this industry is still very new, and those who want to get in have not “missed the boat”. There is still plenty of opportunity in this space.