Canadian cannabis kicked off 2020 with the Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo in Vancouver, catering to business, industry, and consumer crowds. There are marked differences in the pre- and post-legalization conferences, this year being no exception.
Noticeably absent from the floor were massive booths and activations hosted by licensed producers, as well as the “smoking lounge” just outside of the convention centre. Swag was still in high-demand, and there was no shortage of events and networking opportunities.
This was Adastra and Chemia’s first time exhibiting at Lift, which left us with some key takeaways.
- A Shift in the Value Chain. With the exception of a few LPs such as Pure Sunfarms and Edison Cannabis Co., exhibitors were primarily equipment manufacturers, cannabis accessories, and sub-brands focused on downstream branding that shifts away from cultivation and towards consumer packaged goods. There is an apparent need for brand awareness among consumers, although quality, product offerings, and price will be the main differentiators over the “cool” factor, at least for the time being.
- Excitement for Legalization 2.0. Extract-based products hit shelves mid-December, many of which sold out across retailers. Consumers and the industry alike shared excitement over the expansion of product offerings that are coming online, and are more in line with what is available on the unregulated market.
There was significant interest around hydrocarbon extraction and the transitioning of these products to the legal channel. One issue that arises with bringing them to market is the lack of valid and reliable testing for butane and propane analysis. We anticipate that with increased consumer demand, there will be a push to validate these testing methods.
Solventless-based extracts such as rosin and bubble hash were also products that were top of mind on Consumer Day.
- Employment Opportunities. Despite the deflated interest from capital markets, there is still an eagerness from potential employees to enter or continue on in the cannabis industry. Science and research were main areas of interest (although as a co-located processing and analytical testing facility, we likely attract a certain type).
The unfortunate reality of the stock plays of yesteryear have resulted in a number of layoffs and a need for companies to bring down the cost of operation and production. However, as the industry grows, there will be an increase in demand for engineers, researchers, chemists and so on, many of whom will have transferable skills from other industries.
- Psilocybin. While cannabis was the primary focus of the conference, there was still much room for conversations around other natural products. The Business Conference hosted a panel featuring experts in the latest emerging market, and conversation among attendees and investors indicate a strong interest in the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin.
Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California decriminalized the adult possession of psilocybin mushrooms in 2019, with other cities and states likely to continue the trend. It is becoming increasingly clear that cannabis is an initial step in an otherwise larger movement towards plant medicines and psychedelics.
- Hemp-derived CBD. The US is ahead of Canada regarding the decriminalization of psilocybin, and they also have a leg up on hemp-derived CBD. While CBD is inaccurately being hailed as a cure-all and is showing up everywhere from pillowcases to toothpicks, the molecule is in high-demand for a number of legitimate purposes.
2018’s Farm Bill in the US gave rise to the CBD-craze, allowing for the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp. In the US, cultivators are able to grow hemp with a higher cannabinoid content, meaning they get more extracted product (plus they have access to massive ethanol machines), which ultimately lowers the cost of CBD isolate.
In Canada, we are restricted to low-cannabinoid varietals of hemp, making it more expensive to extract CBD at scale.
If and when the federal borders open up to allow for the importation of hemp-derived CBD, Canadian enterprises will not be in a position to compete with the US market without some changes to the cultivation regulations.
Vancouver’s Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo was an exciting opportunity to learn and connect. We look forward to exhibiting at Toronto’s show in May, and continuing these important conversations.
By the next Lift Expo, Adastra Labs should have its standard processing licence, and Chemia Analytics will have validated its first set of tests, giving our teams more milestone stories to share with the community.