New cannabis laws will make it a hard sell for retailers
Published Thursday, September 20, 2018 6:00AM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 20, 2018 7:40PM PDT
B.C. is no stranger to the world of cannabis. Dispensaries are everywhere in Metro Vancouver. But after Oct. 17, all that is going to change.
“All this beautiful, beautiful stuff is going to be gone,” explained Andrea Dobbs of the Village Bloomery.
The shelves in her medicinal cannabis shop in Vancouver will be cleared. If she is successful in getting a licence, the bright packages of cannabis infused products and glass jars of bud will be replaced with simple plain packages of cannabis containing just a brand name and a big warning label.
“My fear is that it’s not actually going to be useful for the end consumer,” said Dobbs.
It’s going to come down to retailer knowledge about sourcing quality product from quality licensed producers.
“You’re going to have your Walmart cannabis and you’re going to have your Holt Renfrew cannabis eventually, I’m sure that’s where it’s going to go,” Dobbs predicted.
Cannabis is like wine. It can vary from region to region, plant to plant, and depending on how it’s grown.
Retailers who want to be in business in the new regulated world will need be educated in how to distinguish product and source suppliers.
That’s where Adolfo Gonazalez and his team at CannaReps hope to cash in.
“We want to clear up the smoke,” Gonzalez says.
He’s conducting workshops and seminars including a cannabis sommelier course to train future cannabis retailers about the fine distinctions between cannabis varieties and hybrids.
“It’s very distinct. You just need to know what to look for,” explained Gonzalez as he walked me through a crash course in identifying cannabis strains, which included a lot of sniffing.
Sativa smelled of citrus and sweet grass, while one strain of Indica called Kush took on a pine scent and had an unpleasant gasoline odour combined with skunk.
And then there are the hybrids, and like wine, there are distinct characteristics with each plant.
“You’re not going to judge your red and your white by the same standards because they’re different right? Cannabis is the same,” said Gonzalez.
And each plant has its own potency and cannabinoids that have various effects on the body. He says cannabis retailers need to understand and identify those subtleties in order to be successful.
Also like wine, there are hundreds of brands.
“Blue dream, AKA 47, Lindsay Lohan, Pink Bubba, Super Silver Haze… there’s just so many. Like Obama,” added Dobbs.
When recreational cannabis becomes legal she expects most of the product to be mass produced with some smaller craft retailers entering the market at a later stage.
Although celebrity endorsements of cannabis will not be allowed, celebrity brands like Snoop Dogg’s Leafs by Snoop and Willie Nelson brand Willie’s Reserve are expected to enter the Canadian market with deals negotiated with Canadian producers.
Bringing celebrities in as shareholders of companies, putting their names on press releases for investors or using celebrities as representatives for the companies are some workarounds being tossed about.
But it will be up to retailers to describe what’s in the package because of strict labelling and marketing rules.
“I’m hoping we’re going to be allowed to use a jar with a magnifying glass on the top and people will be able to look at them at least and have a smell,” said Dobbs.
Satisfying customer needs and expectations will be tough and ultimately it is the consumer who will decide the winners and losers.
Once legal cannabis has been on the market a while and things settle down, it’s expected there could be changes to both packaging and the way cannabis can be sold.
“We have a long way to go,” Dobbs said.