This is set to be an exciting year for the Canadian cannabis industry, but there are still several hurdles the fledgling industry must overcome if it is to live up to pre-legalization hype.
According to data from Brightfield Group’s January 2020 Canadian Cannabis report, one-third of Canadian cannabis consumers were unsure which brands they were purchasing and 50% didn’t know what dosage they preferred in 2019.
The survey data illuminates two problems the government, licensed cannabis producers, sellers, and consumers have experienced since legalization.
“Regulations were so extensive that few brands or products were able to gain traction among customers,” the report states.
“Most consumers are transitioning from the illicit to legal market,” Bethany Gomez, managing director at Brightfield Group, told The Toronto Sun, noting many cannabis companies have terrible brand recognition among consumers because of federal mandated “marketing restrictions.”
“Three-quarters of the (legal cannabis) packaging is warning labels,” Gomez said, adding there is “no real reason why Canadian consumers would remember (any) brand.”
When most consumers look to purchase cannabis, be it online or in person, there has been “a lot of confusion” among new buyers. Budtenders in licensed pot shops speak about specific strains of weed, not particular products, Gomez said.
“Consumers don’t know and don’t care” what company is selling the product Gomez said. The research they conducted indicates consumers only care “how good is the product and can you actually get it to shelves.”
The insecurity many cannabis consumers have when purchasing is reflected in the 50% of Canadians who were unsure of what dosage to take when consuming cannabis.
Gomez explained the rollout of new cannabis 2.0 products is “very exciting” for the industry but also presents challenges for new cannabis users.
Edibles take much longer to take effect, whereas smoking cannabis “reacts in the body a lot quicker,” Gomez said.
Finding out how cannabis affects each individual person can be a process of experimentation similar to alcohol, Gomez said, adding Health Canada’s slogan “start low and go slow” is a good recommendation for new cannabis users.
Because the effect of edibles takes longer to manifest, people tend to consume more than they should — believing they aren’t affected. So when the effects do kick in, Gomez said it can be an unpleasant experience.
“That’s not the effect people are looking to have,” she said.
Meanwhile, the data suggested that cannabis users preferred buying their weed in brick and mortar stores as opposed to online, with the report claiming less than 10% of adult-use sales took place online in 2019.
The reason, Gomez explained, is that buying cannabis online is “not how people think about weed.”
It’s similar to alcohol in that people rarely if ever “buy alcohol on a Monday for a party on Sunday,” Gomez explained.
“Online purchasing is good for medical patients,” she added.
‘VERY EXCITING’: Positive reaction to Ontario’s consultation on cannabis lounges, special occasion permits
One day you might be getting high drinking cannabis beer while munching on edibles at a classy cannabis lounge in Ontario.
The Ministry of the Attorney General announced Monday the province would be conducting an online consultation on the potential to allow cannabis lounges, cafes, and special occasion permits enabling the purchase and consumption of cannabis at festivals and other events — a decision applauded by many in the industry.
The decision is about providing greater “choice and convenience” to Ontarians while expanding cannabis business opportunities, Jesse Robichaud, of Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General, told the Toronto Sun.
“An open market for cannabis cafes and lounges in Canada would have a huge impact on our industry because it helps a brand have a longterm relationship with its clients and, maybe most importantly, decrease the stigma that unfortunately still exists around cannabis,” Charles Khabouth, founding director of cannabis corporation TREC Brands, told the Sun.
“Consumers want to be able to use cannabis socially in the same way they go out for a drink and as business owners we want to be able to offer them that,” Khabouth said.
The consultation is “very exciting” Bethany Gomez, Managing Director at Brightfield Group, told the Sun. “It’s going to drive demand.”
“Ontario has previously been very restrictive,” she said.
Gomez said the potential new business opportunities work to knock down barriers to access which should reduce “incentives for consumers to go to the black market.”
“The government is starting to do its job that way,” she said.
— Aidan Wallace