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Conference call on Dec. 18 with Alanna Sokic, senior consultant at Global Public Affairs; Keith Merker, CEO of WeedMD; and Nadia Vattovaz, CFO of Fire & Flower. Moderated by Jameson Berkow

On Dec. 18, Cannabis Professional’s Jameson Berkow was joined by Alanna Sokic, Keith Merker, and Nadia Vattovaz for a discussion of the industry’s biggest opportunities and challenges in the coming year.

Find the key moments from a lively discussion below.

Predictions for 2020

Jameson Berkow: 2020 is supposed to be the year when (the cannabis industry) figures out everything and the illegal market gets shut out for the rest of eternity – supposedly. Let’s see if that’s the case. Each of you has been invited to provide a unique perspective of one of the many facets of this multifaceted industry.

Nadia Vattovaz, you’re here as the representative of retail. We have Alanna Sokic is here to provide a regulatory perspective. And Keith Merker is here to talk cultivation.

So just to kick things off, I want to start with your predictions for 2020. If there’s one thing you’re convinced is going to happen next year in the cannabis space – what would it be?

Nadia Vattovaz, CFO, Fire & Flower

“Had you asked me this about a week ago, I would have said the rollout of Ontario in a meaningful way – and I stick to that – in Canada’s largest market, the ability to make a meaningful dent and see this market open up. With 2.0 product, we really have an opportunity now to reach more consumers. That is exciting, not only for the potential to move past the black market, but to provide the consumer a way to access this product in multiple different ways.”

With 2.0 product, we really have an opportunity now to reach more consumers.

Alanna Sokic, Senior Consultant, Global Public Affairs

Jameson Berkow: Any regulatory surprises we should be on the lookout for in 2020?

Alanna Sokic: I would say that the premise of your question – big regulatory changes – is probably inaccurate when we’re looking at 2020. At the federal level, it’s very safe to expect the status quo. Given the language we’ve seen the new Minister of Health using in recent days, it’s very precautionary, dare I say negative towards cannabis, I think we’ll see some things on the provincial level – like consumption lounges.

JB: You think we’ll see consumption lounge regulations?

AS: Maybe not the final development of them; but some movement. I think we’ll see an increased public conversation on that.

JB: Are there certain provinces you think that are closer to moving on that than others?

AB: Ontario – again, not right away. But I know it’s a policy priority they’re exploring. To put that in a caveat, politicians and government officials at all levels have spent far too much political capital and time on cannabis relative to other issues. If we look at the most recent federal election, the environment was the first issue for voters – by a long shot. Cannabis was way down at the bottom. Politicians will be looking at their priorities and what their constituents are saying – and cannabis just isn’t at the top of that list.

Keith Merker, CEO of WeedMD

Jameson Berkow: I imagine there are a lot of issues that cultivators are going to be facing in 2020, especially considering this will be the first planting season when we’ll have outdoor cultivation.

Keith: You mentioned earlier that 2020 was going to be the year where we accomplished all of those wonderful goals that were set out in the Cannabis Act – like scrubbing out the black market.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but when I look into my crystal ball, 2020 certainly is not going to be a year that all those things happen. This is going to be an evolution that’s going to take a decade or more to truly get there, to truly get a mature market and to get to the place where it’s no different than the alcohol market when it comes to the recreational side.

This is going to be an evolution that’s going to take a decade or more to truly get there, to truly get a mature market

Or maybe even more like a pharma-like model when it comes to the medicinal side. 2020 is going to have a lot of challenges. The way I look at it, every challenge is also an opportunity. You have to see both sides of the coin. For WeedMD, we’ve got a lot of great plans and are positioned well to weather what we’re experiencing right now by way of the capital markets and operational storm; but also find opportunities and capitalize on them going forward because 2020 is going to be tough.


Audio of the full conference call

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