THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO                                Derek Koel, Port McNeill councillor, brought cannabis samples to Business of Cannabis in an effort to destigmatize cannabis-use now that it is legal.

THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO Derek Koel, Port McNeill councillor, brought cannabis samples to Business of Cannabis in an effort to destigmatize cannabis-use now that it is legal.

Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce clears the smoke on cannabis companies

Luke Biles talks on the business landscape of cannabis regulation, businesses after legalization.

North Island residents rolled into a discussion-over-lunch about the cannabis industry.

Luke Biles, MNP’s cannabis niche leader, planted seeds of business ideas as he presented “Business of Cannabis,” hosted by Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 28 at the North Island Mall.

Biles, a manager at MNP, said that “there are 32 licensed (cannabis) producers,” with 15 in B.C. Five of them are located on Vancouver Island. The first one was open in Kamloops.

He also stated that a majority of those who enjoy cannabis-use are still medicinal users, as opposed to consuming cannabis recreationally. “It probably has to do with perception on the product. A medicinal product might be cleaner or safer than an adult-use one, but a fun fact – it comes from the same place and the same people,” he added.

THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO
Luke Biles presents to North Islanders in Business of Cannabis, Nov. 28.

“Now, leading up to legalization,” he said, “the big talk was about supply. Are we going to be able to meet the demand or is the black market going to come in and fill that hole?”

According to reports released last summer, most licensed cannabis producers stocked an average of 97 tonnes of product, which was sold out shortly after legalization. “That’s not enough to meet the cannabis demands here (in Canada),” he said.

He also added that projections are conservatively low, so the supply may be larger than the industry thinks.

As for what may be lucrative in the business, Biles is watching out for what is known as cannabis cocktails and drinks, which may be a reason as to why alcohol moguls are dipping their feet in the industry.

He noted that if cannabis retailers are to run a profitable business, then business owners may need to widen appeal to typically non-cannabis users.

THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO Derek Koel, Port McNeill councillor, brought cannabis samples in an effort to break the stigma around the now legal product. “I brought the weed,” the Port McNeill councillor joked.

“How do we get new markets? We get it from people who don’t want to smoke cannabis,” he said. Biles also pointed out that products like the cocktails, edibles or topicals are what may bring in more customers.

He stated that there is only one licensed cannabis retail store so far in B.C., the remaining 267 cannabis retail applications are pending approval by B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.

Ordering cannabis online is also available, which is publicly run by the provincial government.

During an in-person interview after the event, Biles noted that big cannabis company chains may not always necessarily beat out “mom-and-pop” shops. Competitive business may come down to who is approved by B.C. quicker and then opens their doors first, he said.

“There are chains and there are mom-and-pops and they are both able to coexist,” he said. “The best example is to look at the other areas where this has happened.”

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THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO                                Business owners and entrepreneurs alike made their way to North Island Mall to listen in on Luke Biles’ Business of Cannabis presentation.

THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO Business owners and entrepreneurs alike made their way to North Island Mall to listen in on Luke Biles’ Business of Cannabis presentation.

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