It’s the beginning of the Potcom era and there’s no grass ceiling to bump up against.
I wish I could take credit for the above wordplay, but it’s delivered Friday by someone with much more experience when it comes to how to pump people up about Canada’s nascent legal cannabis industry.
Cheryl Shuman is widely touted as the Martha Stewart of cannabis and she herself has been touting the virtues of the little plant for more than two decades. She’s on her maiden voyage to our fair city, as a star speaker at CannabisCon, the first annual conference hosted by Cannabis Canada.
The conference, which has stops in several Canadian cities, runs over two days: Friday is devoted to the business of cannabis, with sessions on everything from cannabis in the workplace to business opportunities in the new retail environment; Saturday will cover the consumer side, with a career fair that will connect attendees with business owners and operators.
If there’s one thing glaringly apparent upon first glance, it’s the buoyant mood among both attendees and presenters, who in a small hall are introducing the public to everything from clinics with a host of medicinal offerings to producers ready to roll out a line of products that wouldn’t look out of place in a Lululemon store, with such soothing names as “Calm,” “Ease” and “Flow.”
If anyone arrived needing a morning jolt of inspiration, though, simply being in Shuman’s general vicinity would be enough to rev up their capitalist engines.
Delivering her optimistic message in a charming, warm style, she’s more of an Oprah-Winfrey-meets-Tony-Robbins than a Martha Stewart — and she shares a story that is worthy of Winfrey’s former talk show.
She gives a gathering of reporters a condensed version of the talk she’s planned for later in the day, telling of her fight against cancer in the early 1990s that almost did her in. At the time, she was on a cocktail of no less than 27 pharmaceuticals.
“I changed to cannabis and three months later, I was in remission,” she says.
“I made an agreement with God that if I had the opportunity to do something, I would right this wrong and basically rebrand the plant from that negative stigma of reefer madness mentality.”
Shuman founded the Beverley Hills Cannabis Club and became a cannabis entrepreneur and investor, as well as an outspoken activist. Her high-profile career has put her on the cover of the New York Times magazine. Fortune 500 also named her one of the most powerful women in pot.
While there is more anecdotal evidence to claims like Shuman’s than actual science — and the potential $10-billion market in Canada is also just projections for now — a lot of people have joined Shuman in her belief that Canada is on the verge of something very big.
“It’s never happened before, so that’s what pulled me out of retirement,” says Ted Hellard, executive chairman of Sundial Growers Inc., the medicinal cannabis grower that is promoting the previously noted Lululemon-style products.
Hellard is well known in these parts as a former co-owner of the Calgary Stampeders, as well as the founder of Critical Mass, which grew to become one of the world’s largest and most influential digital marketing agencies.
“We were involved with some pretty big brands, like Nike,” says Hellard. “But everything is new in this industry, so it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Sundial, which expects to be one of the country’s leading cannabis companies by 2020, is also one of the first to land a multimillion financing deal with ATB Financial, which will help in the construction of its 550,000-square-foot production facility in Olds.
“It really speaks to the support to build this industry in Alberta,” he says.
“Our one facility in Olds will employ between 600 and 1,000 people when it’s done,” he adds. “Add the 500 or so retail stores across the province and you’ve got a pretty significant contributor to the economy.”
While Shuman’s over-the-top assertion that there are many “future billionaires” in the room definitely conjures up a Tony Robbins talk, it no doubt gets more than a few aspiring cannabis industry professionals excited.
“I drove through the snow from Leduc this morning,” says aspiring cannabis retail store operator Corey Larsen, 29. “I’ve done a lot of research, so it’s great to come here and see it all become real,” he says. “It’s a super exciting thing to be at.”