Navdeep Dhaliwal, CEO
By Jason Gorber
How would you describe your company? We are a diversified portfolio of distinct cannabis businesses, products, and brands globally.
How have you seen the industry change over the last several years? Most recently, you saw a big change with legalization. Before that, you saw a big flood of enthusiasm from business and capital markets – a “gold rush” mentality. Given that most cannabis companies are financed in Canada and are listed here in Canada as well, you saw a lot of news and a lot of stocks skyrocketing. Before that, you had the emergence of the first really commercial cannabis companies in the world. Back even further, Canada’s been a global leader in cannabis regulation and discussion for a long time. You saw the emergence of the first commercial cannabis companies in the world in a highly regulated federal environment.
Obviously, there’s pros and cons to the ‘gold rush’, depending on what stake you actually claim; can you talk about some of the challenges of living up to the hype? The biggest challenge is focus. That’s why you saw us very early decide to focus on a very specific aspect of the business, and that was regulated cultivation at scale. A company philosophy of ours is to be consumer-driven. We identified what we believe to be the largest market in the world today and for the foreseeable future and for a long time, and that’s the smoked dried flower market. That’s 200-400 billion dollars today, mostly black-market supplied. Our thesis is we’re going to figure out how to grow high quality cannabis at scale because no one’s ever done it at a commercial scale before. That’s what we’ve been successful at! Now, we’re going to move forward with exciting growth initiatives from a position of strength.
What would you like to see change in the industry and how are you contributing to that? The cannabis consumer is highly discerning. The biggest challenge with fighting the black-market and bringing consumers into the legal market is understanding what the consumer wants vs. being driven by providing low cost or very flashy brands and a lot of marketing, etc. We are providing that consumer a high-quality product that they’re used to and expect. The biggest complaint post-recreational legalization has been the sheer lack of quality in the legal market.
What do you see as additional challenges and roadblocks to achieving better acceptance and better quality within this industry? We are a company that’s very passionate about he plant. We see our role as advocates and educators. Cannabis has been prohibited for a long time, and, the fact is, there’s a lack of understanding around the product. There’s still stigma, and, while it’s becoming more normalized, we really see ourselves having a role in terms of respecting and being true, providing the best expressions of the plant.
What do you see as the largest misconceptions that are still out there? The largest misconception is that cannabis is going to very easily be a commodity. We believe that this is a consumer product – it takes a . lot of passion, care, and attention to produce a quality product that consumers will purchase over the long-term. More so, you’ve heard a lot of chatter about all of these new products – oils, derivative products, drinks, etc. The biggest misconception is that you can take all of this poor quality cannabis and magically turn it into other high-quality products.
There is no market in the world today where someone could take me and show me that drinking cannabis is a big market. There’s no consumer habit – there’s no human ritual about drinking cannabis. With edible product, you need a license to produce them, but there’s nothing really special about edible products. There are a lot of people in the world that know how to make candy bars and make edibles much better than us! We’ll produce a good flower, and that will also allow us to produce very high-quality concentrate products that will be desirable.
What do you see the industry looking like in five years? In Canada, you’ll finally start to see what a real competitive market looks . like. As of today, it’s not really a competitive market because most stuff is selling because of supply shortages. If we had a fully supplied market, the expectation of quality would be much higher. Within the next five years, you’ll see the U.S. market go federally legal. The ship’s sailed. It’s going to be absolutely the most exciting market in the world from an operational standpoint. Internationally, our thesis is almost every country in the world is going to go medically legal.
There hasn’t been yet a catastrophic collapse like Nortel for weed? Not yet. Overall, we’re a very pro-market, pro-industry company, so we root for everybody… It takes a community to build an industry. You’ve seen some small hiccups with some small companies losing licenses. The Canadian market has a very rare opportunity from a global perspective. We’re the first to legalize federally, so we have a regulatory advantage in one manner. We’re one of the best capitalized nations for an industry. Also, in a very rare characteristic, our neighbours to the south can’t even participate.
We have an advantage when it comes to capital and regulatory and operating experience, and now it’s using that intelligently to go create that in other countries.