If you’re to believe the Canadian government, legalizing recreational weed is mostly about eradicating the black market, estimated by Bill Blair, Canada’s Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister, to be a $6 to $8 billion industry. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the biggest challenge associated with the legalization of cannabis has been the supply shortage but Maxim Zavet, the founder of Canadian licenced producer (LP) Emblem, feels that it’s something more personal to the consumer.
Having just come off of a weekend at the Emerald Cup, Northern California’s premier trade show and cannabis culture festival, Zavet says he’s impressed by the quality of products coming out of the surrounding mountains that make up the Emerald Triangle, much of which wouldn’t be allowed in the current Canadian legalization regime. California growers are known for their investment in science, their experimentation with different grow mediums and environments, as well as their focus on the plant first. This part of Northern California is the largest cannabis-producing region in the United States, and what grows there is a protected commodity. Just like Parma’s claim on Parmigiano Reggiano, when it comes to Emerald Triangle, quello vero è uno solo—the real one is the only one.
“The brands (in California) have been working at their craft for a while right and really put in a lot of blood and sweat and tears into what they’re doing and now they’re finally emerging whereas in Canada you know it was money first, big corporations getting in, having lots of money to develop these facilities but they’re not resonating with the marketplace and have no brand equity with the marketplace. It’s amazing that being an issue today because people are still choosing the illicit markets over the legal market.”
After spending a week sharing reviews, trusted cannabis connoisseur and longtime grower Travis Lane summarized his experience with various LP cannabis offerings by tweeting, “So, I doubt I will be buying much more legal cannabis anytime soon. I am glad I tried as much as I did. Yeah, most was way below standard, but there is always room to improve.”
Canada’s grey market might be collapsing, but it seems that as long as citizens have cell phones, they have access to many impressive products not available in the legal market, from better buds to concentrates of every consistency and potency. (And edibles!)
As the founder of a publicly-traded medical cannabis LP, Zavet has the been-there-done-that industry background with all the senses of a connoisseur, and he’s sure that California, from grower to consumer, has the best approach. So much so, that he’s bringing a piece of the California industry to Canada. His latest venture, Robes, seeks to imprint on consumers that “you are what you smoke,” priming them for products that, presumably, embody excellent quality. Because who wants to “be” anything less than that?
Artisan producers like Robes are steadily waiting for their turn to enter the legal market. Until now, it’s only been Canada’s LPs in a craze of deal making and greenhouse construction. The micro licenses, meant for smaller, craft cannabis farming (under Health Canada regulations, that means a plant canopy of 200 square metres) are allowed to bring “black market” genetics (i.e., plants and plant seeds) into a facility prior to licensing. As long as that plant is at the producer’s facility from day one, those genetics can enter the Canadian legal cannabis framework. It’s a unique chance for companies like Robes to choose, and even create, genetics from outside of Canada—California, even—that can set brands apart and help them survive a market full of giants.