The Business of Cannabis: CannTrust

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By Jason Gorber

As part of our Business Talks with Canada’s top cannabis CEOs, we had the pleasure of speaking with:

Peter Aceto

CEO, CannTrust

Vaughan, Ontario

What does your company do? CannTrust is one of Cana- da’s leading cannabis licensed producers.

How do you see the industry changing, and how have you seen it change over the last several years? It’s changed tremendously. Cannabis became legal for medical purposes five years ago. CannTrust was one of the early players in that time of legalization, starting in 2013. The five years that followed were interesting and good from a medical cannabis perspective. What you’ve seen since October 2018 is a whole different level of change where cannabis became legal for the adult-use recreational market. I think now cannabis is on the radar screen of every Canadian and of the world. This is now front page news that every household is talking about today. People are recognizing it as gigantic, international businesses that will generate hundreds of millions in revenues from around the world. Canadian companies in many ways have the privilege to be early players in that industry, which is certainly very exciting.

What would you like to see change further, and how are you contributing to that change? If I had to pick one thing, I would say education and understanding. I think we all looked at cannabis and cannabis users a certain way throughout our lives. In my time in the industry, I have learned so much about cannabis, the cannabis plant, the cannabinoid molecules, the benefits and implications they have for humans on the medical side, and how people have been using cannabis. CannTrust wants to be at the forefront of removing the stigma so that it really just becomes a part of our everyday lives. We’re doing clinical studies and research to try and build the body of work.

What do you see as the biggest challenge or roadblock to achieving that goal? I think that there are years and years and years of stigma based on a lack of understanding and ignorance that is really not based in fact. There’s been a lot of ignorance from the public about the negative effects of cannabis, but there’s certainly been a lot of unfounded semi-scientific claims by those within the previously illegal cannabis community. The blind faith in the curative powers of cannabis might also be something that is a challenge worth discussing.

Not everybody in the cannabis space has behaved very well, which has put question marks on the entire industry. You’re asking us questions in many ways as the ambassadors of the industry, but I’m not sure I deserve to be in that spot. I am certainly the ambassador for CannTrust, and we were founded by pharmacists. Our work is founded in science; we’re very conscious about not making any claims until they are proven. We are investing in clinical trials to build the body of evidence about these things, and we’re certainly investing in the education of physicians and healthcare practitioners and citizens about how people use cannabis and are being very thoughtful about certainly not over-representing any of these claims.

What do you see the industry looking like in five years? The industry is very young. I see this is a massive global opportunity that Canadian companies do have an opportunity to be winners. Cannabis and cannabinoids have the opportunity to be disruptive to many different verticals and to be a vehicle for business, whether it’s medical, whether it’s over-the-counter products, whether it’s natural healthcare products, recreational products like drinks and chocolates and coffee, and tea to help you to go to sleep at night. I mean, we have a joint venture with Grey Wolf. The endocannabinoid system that humans have is shared with many pets like cats and dogs. The same reasons why humans are using cannabis can be used in pets as well – pain, anxiety, a variety of things like that. Five years from now, I see there being significant global companies who have very exciting partnerships and products being in every household around the world, having a positive effect on our lives. I hope that Canadian companies can be at the forefront of that and really be global winners.