The Business of Cannabis: Province Brands of Canada

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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:

Dooma Wendschuh

CEO/Co-Founder, Province Brands of Canada

Cambridge Bay, Nunavut

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What does your company do? We are an innovative beverage technology company with plans to significantly disrupt the adult beverage business, brewing the world’s first beers crafted from cannabis in place of barley. While others are brewing non-alcoholic beers from barley and infusing them with a marijuana oil, Province is unique in that we have developed a patent-pending process for mashing the stalks, stems, and roots of the cannabis plant so that we can extract fermentable sugars from which to brew premium cannabis beers.

How have you seen the industry change? The biggest change is the focus on beverages and the involvement of some of the world’s largest beverage companies. I’ve been in the cannabis industry for almost six years. Something I’ve always thought strange was all the uncertainty about what the dominant delivery mechanism will be for consuming cannabis in the future. Many thought it would be pre-rolled joints or vaporizers. Some thought it would be edibles. But, really, should it have been any surprise that beverages will likely become the dominant delivery mechanism for cannabis in the future? When you think about it, there are three legal psychoactives in our world (excluding cannabis) – alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. Two of those three are consumed almost exclusively as beverages and, the third, no one does anymore. Smoking was never going to win the cannabis format wars because no one wants to step outside to smoke. I remember how shocked everyone was back in late October of 2017 when the first Fortune 500 company to invest in the cannabis industry was not a tobacco giant (as many had expected because cannabis has historically been smoked) and was not a pharmaceutical company (as many had expected because of medical marijuana) but was in fact adult beverage giant Constellation Brands.

What would you like to see change further, and what are you doing to contribute to that change? It’s a challenging industry, and we have chosen to solve one of its hardest problems. I’m proud that we’ve already changed the industry in a substantial way. I can’t claim to be the reason Constellation Brands invested in the cannabis industry or the reason so many other beverage companies followed suit, but we’ve spent a lot of energy turning the discussion in this industry away from smoked formats and towards beverages. This is what has to happen if this industry is going to change the world. Cannabis will never truly compete with alcohol unless beverages become the dominant form. Just putting cannabis in a bottle is not going to compete with alcohol; there are all kinds of technical problems, which need to be solved. Cannabis beverages can take a long time to hit you – anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half. They take a long time to leave your system, and the feeling they give you can be all over the place, and, usually for most people, it’s not as desirable of a feeling as alcohol creates. We’re solving those problems and creating something truly premium. That’s how we’ll change the world. That’s going to be our legacy.

What do you see as a roadblock to this change? Nothing in this industry is easy, but that’s what makes it worth doing! Not too long ago, Health Canada announced that marijuana companies could not advertise in the same way which alcohol companies can advertise. I think a lot of others saw that as a challenge, but, to us, it’s a great opportunity. We’re on a level playing field with the biggest companies in the industry – they may have more money than we do, but they can’t use it to become top of mind with consumers by blanketing them with advertising. Without this advantage, things like word of mouth and product quality become much more important. The best product will win, and we have the best product.

What’s the biggest misconception in this industry? Everyone, seriously everyone, refers to us as producing an ‘infused beverage’. Infusing is when you take something that already exists like a brownie or a soda pop or a non-alcoholic beer and ‘infusing’ marijuana into that already existing thing. Our beverages are actually made from cannabis.

What is the industry going to look like in five years? In five years, there will be a lot of people kicking themselves for not getting involved in this industry five years previously. A few of those who have had the courage to jump in when others played it safe, those who have weathered the storm, will have become giants.