The Business of Cannabis: Trait Biosciences
By Jason Gorber
As part of our Business Talks with Canada’s top cannabis CEOs, we had the pleasure of speaking with:
Chief Strategy Officer, Trait Biosciences Inc.
Vancouver, BC & Toronto, Ontario
What does your company do? Trait is a biosciences company that focuses on cannabis, hemp, and cannabinoids more broadly. We have developed a number of very innovative technologies, bringing the very best practices from big agriculture and plant science to really enhance yields in the cannabis and hemp industry and help develop novel products.
How do you see the industry changing? All the excitement is on production and growing plants. I think you’re going to quickly see the industry go from looking at plants as being the relevant metric to cannabinoids as the real metric, with cannabinoids becoming an ingredient in other products as opposed to the flower of the plant itself. I think the companies that are focused on increasing yields and bringing down the cost of cannabinoids as opposed to the plants, they’ll be the ones that are extremely successful.
What would you like to see change, and how are you contributing to that change? I’d like to see a little bit more discipline, a little bit more focus. It’s very much been a land grab – a race by the large companies to buy up as many of the assets as they can to maintain a competitive advantage. By and large, that has resulted in what looks to be a very haphazard strategy. If companies got more disciplined in their focus and realized where the opportunities are, you’d see a much healthier, more natural evolution of the industry occur. We are contributing to that change following exactly what I preach. We’re taking a disciplined approach and focusing only on technologies that we think enhance the plant or the products that can be derived from it. There’s always an opportunity to go out and actually become a cultivator or something along those lines, and we’re staying very much within our core competency, which is applying [the] best scientific practices and technology to the cannabis industry to develop new products.
What do you see as the main roadblock to that change? The challenge is managing regulatory considerations in Canada. The regulations are more clearly defined, but they’re still pretty opaque and not well understood, which leaves companies and producers trying to figure out what is OK. In the U.S., the regulatory landscape is much worse; state by state it differs, and federally it’s entirely illegal! It creates a hodgepodge of regulatory environments, which I don’t think is conducive to either growing a business or ensuring that customers are getting the best products out there. It creates a hard environment in which to innovate and bring new technologies to market because you simply don’t know what’s going to be OK and what’s not going to be OK. That stunts the market and creates products that are probably more risky and not as high quality as they could be. Everybody loses in that situation.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about your industry? I think people still think it’s being run by a bunch of cowboys with a lot of people who are just in a crazy race to grab as much land in a competitive environment as possible. In fact, the amount of intellect, business prowess, scientific rigor going into the industry now is actually quite remarkable. We’re attracting people from all industries all over the world who are interested in this, from the recreational considerations to the therapeutic applications. It’s just amazing.
Where do you see the industry in five years? You’re going to see significant change from where it is right now, as the truly successful companies start to emerge. You’ll see the ones that have a focus on technology and [the ones] building the platforms on which the industry can grow be the ones that emerge over the next few years as the true leaders. The ones who may have got the first mover advantage won’t necessarily be around as newer, more nimble innovators come through with new products and new technologies that increase yield and bring down costs. [We need] new delivery mechanisms or new formulations that offer predictable, understandable, and repeatable experiences. I think right now, from one day to the next, you’re going to have very different experiences with the same product under the same brand, and I think that just doesn’t lead to a successful growing market.