The Ryerson Commerce and Government Association (RCGA) hosted a conference on November 17 highlighting business leaders in the cannabis industry. The speakers represented many aspects of the burgeoning cannabis industry, including licensed producers, venture capitalists, and marketing consultation executives.

Presenters included representatives from the venture capital fund and business accelerator Leaf Forward, investment firm and licensed producer INDIVA, the Ted Rogers School of Management, and marketing consultants Elite Digital Team.

In an interview with The Varsity, Eesha Arshad, President of the RCGA, said, “I think that the more students know about [recreational consumption], it will be beneficial to them… The uses are so wide, and I think it is so important for us to accept it with open arms.” Arshad added that a greater understanding of cannabis’ uses, in addition to the process of destigmatizing its use, were key reasons in deciding to host the conference.

The conference’s keynote speaker, Alex Blumenstein, is the CEO of Leaf Forward, a launch pad for entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. In its first year of operation, Leaf Forward has raised $1.2 million and invests $50,000 for every startup in its accelerator program.

Other speakers included Indiva President and CEO Niel Marotta and Ryerson instructor Brad Poulos, who is the academic coordinator of CZEN 420: The Business of Cannabis.

The all-day event was informative for those interested — or invested — in the progression of the cannabis industry in Canada. In terms of investment and employment opportunities, the main takeaway from the event was that it may be too late for ‘wannabe’ cultivators to enter an already highly competitive market.

Furthermore, Ontario is on the brink of a boom in processed cannabis products. The speakers predicted a major international shift in the cannabis market away from flower cultivation and toward processed products such as distillates and CBD-infused edibles.

The current state and trajectory of the recreational market was thoroughly examined by speakers and panelists. However, there was a noticeable lack of information regarding the future of the pharmaceutical cannabis industry in Canada.

In an email to The Varsity, Tiffany Lauren, CEO of cannabis education group Canbis, wrote, “I was disappointed there wasn’t any panel or speaker addressing the huge therapeutic potential of medical cannabis… [and how it] can help counter the opioid crisis in Canada.”