The landscape of cannabis in Canada is changing radically. We have moved from full criminalization to licensed medical use — under the Marihuana for Medical Access Regulations, Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, and Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations — and now to the imminent adult-use legalization, all in less than two decades.

Canadians have had very little time to get used to these frequent changes, but that sense of whiplash is even stronger in the cannabis production industry. Some producers, however, are taking it upon themselves to go the next step and not just survey the business landscape but address the bigger questions related to sustainability, diversity, and responsible production.

A rich history to learn from

Though legal cannabis is a fairly new thing in modern society, the recent history of prohibition is actually the exception rather than the rule.

“This is a product that has been used for thousands of years,” says Malay Panchal, CEO of Pure Global Cannabis Inc. “Cannabis and hemp use have been very widespread historically. Up until the late 1800s, it was the number one most prescribed medicine. Now we’re in the era of rediscovery, combining cannabis with leading-edge science and technologies to develop the targeted therapies of the future.”

The cannabaceae plant family has also been cultivated throughout history for many other uses such as paper, textiles, clothing, biofuel, and food. As we collectively rediscover cannabis, we are not only relearning old uses and applications, but also bringing the weight of modern science to bear in discovering new ones.

“This industry is very new,” says Nader Gheshlaghi, Pure Global’s Master Grower. “When cannabis was illegal, there was very limited research and innovation when it came to production. I believe there is going to be a lot of new R&D work and investment in the coming years that will help us improve our production capabilities as an industry.”

One of the most significant aspects of improved research and production is the ability to experiment with new cannabis strains, and hone in on individual compounds for their specific therapeutic effects.

“Cannabis is not a single molecule,” says Panchal. “It’s a combination of over 100 cannabinoids and at least 50 different terpenes. There is an entourage effect that happens with different compound combinations. We’re very interested in uncovering which combinations may work best for certain conditions.”

Keeping the ‘green’ green

Sustainability is another crucial consideration as the cannabis industry evolves. The world of agriculture is undergoing an environmental revolution, and the young cannabis sector is in a very good position to prioritize this right out of the gate.

“Without a commitment to sustainability, a company is just not going to make it today,” says Michael Lavergne, Pure Global’s Supply Chain Lead. “And the only place you can start is at ground zero with complete honesty. We have to build knowledge and collect data on things like our waste and energy footprints, materials, packaging, and production processes. That data will help us decide how to set the sustainability standards for this new industry.”

At Pure Global, a new patented ‘multi-ponic’ process will soon allow the company to grow with a much smaller environmental footprint. “We also don’t use any pesticides,” explains Gheshlaghi. “Instead, we prevent disease and pests by controlling our growing environment. With this new system, we can produce a larger yield and use significantly less energy, chemicals, labour, and water.”

While Canadians likely have many questions about the shape the burgeoning cannabis industry will take, it’s encouraging to see young companies prioritizing sustainability and environmental consciousness. As Lavergne notes, it’s up to the industry leaders of today to set the bar high and guide Canadian cannabis toward a healthy, green future.

“Every sector has been through this evolution, we are simply the latest,” he says. “Hopefully, we can be smart enough to have learned from past issues and to embed transparency into our future operations.”

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