by Rita Maria Neyer
It’s only a few months until the legalization of cannabis will hit Canada in July. The Wanderer recently got together with Troy Dezwart from Freedom Cannabis to get some first-hand information. With over 25 years of experience in planning and marketing, Troy and his team aim to make Freedom Cannabis one of Canada’s biggest research and production companies for cannabis products. Read on to find out what this means for the Edmonton area and the cultural status of the plant.
[Edited for clarity and length]
Rita Maria Neyer: What was your dream profession when you were little?
Troy Dezwart: I wanted to be a doctor, as a matter of fact!
RMN: … but you ended up in a very different place. How did you get into the cannabis industry?
TD: My partners and I started talking about it about a year ago. There was a lot of excitement about the new industry, a couple of friends had already invested and were seeing great returns. The prospect of how this could impact people’s lives around the world and Canada got us very interested, and we wanted to learn more, so we decided to begin an office together.
RMN: Give us a little insight into what kind of people are working at Freedom Cannabis.
TD: We have a team of experts in the fields of licensing, science, finance, business, and marketing.
RMN: Can you describe your work environment in three words?
TD: Excitement, growth, learning.
RMN: Why the name Freedom Cannabis?
TD: One of my partners came up with it! With the legislation and all the world embracing the new possibilities, we felt that the name had to be something that ties in well with our core values. Everyone on the team suggested a few different names, and this is what we all really liked – and eventually stuck with it.
RMN: You were mentioning core values. What are those?
TD: Transparency, compassion, and innovation.
RMN: How is your outlook on the market and where do you see potential growth opportunities?
TD: There is a lot of growth potential! Once legalization happens in July, I think that there will be a lot of producers – but not all producers in the industry will be equal. The pharmaceutical industry continues to do research, and continues to support the value of cannabis products for health purposes, so the market is going to continue to grow, obviously. Also, I see massive growth potential not only domestically with recreational and medicinal markets, but at some point, there will likely be an export model to countries that see and appreciate the quality of Canada’s products.
RMN: Assuming a plantation for such a large-scale production doesn’t fit into granny’s backyard, where do you grow the plants?
TD: We are on a 56-acre site located just outside of Edmonton. It is a local product, definitely! The plants are grown in an indoors facility equipped with the latest technologies such as automated feeding systems and integrated environmental control. An extension to 1.000.000 square feet on the same site is planned, and – depending on demand – we can even go up to 2.000.000 square feet in that location, making it one of the largest sites in Canada.
RMN: Was it difficult to get the legal documents and permits?
TD: What we learned very early on is that the licensing process is one of the most complex processes, and we understood immediately the difficulty and importance of preparing a meaningful application. Therefore, we assembled a team of people who had many years’ experience in that field. So far, they have licensed about a dozen producers in Canada: they understand the process, they know the lingo, they have an ongoing relationship with Health Canada.
RMN: Do you believe the legalization is overdue?
TD: Yes, without a doubt.
RMN: Who will benefit from the legalization, and what application areas do you see?
TD: In addition to the already mentioned medical and recreational usage, we are building a platform for cannabis-related companies. Besides processing and packaging essential products, we will also build a lab to create extracts of cannabis products for various uses. Another, maybe lesser known application of cannabis products with a lot of potential is the medical usage in animals, e. g. for pain treatment.
RMN: What does the average Freedom Cannabis customer look like?
TD: We are going to create a variety of high quality products for a diverse client base. Different products cater to different segments of the market. We are, however, very committed to the medicinal cannabis market, including research and development of cannabis products.
RMN: Some might argue that the legalization is just an excuse to get high all the time. What would you tell them?
TD: I think that if people take the time to understand how cannabis is changing and impacting many lives in many positive ways, and approach the topic with an open mind, then I don’t think that they could justify such comments. For example, alcohol is permitted and acceptable in society, and I think this should be true for cannabis as well: people are using it to treat sleeping disorders, epilepsy, anxiety, pain – there are many good reasons; it is natural, not highly addictive, and has many benefits compared to other products people are using. If you look at things like that, it is hard to argue against.
RMN: Your corporate identity relies majorly on the wellness and health aspect of cannabis with keywords like optimism, growth, and healing. Do you consider an ‘occasional joint’ part of contemporary lifestyle?
TD: Smoking as a delivery method has kind of a stigma attached to it. Nowadays, there are many other ways such as vaporizers or edibles. With the available options, I think that consuming cannabis is no different than having a glass of wine or a bottle of beer – it is something that relaxes you and gives you enjoyment! I believe it should be as acceptable as those other things, as long as people are of age and use it responsibly.
So what does the upcoming legalization mean for all of us, and what should we expect? Besides the legal and economic aspects, cannabis will likely get a makeover as an acceptable recreational drug, comparable to alcohol, and establish itself as a medical treatment option. As seen in many countries worldwide – e. g. the Netherlands, Portugal, or parts of the United States – the acceptance rate for legalized drugs is high (no pun intended), and the experience mostly positive! Alberta’s economy can look forward to additional jobs, taxes, and growth in the export and tourism sectors – and this should be true for the Edmonton area and its businesses in particular (see interview above). As is the case with every big change, a learning curve and some growing pains can be expected: legal and social discourse as well as familiarization with the new reality take time, but are crucial. Most importantly, the freedom to consume cannabis legally is a freedom of choice: the new laws still protect vulnerable groups, especially minors, and allow everyone else to make up their own mind without fear of retribution. And what solution could be more Canadian than that, eh?!
Banner photography courtesy of Eric Limon from Shutterstock.