The Province of New Brunswick sees cannabis as an economic growth opportunity due to the significant increase in demand over the past few years. With the medical cannabis industry projected to grow exponentially into the future, and the soon-to-be legalized recreational marketplace approaching, New Brunswick is ready to capitalize on these areas of growth.
Opportunities NB (ONB) has made cannabis a priority sector, actively aligning its efforts to ensure the economic and regulatory portions of the industry connect. As Eric Cook, CEO of the Research and Productivity Council, noted in February, New Brunswick has an opportunity to see spinoff companies develop from the cannabis industry.
To position New Brunswick as the leader in that sector, ONB also works to support young businesses playing unique roles within the cannabis ecosystem. Saint John-based Civilized, a digital lifestyle publication, is one such company.
Publisher and CEO Derek Riedle describes Civilized as “a media company for motivated, productive people who choose to enjoy cannabis as part of a balanced lifestyle, but that don’t define themselves by it.”
ONB spoke to Derek to learn more.
ONB: Outlets like Bloomberg and Forbes have noted that the cannabis industry is one of the fastest-growing in North America. The Canadian government recently announced legalization by July 1, 2018. What does all of this mean for Civilized?
Riedle: We’re fortunate to sit at the intersection of cannabis and digital publishing, which is another rapidly growing industry. We’re seeing tremendous growth in what we’re doing as cannabis culture continues to evolve, with legalization on both the medical and recreational fronts across Canada and the U.S. Obviously we’re anticipating July 1 of next year.
We’re a Canadian company, and don’t actually touch the plant itself. So for investors looking at the cannabis space, we’re a tremendously attractive investment. The reality is that in the U.S., while it’s legal in some states either medically or recreationally, it remains Schedule A according to the federal government.
With the new U.S. administration, it’s tough to know what to expect with regards to cannabis. We see this as an advantage for Canadians and Canadian companies because suddenly the border is also a division in the cannabis industry between certainty and uncertainty. For investors and companies trying to grow, gain market share, innovate, and raise money, the U.S. could be a place of uncertainty. Investment money doesn’t like uncertainty. Once you move north of the 49th parallel, however, you’re seeing a deliberate and measured march towards a recreational market.
Because of that, you’ll see investment money in cannabis moving north, and that should fuel innovation. I think some of the best, most innovative cannabis brands in the world will be Canadian. I also believe Canada will be a global leader in cannabis experiences and tourism.
Speaking of investment, tell us about your Series A Private Placement.
We are in the middle of Series A raise and were thrilled to announce on the first of May that we had hit the $1 million milestone. We are steaming toward our goal of $ 3 million this summer.
Much of your initial support came from New Brunswick. Let’s talk about that.
Opportunities NB was the first public sector organization to contribute to Civilized. That helped give us the leverage to convince others of the company’s merits. When we are in the U.S. and tell people we have both provincial support, and federal support via ACOA, their jaws drop. They can’t believe government is actively supporting this sector.
We’re digital publishers, so we’re essentially a knowledge company. We’re fueled by people, and the initial support afforded us through ONB helped us hire extra bodies and get a real running start. We had the idea for Civilized in early 2015. We launched in September of that year and were able to build our team here so effectively and quickly in no short measure due to that early ONB support. They continue to provide us with a wealth of business advice and guidance.
The ONB team is working hard to make New Brunswick a leader in the cannabis industry. How do you feel about this province and its ability to lead the way in Canada, or even North America?
There are so many opportunities within the cannabis space, whether you touch the plant or not. What I appreciate is that New Brunswick seems to have jumped first, and is out there actively aiming to be the national leader. That is exactly what we need.
I’m fortunate to split my time between New Brunswick and California. It’s amazing the number of people in California that know about New Brunswick and its approach to cannabis. Geographically, we’re small enough that the ecosystem is tightly connected, and that will allow us to be real innovators. We can move quicker on certain things than other larger regions. I think we need to stay focused on 2018 and make sure we cross that landmark line in July with a head start. The cannabis sector can be part of increased prosperity in this region, and we’re happy to play a unique role.
Written by Jason Boies
Cover image: Flickr