Canadian Cannabis Company Keeps It Real
Newstrike Brands, the parent company of the Up Cannabis brand, began selling adult-use recreational cannabis on October 17 in Canada. For almost two years, it has been producing medical-grade cannabis at its two Ontario sites in Brantford and the Niagara region.
Up Cannabis currently offers five simplified strains, and it plans to introduce more as people become more informed about the many options. “Quite frankly, we’re trying to hit the market at the beginning with a relatively simple product offering so that people are not confused, and then, over the next six to twelve months, we plan on rolling out several other products in conjunction with Health Canada’s regulations,” says Jay Wilgar, CEO and of Newstrike and Up Cannabis. The company has the capacity to grow other strains, and it is already looking at new products such as vaporizer pens, edible products, and beverages that will likely be introduced in the next year.
The Canadian cannabis market is quite large at the moment, and Up is focused on serving the three to five million Canadians who are interested in adult-use recreational cannabis. “Our plan is to make sure that the customers we have here are well-served before we start looking to other markets,” says Wilgar.
Many public companies in the Canadian cannabis market have been caught up in the excitement of legalization and are hoping to grow to their maximum potential, but Up is very realistic about its estimates, and remains focused on its strengths. It strives to hit the conservative targets it has set for itself instead of making lofty goals that may not be achievable.
“With our two sites, we know that we can produce upwards of 40,000 kilograms per year, so we tend not to get ahead of ourselves and talk about what we think we can do in the next two to three years, but instead remain a bit more focused on what’s really happening right now,” says Wilgar.
Up Cannabis was established in 2012 with a staff of three and has now expanded to more than 150 employees, growing enormously in the last 12 months with plans to have close to 200 employees come the New Year. The company’s strategy is to attract skilled employees with experience and passion for the cannabis industry. The atmosphere at Up is fun and exciting with the new changes in the industry and society in general.
Up Cannabis believes that it is important for cannabis users to educate themselves about the cannabis strains that are now available and other products that will soon be on the market. “Cannabis can be a fantastic product, and a lot of people benefit from it, but it is, in many forms, an intoxicant as well, and people need to remember that, and as new products come on to the marketplace, specifically edible products, people need to take it slowly and remember that their body needs to figure out what works and how certain things react,” explains Wilgar.
There have been several cases in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon where people were served edible products and had very negative experiences, and Up hopes to raise awareness to prevent this from happening in Canada. “It’s literally the equivalent of having a very light beer all the way to a very strong tequila if you want to use the alcohol analogy, so I think people just need to make sure they educate themselves as to what is it they’re looking for, what they’re using, and what potentially those effects might be,” says Wilgar. Many Canadians already have plenty of experience with cannabis, yet they may still be surprised by the differences between the various strains or the potency of edible products when they become legally available.
One way that Up can assist Canadians in educating themselves is to have customers sign up online to unlock exclusive access to a wealth of interesting and credible information. “If you sign up and become an opt-in member on our website, you’ll have direct contact when it relates to new product development and events that we have coming up,” says Wilgar.
The company is excited about the changing perception of cannabis since legalization in Canada and is interested to see how the situation will play out federally, provincially, and municipally. Canada is now poised to be a world leader in cannabis production and the creation of cannabis brands. Up is grateful for the opportunity to be a big player in the development of recognizable brand products in Canada.
Up is one of the few Canadian licensed cannabis producers that were very transparent with the market about its brand creation since the beginning. It has been discussing the Up brand for quite some time and is now distributing product to Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. Part of what sets Up apart from its competition is that its strain simplicity is refreshing for many cannabis users who are overwhelmed with the sudden variety of options. Other companies are already producing forty or fifty strains in an attempt to reach every consumer. However, Up remains focused on its five main strains in which it believes the majority of users are interested. Up continuously communicates with its customers to determine what is it they are looking for in the recreational market.
There is such a large amount of interest surrounding the cannabis industry in Canada, and many influential people want to become a part of it to help in any way possible, which is highly beneficial. Up is proud to have developed a partnership with the iconic Canadian band The Tragically Hip. “They [The Hip] have been a really great group of people to work with as far as understanding Canada and really understanding Canadians,” says Wilgar.
The current support from the remaining members of the band is appreciated during this process of legalization. It is a unique and exciting time in the industry and to celebrate, Up recently hosted a gathering of thousands at Yonge-Dundas Square where two of The Tragically Hip band members were playing.
The company enjoys showing its gratitude to the various musicians who have given it support throughout the years and new and emerging musicians as well. It supports the Unison Benevolent Fund, a charity fund that was created to help musicians in need. “We’re always looking for what we can do in the community, and there are certain things from a regulatory point of view we cannot do, but we do work with musicians and upstart musicians. We’ve got a lot of up-and-coming Canadian music talent working with us, and we continue to support them,” says Wilgar.
As a cannabis producer, Up must be careful with support or sponsorship to comply with Health Canada’s regulations. It does still find ways to give back to the community. Its facility in Grimsby, Ontario near Niagara had previously been an orchid production facility, but orchid production became non-viable in the Canadian marketplace. Up offered employment to all of the employees who otherwise would have been released from that plant, which was great for the local economy. Additionally, it hired another sixty-five members of the community.
Cannabis is widely consumed in Canada and has been for a long time, so the main effect of legalization on society is that customers will have choices and safety. “When you think about full legalization, what this is allowing consumers to do now is actually choose what products they want to use, take the veil off the fact that there can now be an understanding of what it is that consumers are actually buying. Because often they are buying it from the street and have no idea what it is or where it’s from,” says Wilgar.
Under this new system since October 17, Canadians who use cannabis or would like to try cannabis have a legal framework where they can feel safe about the choices they are making and safer about the products they are using. These products are deemed safer as they are highly scrutinized by Health Canada, and there is also the benefit of choosing from a vast array of products.
“To me, that’s what this really means for Canada. It’s that choice and safety of use, and then from the business point of view, it’s an opportunity for Canada to legitimately be a world leader in an industry that few other countries are moving as quickly as we are. I think that’s a great opportunity for us as a country.”