As legal recreational cannabis continues to roll out across Canada, it’s not surprising that established medical cannabis suppliers are watching closely and developing new products, especially as demand far outpaces what anyone anticipated.
A key part of managing that increased demand is recognizing that cannabis is not just about lighting up joints anymore. There will always be bud connoisseurs, but most people are starting to prefer simpler and cleaner methods of getting cannabinoids like THC and CBD into their system.
The future of the Canadian market is going to include a comprehensive variety of infused products, from edibles to oils to vaporizables to topicals.Greg Engel, Organigram CEO
“While there will always be a place for a premium cannabis flower for the connoisseur, data from the US is showing a real shift away from people preferring a smokable product,” says Greg Engel, CEO of Organigram. “The future of the Canadian market is going to include a comprehensive variety of infused products, from edibles to oils to vaporizables to topicals. The demand for CBD in particular, is much higher than people had expected.”
Medical patients can’t be left behind
Organigram, a publicly-traded company and one of the first medical cannabis suppliers licensed in Canada, is well positioned to manage this evolution gracefully. Amid headlines of cannabis shortages across the country, the company prides itself on having never run out of inventory for its medical clients.
The applications for cannabinoids include some very big disease areas like epilepsy and diabetes. We’re talking millions of people.Kevin Chen, Hyasynth CEO
“Throughout the transition, we remained very cognizant of the way we manage and treat our medical patient population,” says Engel. “Unfortunately, not all companies did that, and so there were a number of medical cannabis companies that, within the first couple of months of the adult recreational launch, had to put out public statements saying that they had limited or no supply for their medical patients for significant periods of time. If people are accessing medicine from you and you aren’t able to supply it, that’s a critical failure.”
Engel also recognizes that this growing and changing demand requires new and innovative methods to produce cannabinoids for product infusion. Enter Hyasynth Biologicals, a Montreal-based biosynthesis research and development company that’s poised to change the way we think about cannabinoid production.
I think people in both spaces are ready for a future with pharmaceutical-grade product that they can administer in the way they prefer.Greg Engel, Organigram CEO
“Instead of growing a cannabis plant for THC, we produce that same THC from a strain of yeast that we have developed,” explains Hyasynth CEO Kevin Chen. “The advantage is that yeast is a really well-understood organism that’s super cheap and easy to work with. And it can scale up very fast. We’ve learned that we don’t necessarily need to grow cannabis plants for consumers to reap the benefits of cannabinoids.”
Canadian-grown science to the rescue
Organigram and Hyasynth have partnered to deliver on the promise of a consistent product that’s scalable and chemically identical to plant-derived cannabinoids. “We’re taking this established and industrialized process and adding our new technology, which includes these novel strains of yeast that can produce not only THC, but also CBD and other cannabinoids,” says Chen. “The applications for cannabinoids include some very big disease areas like epilepsy and diabetes. We’re talking millions of people. In the pharma industry, you need to have a large, reliable, and consistent supply across regions and countries. Right now, there’s a very obvious productivity gap in that regard when it comes to traditional cannabis cultivation.”
Bridging that gap is Canada’s big cannabis challenge in the years to come. Organigram is confident that their experience, combined with Hyasynth’s technology, is where the construction of that bridge begins. “Once you’ve optimized the biosynthesis process, it’s repeatable, reproducible, and scalable in a way that plant cultivation can never be,” says Engel. “Plus, you can produce a purer form of the product, whether it’s for the medical or recreational market. I think people in both spaces are ready for a future with pharmaceutical-grade product that they can administer in the way they prefer. For most, the future is infused products, some of which may feature cannabinoids that we’ve never before been able to produce at scale.”