U.S. versus Canada: Which one has an upper hand in the medical cannabis field?

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“We are struggling,” says Michael Litchfield, chief marketing officer of California-based HelloMD, an online platform for the medical cannabis community. “That’s why we look on Canada with great envy… for many cannabis companies in the U.S., it’s hard to even get a bank account.”

Nation-wide legislation is different in both countries. In the U.S., cannabis is still an illegal drug under federal law. That being the case, it may then seem that Canada has a clear upper hand; unfortunately, it doesn’t. For Canadian cannabis companies acquiring “capital is still a huge challenge,” notes Andrew Muroff, CEO of Strainprint Technologies Ltd.

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Rob Adelson, president and CEO of Resolve Digital Health.

Litchfield and Muroff were the panel speakers on day 2 of Medical Cannabis Week (MCW) at Toronto-based Blakes Law Firm. They were accompanied by John Prentice, president and CEO of Ample Organics; Rob Adelson, president and CEO of Resolve Digital Health; and Michael Kadonoff, CEO and founder of Braingrid Corporation.

MCW is a series of cannabis-focused discussions presented by Business of Cannabis (BofC). “The first MCW took place in 2018 where the topic of discussion was the future of the cannabis industry,” Blaine Pearson, co-founder of BofC, points out. The second day of the discussion centred on innovation and how best to protect such innovative ideas.

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From left: Michael Litchfield, chief marketing officer of California-based HelloMD, and Michael Kadonoff, CEO and founder of Braingrid Corporation. 

Forecasting trends in the field of innovation, Adelson believes all eyes will be on the manufacturing side of things. Data, too, will remain an undisputed king. Kadonoff agrees, “I am a big data nerd, and I am excited about the growing attention towards data-driven growing.”

Alternate delivery methods that drive focus away from smoking cannabis will also be big. “Dried flower is not the future,” Muroff adds.

Another focal point of the discussion was product consistency. After all, innovation will have little impact if companies can’t promise predictability. Adelson adds, “We are in the middle of a healthcare revolution. By the end of the day, the patient just wants to feel better.”

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From left: Co-founders of Business of Cannabis, Blaine Pearson and Jay Rosenthal.

Meanwhile, as the industry gears towards the next chapter (that is, edibles), the wait continues for all related pieces of legislation to gradually fall in place. “The cookie is still crumbling, and we have to figure out where all the crumbs will fall,” says Prentice.

So you have an innovative idea. What next?

Patent it, before it’s too late.

When applying for a patent, ask yourself, “Is this invention new, inventive and useful?” advises Leah Rodin, a patent agent at Blakes. If the invention ticks off the boxes above, wait no further to legally own it. Meanwhile, beware of the copycats.

Rodin was a speaker at the second panel of the day, which also included Melanie Baird, partner at Blakes; Mary Jane Richards, associate general counsel at Shopify; and Tricia Kuhl, a partner at Blakes. The panel focused on the legal side of innovation and how to patent and protect intellectual property (IP).

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From left: Melanie Baird, partner at Blakes, Leah Rodin, a patent agent at Blakes, Tricia Kuhl, partner at Blakes, Mary Jane Richards, associate general counsel at Shopify, and Robin Linley, partner at Blakes.

Imitation, in general, is the best form of flattery. In the world of copyright laws and regulations, “imitation can also cost you a lot of money,” says Baird. No reputable company might set out to copy someone else’s invention. But lack of proper research might invite such a risk. To avoid falling down this messy rabbit hole, doing “a quick simple search to see if the invention you are attempting to work on doesn’t already exist,” Baird suggests. “You will be surprised how many companies fail to do this,” she adds.

Kuhl shares a rule of thumb for up-and-coming cannabis companies, and also well-established ones: “Don’t publicly share your ideas or inventions. People in this field are generally excited to share what they are working on. But don’t, unless it’s protected and patented.”

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