In this introductory episode of East Coast Cannabis Hour, Brennan Sisk, the New Brunswick Cannabis Coordinator, speaks with Andrew Byrne, the Marketing/Communications Director for BioNB.
Episode 1 with Andrew Byrne, BioNB’s Marketing & Communications Director
BioNB is the leading bioscience and bioeconomy authority in New Brunswick and is one of the administrators of the NB Cannabis Office and the Cannabis Coordinator role. Andrew is also part of the marketing team helping create and publish the Coordinator’s digital media.
In this episode, learn about New Brunswick’s Cannabis Coordinator, why the role was created, how you can keep up to date on cannabis in New Brunswick and where the East Coast Cannabis Hour is headed.
Brennan discusses a few of his upcoming guests, including Eric Cook, the CEO of RPC, Rod Wilson, the executive director of the New Brunswick Craft Cannabis Association and an entrepreneur that owns a cannabis nursery. We’ll also chat with Sunleaf Farms, a micro cultivator that is passing their lessons onto other budding cannabis businesses.
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Episode 1 – Andrew Byrne Transcript
Brennan: Welcome everybody. My name is Brendan Sisk. I am the new Brunswick Cannabis Coordinator. My mandate is to help coordinate stakeholders in the cannabis sector, whether they’re government, industry, or academia. I help them cooperate and find opportunities together.
If you look at the information around cannabis today, it’s mostly around drug policy, right? It’s drug abuse around work. There is a lot of information out there, but it’s not really in the context of New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada, and that’s what really what we want to do. We want to talk to local entrepreneurs and government officials, and academics looking at this content.
Um, I have Andrew Byrne, Communications Director from BioNB, with me today to talk about this podcast.
Andrew Byrne: There’s a lot of information exchanging hands in the cannabis industry. We all felt that it was necessary to document it and then disseminate the content to help educate the general public, policymakers, and business leaders about cannabis.
Brennan: One of the things that I have noticed while talking to different stakeholders is if you know about cannabis and you’re an expert, or you’re an enthusiast about cannabis, you tend to forget that the majority of the population is not. A lot of information that’s been promoted around cannabis is it’s technically from the time of prohibition in the late thirties, and cannabis was deemed a controlled substance along with hemp.
So it got me thinking. This platform and the content has to speak to that general population, and we’re going to do that through actually talking to cannabis entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises that are in this industry trying to make a go of it, whether it’s directly in production or ancillaries, so value-add and things like that.
The other stakeholders that we want to bring in and get perspective from are academia and government. So throughout the year, we’ll talk about cannabis. We want to talk about it cannabis in a balanced way.
And one of the big, one of the big issues that we’re seeing is around policy and regulation. And to take a step back for a second to pre-legalization. Health Canada and the committee responsible for looking at how Canada was going to legalize did a lot of consultation.
And one of the things that spilled out of that consultation was they asked, the major question is, “what would you do differently”? They asked that to jurisdictions that had already legalized.
Andrew Byrne: Like, in the States?
Brennan: In the States, yeah. In particular, I think Colorado was very helpful in gathering some information about what this looks like.
And one of the biggest lessons learned was: start stringent and then let it loose over time. Because one of the things that they did was the regulations were, as it turns out, fairly loose and sort of the horse got out of the barn, and it was hard to put back. Hard to regulate and control afterward.
The regulations are such that they address public health and safety. It’s attempting to tackle the illicit market and essentially generate revenues. But the third button is economic development.
We all have to recognize that if you don’t have a mechanism for good economic development opportunities, you’re not going to have number one and number two. And so the health of number one and number two is directly related to number three. So that’s where we’re migrating towards.
I think part of the journey on this podcast is to sensitize the general population of the cannabis sector because if the sector is thriving, they will be impacted positively.
But initially, we don’t want anybody to say “not in my backyard” prematurely.
Andrew Byrne: And not knowing the facts.
Brennan: Without knowing the facts, that’s right. That’s something that we have to work together on. And I think having industry telling their story about how rigorous the process is on the cannabis side – to get your license – how much investment you need to put in.
The business models that are allowed through the current regulations are really controlled. And so what we want to try and do is lower the peripheral resistance that could blow up an entrepreneur’s opportunity to capitalize on this.
Andrew Byrne: Absolutely, it’s necessary at this point. Um, we mentioned earlier that there is information out there, but on the government side of things, on the Canada Health side of things, it is about public health, which is necessary.
Um, but it is a lot of doom and gloom. And then you go to the opposite segment of the population, those who do enjoy the plant. Maybe not understand it entirely, but they tell, you know, the exact opposite. But that’s not the type of information we want to disseminate because we want to take that balanced approach.
As you mentioned, we’re not going to tell you that cannabis is going to cure everything. Right. We’re going to tell you the benefits. We’re going to tell you the opportunities and the risks right around this industry.
But we hope that in telling you all of this stuff, right in this balanced way, that, you know, you’ll, you’ll take in the information and really try to understand it. And disseminate it to other people.
Brennan: Yeah, well, no, that’s, that’s right.
I want to point people in the right direction. And, and so you can do your homework because, if you do your own homework and understand from that perspective, you convince yourself based on the information you’re acquiring. Which is a bit different than somebody preaching and saying, “well, this is a great thing” or a warning.
Arguably, for the last, you know, 50, 60, 70 years, no one’s been able to have their own opinion about cannabis, right. Because you’re told it’s a warning that’s it’s bad that it’s you know, Reefer Madness.
The overall purpose of this is to be inclusive and have a feedback loop on the podcast’s content. We’re just talking about what we know, and if people know more, then we’re more than happy to get them talking to us.
Andrew Byrne: So, what’s next? What’s next for cannabis and what’s next for even this podcast? So who’s coming up and who should they expect to hear from?
Brennan: Yeah, so we do have a full program we’re going to be launching over the next three seasons. Essentially over the next year. So in the next couple of episodes, we’re going to have Eric Cook, the CEO of RPC, Rod Wilson, the executive director of the New Brunswick Craft Cannabis Association and an entrepreneur that owns a cannabis nursery. We’re also going to have Sunleaf Farms with us to talk about micro cultivation and the efforts that they’ve made to develop standard operating procedures to help other micro cultivators leap forward in the development of their business. I like that story because it’s one entrepreneur helping another.
As the year unfolds, we will have some government officials from ACOA, Opportunities NB, NRC. We will have researchers from UNB, Université de Moncton, Mount Allison, and NBCC to give us a sense of how they’ve been engaging with the industry and some of the positives and the negatives.
If folks decide to bear with us, I think it’ll be interesting.