Canada’s cannabis landscape is sure to look a whole lot different a year from now, with nationwide recreational legalization set to roll out next July.  

The country’s first cannabis business accelerator, Leaf Forward, is aiming to help prospective cannabis entrepreneurs paint that picture.   

The Toronto-based accelerator program – launching this September – will provide early-stage cannabis-focused businesses with mentorship, networking and learning opportunities from industry leaders like Canopy Growth Corp., Cannabis Wheaton and Ample Organics.

“Right now the industry is driven by cultivators, by [licensed producers], and it’s not going to be like that forever,” Leaf Forward founder Alex Blumenstein told Civilized.

“While it’s unclear right now what kinds of new products and services will get involved as we don’t have fully-formed regulations yet – it will obviously depend on what distribution looks like and that will depend on each province – we want to help foster that innovation starting now and going forward.”

Nick Whitehead, VP Market Development, Aurora Cannabis Inc. Credit: Eric Entz

Nick Whitehead, VP Market Development, Aurora Cannabis Inc. Credit: Eric Entz

Blumenstein said the need for such a program was made immediately apparent when he put out the call for applications.

“We’ve already received a ton of excellent applications ranging from packaging to novel delivery methods to apps and cultivation solutions," he said. “We’ve seen people [across the spectrum], from those who just have ideas to those who are already established businesses.

"Most interestingly, we’re getting a number of businesses that have been around for 10, 15 years in other industries, who are seeing an opportunity right now to make a pivot or have a new vertical in the cannabis industry.”

All successful applicants will spend a full day with industry experts and senior managers, who will advise on everything from law and finance to marketing and sales, preparing entrepreneurs to pitch investors, raise money, and take their businesses to the next level.

Michael Lickver (back of head), Associate, Bennett Jones LLP (Now: EVP, Strategy

Michael Lickver (back of head), Associate, Bennett Jones LLP (Now: EVP, Strategy at Cannabis Wheaton) Credit: Derek Leung

“It’s really good to put these entrepreneurs in the same room as established people in the industry so they can have a better idea of how their concepts and products will serve the industry... as well as where the holes are and what gaps they need to fill,” said Blumenstein. “There’s really no other opportunity to meet one-on-one with such high level industry professionals than there is with this program here.”

The application deadline for the program is Aug. 31. The program itself will be held Sept. 14 in Toronto, but participants can be teleconferenced in if need be.

Banner image: Max Zavet, Co-Founder and President, Emblem Cannabis Credit: Richard Tang/thenewhigh.co