Organigram is a medicinal cannabis grower based out of Moncton, New Brunswick, that provides its products to clients and healthcare providers throughout Canada. In this edition of C-Suite, we speak with Denis Arsenault, who recently stepped up to Executive Chairman after spending three years serving as the company’s CEO.
How did you get into the cannabis space?
A mutual friend made an application for a license from Health Canada to produce medical marijuana, and I was recruited by several of the original founders to invest and take the role of CEO.
Walk us through a normal day.
I travel constantly, therefore most days include a call to my COO and CFO to stay abreast of the developments in Moncton. We have a tremendous amount of construction/expansion ongoing, so much of the discussion revolves around expansion plans. As a publicly traded company, travel includes both deal making and investor relations.
What has been your biggest lesson about working in cannabis, and in business in general?
Growing cannabis has been around for centuries, but our industry, as a commercial enterprise, is very new. The biggest lesson is simple, you have to approach it as nobody has the magic formula on how to grow this plant. You have to challenge your team daily to improve, to learn and think outside the preconceived ideas of how to grow fantastic marijuana.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity?
Definitely to shape an industry at its birth and play a significant role in economic development for my hometown. All entrepreneurs draw their motivation from various sources, to leave your mark on a new industry is very appealing.
What sets you apart to make you a potential leader in cannabis?
I think my ability to bring people who are competitors together to work towards a common industry or business goal. Not being previously from the cannabis industry permits me to have a fresh approach to growing, and avoids the box many have placed themselves in due to their past experiences in the industry.
What is the most frustrating aspect of the cannabis industry today?
Definitely people within the growing industry who think they know everything about growing the best marijuana. None have had to grow on the scale we grow, nor had to grow product subjected to the strict testing of Health Canada.
What would you say to those who are considering investing in your company?
Do your due diligence on the industry. Understand valuations relative to my peers and include the fully diluted valuations. Look at costs to produce today, not promises for the future. And look at who is burning cash, always an indication of poor management. Organigram was the first to be cash-flow positive and profitable in Canada, always a good sign of responsible and capable management. And good management always wins in the end.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the cannabis space?
Find your niche within the industry. Could be a tourism-based initiative, retail, or even educational based centers. Think outside the box of trying to become a large licensed producer and find other opportunities.
What are your biggest tips for branding cannabis?
Always focus on identifying the consumer your brand wants to captivate and build the message around the lifestyle of that group.
Do you see any big changes coming in the future of cannabis?
Massive change, in that society will wake up to the reality that cannabis is not a taboo product, but simply an alternative to alcohol as a lifestyle choice, and an amazing medicine and alternative to a pharmaceutical industry focused solely on profits.
Do you consume cannabis? And if so, what's your favorite way to consume?
I did back in my years at University, and only occasionally now. The simplicity of a vape pen is very hard to overlook. I think we need to continue the evolution of edibles for it to be a frequent choice for me.