Canadian Medical Marijuana Pioneer Marc Wayne Talks About the Future of Cannabis

Marc Wayne is the President and Director at Canopy Health Innovations, a biopharmaceutical company working to develop innovative cannabis-based products. Wayne previously founded one of the first federally licensed medical marijuana producers in Canada and helped oversee the first legal efforts to bring live cannabis plants across international borders.

We talked to Wayne about his company as well as his history in the cannabis industry.

What makes your company different from others in the cannabis space?

We are a clinical research and drug dev company. Our goal is to develop cannabis medicines or health products with validated claims. We do this both for human health and animal health – for companion animals (dogs and cats) through our wholly owned subsidiary Canopy Animal Health. We are not a License producer under the ACMPR and we are not a public entity. We are also focused on creation of intellectual property protection on all the products and data we develop. Most other companies are looking at either commercial products on the recreational side (branded products) or medical cannabis products under the ACMPR. However, none of these products will be able to make any type of medical or health claim. In a sense we are a bio pharmaceutical cannabis company, looking at unique cannabis formulations targeting specific medical indications. This is what I have called medical cannabis 2.0.

How did you get into the cannabis space?

I started working in the cannabis space around 2007. A well-known researcher and clinician in this space Dr. Mark Ware (of McGill University) asked me to help him develop a member consortium of basics scientist (PhD’s) and clinicians (MD’s) who were interested in learning about cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. So we expanded a small research grant from the CIHR into the development of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids (CCIC). I was handling all the financial/business aspects of the organization. With the help of financial support from Valeant pharmaceuticals we were able to launch various research and education projects on cannabinoids in Canada, USA, and Europe.

Through the CCIC, I met the founders of Bedrocan International from Holland back in 2009. In 2011 we initiate some clinical research with Health Canada. This work led to the understanding of new MMPR regulations that were forthcoming so with this information, I founded Bedrocan Canada in Feb 2012 to actively pursue a license under MMPR. Bedrocan Canada was awarded one of the first MMPR licenses back in fall of 2013. This initial license allowed us to import approximately 500kg from Holland to Canada via the Dutch government.

In February 2015, Bedrocan Canada was awarded a second license (2nd site) to produce cannabis locally. This was the first time a second license was awarded by Health Canada for a new site under the MMPR/ACMPR. We transferred live genetics (clones) from Holland over to Canada. This was the first time live cannabis plants were allowed to travel legally across international borders.

In June 2015, Bedrocan Canada and Tweed merged to create Canopy Growth Corporation. I remained president of Bedrocan Canada and Managing Director of Canaopy Growth until Dec 2016. In December 2016. I resigned Canopy Growth to be founding president and director of Canopy Health Innovations. Canopy Health is the clinical/pharmaceutical arm of Canopy Growth.

What has been your biggest lesson about working in cannabis, and in business in general?

The need to be credible and position your organization as a trusted partner. There are many personalities in this space and your reputation is your brand. Take a little less credit when things go well and more blame when things go less well. Speed and flexibility are important. Make decisions quickly and with confidence. Course correct quickly if wrong.

What do you see as your biggest opportunity?

The ability to create new and unique products in a new industry that will help people. I enjoy the science and medical side. While others are looking at the recreational opportunities, I am more interested on advancing the therapeutic side of the industry. There is a lot of unexplored territory here and I am in the envious position of doing research that we have only talked about for years. I like that the business opportunity on the medical side is now Less crowded and possibly an even bigger market long term.

What sets you apart to make you a potential leader in cannabis?

My strong focus on the medical side. I’m well connected globally on many levels, as well as in Canada. Hopefully I have a good reputation as a team player, trusted and results oriented.

What is the most frustrating aspect of the cannabis industry today?

Over regulation/licensing. The logistics, time and cost of working with and moving product The public stigma associated with working in this field, although it’s improving dramatically. Lack of clarity of rules surrounding new regulations or enforcement of current regulations. Need to make sure everyone is playing on the same level field.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the cannabis space?

Understand what might interest you and show passion.  It is developing into a mature industry with many aspects. Reach out and showcase your specific talent. There is a need to staff up across the board now and if you don’t network nobody will find you. Be aggressive. Express your talents. Research the companies and the industry so when you present yourself you look informed and prepared.

If you’re an entrepreneur look at auxiliary type businesses. Production is probably not where you want to focus your energy at this point. It is already pretty much set up and crowded. Look at testing, formulations, branding, sales, research/science expertise, genetics, anything that help cost efficiencies.   

Do you see any big changes coming in the future of cannabis?

Most of the world is only medical and, in my view, Europe will remain so until they can fully analyze the Canadian experiment.

In Canada, with the legal market opening up, we will see a reduction in the size of the medical market short term. We will see medical clinics, who are currently functioning as access points for both medical and adult use patients suffer with many perhaps going out of business. Access will be available legally, so some patients will go that route. The medical market will become more specialized, evidence based and value/product focused. Physicians will have more information to make decisions, but prescriptions will be product/dose specific. Eventually this will open up the medical market to more naïve users and this market will grow with support of insurance and physicians. This is what we are targeting.

You will see the evolution of medical cannabis 2.0. Bio pharmaceuticals companies like Canopy Health are entering the market. The results will be the advancement of more sophisticated medical cannabis products, dose delivery systems and unique targeted formulations. These products will undergo clinical work and data and approvals will follow. This is possible now because we are in a S.M.A.R.T time for cannabis research. SUPPLY (sophisticated production facilities not available only a few years ago); MONEY(capital flow into cannabis); ANALYTICS (more labs and reference standards for cannabis); REGULATION (favourable); and TALENT (many now want to research cannabis, more than before).

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