This week’s Trailblazer is Jeff Lawrence, National Sales Director at Dycar Pharmaceuticals, home to up-and-coming cannabis brands like J.R. Strain, Lamplighter, and Legend Chocolates. With over 30 years of experience in sales and marketing, Jeff is a recognized leader in the regulated Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry. He has successfully driven sales growth, market expansion, and strategic development for various companies in the tobacco and cannabis sectors. For the last 14 years, Jeff has managed high-performing sales teams and built strong relationships with retailers and licensed producers across Canada.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I entered the legal cannabis industry in mid-2018 as the VP of Retail Development for a start-up in Alberta. I was looking to transition my 19 regulated tobacco retail stores into cannabis outlets. However, I soon realized that Canadian regulations did not allow that. But by then, I was already hooked on the dynamic, fast-paced, and exciting nature of the cannabis industry, and here I am!
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
The biggest challenge is navigating the complex and restrictive regulatory framework that governs cannabis marketing in Canada. Having worked in highly regulated industries for 13 years, I was familiar with the challenges, but I find that the cannabis rules are even more stringent and ambiguous. Different companies have different levels of risk tolerance when it comes to interpreting and applying the rules. Some are very conservative and stick to the letter of the law, while others are more aggressive and push the boundaries.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
One restriction that I find particularly puzzling is the 10mg limit on edibles in Canada. This limit undermines one of the main objectives of legalization, which is to eliminate or reduce the illicit market. The 10mg limit creates a huge gap between the legal and illegal markets, where consumers can easily access higher-potency products from unregulated sources.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
It depends on who you define as your customer. As an LP, our primary customer is the retailer, so we focus on building rapport and trust with them through trade shows, cannabis events, and educational sessions. These are venues where we can showcase our products, demonstrate our expertise, and address their needs and concerns.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
There are many inspiring leaders in the cannabis industry, but I will mention a few that I admire for their vision, innovation, and impact: Andy Palalas from Hightide, who has created a leading retail network across Canada; Norton Singhavon from Avant Brands, who has developed a portfolio of premium craft cannabis brands; and Jim Strain from Dycar, our Director of Cultivation, who oversees our state-of-the-art cultivation facility and ensures consistent quality and excellence. Of course, the fine team over at Sister Merci who have given the J.R. Strain brand a fighting chance in a very competitive industry.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
My advice is to be clear about your target market and tailor your products and marketing materials accordingly. Don’t try to please everyone or appeal to the masses. Instead, focus on creating a unique value proposition and a distinctive brand identity that resonates with your ideal customer.
A big thank you to Jeff from Dycar Pharmaceuticals for participating as this week’s Trailblazer! Stay tuned for another interview with a cannabis marketing Trailblazer next Thursday in the ADCANN blog.