Better quality, lower prices and increased product choice

Matt Panelli, president and owner, and Steven Bigg, vice president and owner, of Merry Guanas in Lacombe view innovation as the future of the cannabis industry. (Todd Colin Vaughan/LACOMBE EXPRESS)

Nearly two years in — the cannabis industry is growing exponentially.

Steven Bigg, owner and vice president of Merry Guanas in Lacombe said the amount of product available to dispensaries in Alberta is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was at the time of legalization.

“Initially we struggled to get a few dozen strains in — now we have almost 200 available. The quality has improved and that was an issue we saw early on — the overall quality. We are hearing far less negative feedback,” he said.

Price Trends

The main difference cannabis consumers will notice is the distinct drop in prices and the growth of different products.

“That is a huge thing. When legalization happened, we saw $40 and up as the standard for 3.5 gram containers. Now were are seeing a lot of stuff come in under $30,” Bigg said.

One of the main initial points of the legalization for the Liberal Government was to stop black market cannabis. Bigg said price plays a part in that equation.

“That has become a focus for the licensed producers. They have started focusing on taking their prices down. In reality, we will never be able to match the black market price wise but meeting them halfway is a start and I think most people are willing to pay extra for quality and peace of mind.” he said.

Rural cannabis

Being in Lacombe and in Alberta has been an advantage for small market independents like Merry Guanas.

The main difference Bigg and his team have noticed in Lacombe is an increase in bulk buying.

“We do have people we see on the daily basis, but we also see people load up every Friday,” he said.

The advantage of being an independent in Alberta is that large producers and retailers don’t have the ability to out purchase small businesses.

“For cannabis in Alberta, we are all on an even playing field in terms of buying power and advertising restrictions. The big guys can’t beat us in that realm,” Bigg said.

Being able to purchase the same as chains also means that Merry Guanas can help Lacombe residents purchase from local businesses — something the community is known for.

“I think the way it is set up in Alberta is quite conducive to small businesses. No system is perfect but I think us as independents are in a good place. Lacombe is a unique market because Lacombe supports independent and local businesses,” he said.

Innovation in the cannabis industry

What we are seeing today with the cannabis is the tip of the iceberg according to Bigg and consumers will soon see products that were rare or impossible for the black market to replicate.

“From a product standpoint, we are starting to see new products hit the market like concentrates and shatter is the big thing a lot of people are asking about. Initially it was all flower, prerolls and oils on the market — now there is edibles, shatter and things like hash. We had hash and it sold out very quickly,” he said.

Going forward, Bigg expects new products which are difficult to even imagine today.

“I think the future is innovation. Innovation for the market is further research on the plant where people can come in and get whatever they want based on how their body works,” he said. “That will take a decade to figure out, but I am hopeful in a long-term scenario — you come in and say I like this and we would be able to give a short list of exactly what they want.”

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