Interview with Deepak Anand, Co-Founder & CEO at Materia
Could you give our readers a little background on your professional life?
I started to become interested in Cannabis in 2014. At the time, Canada was looking at legalization of cannabis for medical purposes. Health Canada (the federal regulator) was looking for persons and organizations to assist them with the setting up of the industry. Prior to cannabis, my background was in the purchasing and distribution of pharmaceutical products globally. My contacts, connections and networks globally have probably been of most use to Materia.
Earlier this year, we saw the cannabis industry in North America come into its own, being deemed as Essential Business in many areas during the COVID-19 pandemic and propping up tax revenue in many states and provinces. Just how significant do you think this has been?
The journey of cannabis from prohibition to essential service, not just in North America but also in Europe, has truly been a fascinating one to watch, regardless of whether you are in the industry, a consumer or a patient. It will certainly go a long way in helping shed the stigma related to cannabis but is my no means a silver bullet on its own. A lot more is needed in this endeavour.
With countries across Europe increasingly coming online with their own medical cannabis programmes, what do you think they can learn from the experiences of Canada and certain states in the U.S.?
I think Europe can benefit from the learnings around the strict regulatory framework which places like Canada have employed and subsequently have gradually eased on, using a risk-based and public safety approach. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel, but rather learn and develop upon some truly trailblazing regulatory stuff that has occurred in Canada. It is unfortunate and disheartening for me to be watching Europe take ten steps back with the unfolding of a relatively benign substance like CBD looking at being classified as a narcotic by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). CBD has been prevalent in the mainstream across several European countries for a very long time now and, in my opinion, to turn the clock back on it now is an extremely futile exercise.
Keeping on the theme of Europe, which countries are of particular interest to Materia, and why?
In addition to the markets we are in, Czech Republic, France, Poland, Italy and Ireland all remain of tremendous interest to Materia. In the next five years, Europe is set to become the world’s largest legal market for cannabis.
Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen some of the larger LPs and cannabis companies switch strategies and shelve certain expansion plans, resulting from the downturn in the financial markets and then the COVID pandemic. What do you believe to be the true impact of this? And to what extent do you think this will provide opportunities for smaller organisations in the industry?
Recent actions on behalf of the larger cannabis companies have highlighted and underscored the need, focus and execution play for any business. What works in one market may not necessarily work in the other. Also, the need to be vertically integrated is not really required. Not biting off more than one can chew is particularly relevant in a nascent industry like cannabis.
For smaller players, challenging the status quo creates several opportunities just as it does risks. With the constraints on the capital market/raise side, it is imperative for small companies to be truly focused and really penetrate a market(s) by being nimble, flexible and agile. A large part of this is not having the overhangs and burdens large corporations often carry with them.
Check out other interviews on the GCI Content Hub by clicking here.
To hear more from Deepak Anand, check out the GCI Virtual Summit.