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Paul Steckler, Canopy Growth:

"In the cannabis industry, numbers should be secondary to the purpose"

"With cannabis, we're at the forefront of a new medicine that could benefit many patients around the world. Unfortunately, the industry has lost its focus on why we do this," says Paul Steckler, Managing Director International at Canopy Growth. In his presentation at Cannabis Business Europe, Paul discussed the developments that have happened over the last year in the industry, what lessons we can learn from those, as well as Canopy Growth's goals as a company. 

Company goals
"I'm not going to avoid the subject. Many will have seen the news about the changes we've made at Canopy Growth," Paul starts out. "Like much of the industry, we have not been immune to the macroeconomic environment and industry challenges." Despite these changes, Paul explains that Canopy's strategy remains the same. "First of all, we need to be successful in the U.S., which is why we're looking to set up Canopy USA. We will then have a U.S. entity to look after the businesses we have in the U.S. Secondly, we aim to become profitable in Canada. There aren't many companies that have managed to reach profitability, yet it's a necessity to run a successful business. Moreover, we're looking to continue to grow and expand across the world," Paul says.

Last year 
So what developments do we see when looking at the cannabis industry over the past year? "The positive news is that medical markets continue to grow. Take, for example, Germany, Australia, and Poland, where the medical markets have exploded. However, when looking at the number of patients in each market, it's still significantly lower than the market potential. Even in Germany, the number of patients is around 10% of where it could be." 

According to Paul, this is due to many in the industry competing against each other instead of growing the market. "That is one of the challenges moving forward. So far, we've seen short-term focused businesses, which is making the industry less attractive."

Paul takes Germany as an example. "There was a lot of hype surrounding the German recreational market last year. Yet the efforts the industry made to generate recreational legalization in Germany have been quite unsuccessful. We're probably at least 5 years away from a truly commercial market, and the plan is less ambitious than we'd hoped. I think as an industry, we should take some accountability for our behavior," Paul says. "Regulators and governments are looking at how the industry behaves." 

Shifting the focus
Paul explains that the industry has lost its focus on purpose. "We've lost our focus on why we do this. Cannabis makes a real difference in patients' lives, and there are many more patients across the world who could benefit from our products," he says. "Yet if you ask German pharmacies about their experience with cannabis, for example, they will say that this is an industry trying to make money, become profitable, and constantly talks about investments and trying to make more cash. Many view the industry as not really thinking about the patients. Of course, that is not the case for all companies, but it is the perception of the industry at the moment, which needs to change." 

Paul urges companies to think about why they're running their business. "It's about giving patients the best opportunity for success when they haven't had success with traditional medicines. Of course, numbers are important when you have a business to run. But that should be secondary to the purpose."

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