History of Cannabis on Dragons’ Den

On Oct. 17, 2018, recreational cannabis became legal across Canada. To commemorate the moment, Dragons’ Den takes a look back at some of the cannabis-related pitches from the puff puff past, plus we see how far the Dragons' thinking around this industry has come.

Adele Sommerfeld from Toronto, Ont., wants to sell her medicinal marijuana products through controlled channels for therapeutic, painkilling purposes.

Season 3: Tranquility Wellness

Toronto's Adelle Sommerfeld came to the Dragons looking for $500,000 in return for 25 per cent of her medical cannabis edibles business, Tranquility Wellness. But with no sales and no access to patient lists, the Dragons thought this pitch seemed a little half-baked.

Ian Layfield pitches his idea for a medicinal marijuana store.

Season 4: Medicinal Marijuana Store

Victoria, B.C.’s Ian Leyfield came into the Den with a medical cannabis business that had an existing customer base, high margins and the potential for growth. Unfortunately, the Dragons weren’t interested. Three of them (Jim Treliving, Arlene Dickenson and W. Brett Wilson) passed for ethical reasons. Robert Herjavec stuck up for Layfield but didn’t invest, saying he couldn’t “see the business.” Kevin O’Leary said that while he respected what Leyfield was doing, he didn’t want to be exposed to the potential backlash for investing in cannabis.

Interestingly, both Brett and Arlene seem to have gotten over their objections, as they’ve both invested in cannabis-related businesses in the last few years.

Brenda Magnusson and Stephanie Cooney from Grande Prairie, Alta., bring their hemp infused vodka to the Den.

Season 7: Stoked Vodka

Brenda Magnusson and Stephanie Cooney from Grand Prairie, Alta., came to the Den looking for an investment in Stoked Vodka — at the time North America’s first-and-only hemp-infused spirit. Their presentation featured acrobatic bartenders and a male exotic dancer dressed as a cop. They claimed the hemp in their vodka meant a reduced chance of a hangover. The pitch worked, and Jim and Bruce Croxon went in on the deal together for a combined $150,000 for 25 per cent of the company, each. Unfortunately, the deal fell through in due diligence.

Johannes Chapman from Niagara Falls, Ont., looks to reap a Dragon deal for his hemp seed company.

Season 8: Singing Canary Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are a superfood! Who knew? They’re rich in vitamins, and high in fibre, protein and healthy fats. Unfortunately for Niagara Falls, Ont., entrepreneur Johannes Chapman, his snack business, Singing Canary Hemp Seeds, wasn’t developed enough for the Dragons to invest in. He had great packaging and an amazing jingle, but didn’t have orders or enough of a proven market. On the upside though, he did sell $400 worth of blown glass to the Dragons — he’s also a glass blower, and transported the seeds in some of his creations. So the day wasn’t a total bust!

Two entrepreneurs believe their idea could influence sales in the cannabis industry.

Season 13: TechPOS

In this web-exclusive pitch, we saw exactly how much has changed when it comes to the Dragons’ opinions on cannabis. With legalization now here, many dispensaries are still struggling with the mechanics of actually selling cannabis to customers. Vancouver entrepreneurs Amri Ahani and Alex Mazinani have a solution: TechPOS. It’s an inventory management system complete with built-in digital scale — built specifically for dispensaries in mind. The pair were looking for a $200,000 for a 10 per cent stake. While some of the Dragons had concerns about the business — lack of growth potential, the fact their system doesn’t work if the Internet is down — no one thought the business was wrong or unethical. Eventually, Arlene and Manjit Minhas partnered on a deal that saw them take 25 per cent of the company for $200,000.

A student thinks the market for his bright solution has the potential to grow like a weed.

Season 13: Grow Kit

Toronto’s Ron Paul came into the Den looking for a $75,000 investment in return for 20 per cent of his company, Grow Kit. The business makes at-home cannabis cultivation easier, providing would-be weed farmers with energy efficient grow lights, fans, ventilation systems and an insulated pop-up tent to put it all inside. He’s already sold 200 units in the last 12 months, via various online outlets, for $60,000 in sales. However, he’s been struggling to meet demand, selling out regularly. The Dragons were concerned about the amount of competition in the space, and the fact he didn’t actually own the technology. But Manjit saw the potential in the business, and offered him $75,000 for 50 per cent — which he took.

A mother of six hopes the Dragons find re-leaf in her tea.

Season 13: Mary’s Wellness Ltd.

Torontonian mother of six Virginia Vidal started looking for ways to manage pain while recovering from a series of post-partum surgeries. She began using cannabis as an alternative to traditional painkillers, turning it into tea so she could medicate discreetly. More than a decade later, cannabis is fully legal, and she’s turned her infused tea into a business, selling $315,000 of product in 2017. She went to the Den looking for help in scaling her business and was willing to give up 10 per cent of her company for $150,000. The Dragons were initially impressed with her sales and the product — which contains a small amount of THC that she claimed still allows users to remain functional. But the Dragons were concerned about her inability to figure out if she wanted to eventually flip her company entirely, maintain some ownership while selling the rest, or keep it altogether. Michele Romanow made and then withdrew an offer due to her waffling. However, Lane Merrifield offered her $150,000 for 30 per cent of the company, with the option to be first out. Vidal took this offer.

These students think they have a green solution to a problem that’s making law enforcement see red.

Season 13: Guard-Ex

Cannabis legalization has become a problem for Canadian law enforcement, who still lack a reliable way of roadside testing drivers for impairment. Waterloo, Ont. university students Dastiger Khan, Rahul Malhotra, Harmeet Chauhan and Baltej Sandhu think they’ve found a solution. Their Guard-Ex technology examines five biological markers: pupil size and eye movement, muscle tone, heart rate, brain waves, and body temperature to determine impairment. They’ve spent $15,000 to build a prototype with input from both law enforcement and medical professionals. They came in looking for $100,000 in return for five per cent of their company. Vincenzo Guzzo was quickly out, worrying about false positives, the cost of getting Guard-Ex to market, and the cost of defending it from the inevitable lawsuits that would come from motorists. The other five Dragons, however, were impressed. They banded together to offer the Guard-Ex team $300,000 for 15 per cent of the company — which they took.

These business partners are hoping for a high bid from the Dragons.

Season 13: Grounded CBD

Vancouverites David Weale and Soheil Samimi came to the Den looking for $150,000 for 20 per cent of their CBD-infused performance nutrition bars. CBD, or cannabidiol is one of 113 cannabinoids in cannabis plants. Unlike its more well known cousin, THC,  cannabidiol isn’t intoxicating, but it has been shown to help with pain from inflammation, anxiety and sleeplessness. Their Grounded CBD bars contain a mix of energy-rich healthy fats and inflammation-and-anxiety-reducing CBD, making them ideal for performance athletes. Unfortunately, Weale and Samimi left without a deal. Vincenzo and Jim were concerned that people would use the bars to “self medicate.” Arlene was worried the “chocolate bar-like” feel would make the produce to appealing to children. Lane Merrifield and Michele were both interested in the product, but felt they didn’t know enough about the space to invest intelligently. And Manjit thought the bars tasted gross.

A scientist thinks the Dragons will be interested in his budding business.

Season 13: CanGenX Biotech

Geoffery White of Penticton, B.C., thought he had a winner with Mantis Buffered Nutrients, an all-in-one plant food meant specifically for cannabis that replaces the up-to 10 products often used to grow cannabis now. He came in looking for a $250,000 buy-in for a five per cent, five year royalty contract on one product. He was looking for help getting into retail chains like Canadian Tire and Home Hardware. The Dragons were unimpressed. Lane pointed out that the plant is nicknamed weed for a reason: it’s fairly easy to grow and most home cultivators are just using something like Miracle Gro as is. And none of them liked the structure of the deal, which asked for a hefty buy-in and only brought them royalties during the product’s difficult expansion phase.

In a previous version of this article it was stated that Vidal walked away empty handed. In fact, Vidal accepted an offer from a Dragon.