Budding cannabis trade appealing to broader business community

A cannabis expo on the weekend catered to businesses already in the industry, but also to many from other sectors looking to establish connections.

UPEI, Halifax-based payment company among those involved in Charlottetown cannabis expo

The Atlantic Cannabis Conference and Expo featured booths from licensed producers, companies with direct ties to the cannabis industry and other more traditional businesses. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

With licensed producers set up in booths alongside long-established Charlottetown smoke shop Wild Impulse, there was no mistaking that the crowd gathered at the Delta Hotel on Saturday was there to talk about cannabis.

But alongside booths with obvious industry connections, the Atlantic Cannabis Conference and Expo also featured many from outside the cannabis trade aiming to cash in on a budding business.

Among those was one from UPEI, which had representatives there to promote its continuing education and professional development programs. 

"UPEI is a leader in education, and cannabis is a new and emerging field, and we feel that we needed to be in on the ground floor of this new industry," said Charlene Miller, professional development co-ordinator at UPEI. 

'Tremendous opportunity'

At the expo, Miller promoted a non-credit course that the university created last fall, geared toward employers, which focuses on cannabis in the workplace.

But she also saw the expo as an opportunity to promote other UPEI courses. 

"There are a lot of new startup companies here," Miller said. "Behind those startup companies, they all have needs for professional development, for leadership skills, for knowledge."

Charlene Miller, professional development coordinator at UPEI, was at the expo to promote a course focused on cannabis in the workplace, as well as other UPEI courses. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Miller said that with a new industry there are many new businesses that need to deal with client services, quality assurance and finance. 

"You're looking at all those skills needed to run any of these operations that are here today. So I think there's tremendous opportunity."

Cashing in on a new industry

UPEI isn't alone in looking at cannabis and seeing opportunity. Halifax-based payment company, Sona Pay, was represented at the event.

"It's a new industry," said CEO Ryan O'Leary. "It's a great opportunity to get in when there are very few payments companies that are really focusing on this industry."

Ryan O'Leary, CEO of Sona Pay, sees the emerging cannabis industry as a business opportunity. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Having recently landed a contract with a licensed cannabis producer, O'Leary came to the expo hoping to spread the word about his company to other producers. 

"We're just, I guess, riding the wave."

'Ripple effect'

Event organizers say businesses that make their money on cannabis don't work in isolation, but people can sometimes forget about the many other businesses that have a stake in the industry as well. 

"Growing cannabis and having a product on a shelf is one aspect of it, and people don't think about the transportation behind it, the manufacturing behind it, the supply logistics behind it, the education behind it," said Shaman Ferraro, CEO of GoCanna, which hosted the expo. 

Shaman Ferraro, CEO of GoCanna, says part of the goal of the expo was to bring together a wide variety of businesses that have a stake in the cannabis industry. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Ferraro said bringing those stakeholders together was a key focus for the event.

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About the Author

Sarah MacMillan is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at