Medical marijuana company CEO says branding for recreational market will be 'edgy'

The CEO of a huge medical marijuana company in Leamington, Ont., is calling the government's plan for legalization a real "game-changer."
Preparing for legalization 3:47

The CEO of a medical marijuana company in Leamington, Ont., is calling the federal government's plan for legalization a real "game-changer."

Vic Neufeld says it's good news for his company.  He says the company is ready to branch out into the recreational market and Aphria is expanding its growing capacity to 1 million square feet by July. 

The CBC's Lisa Xing sat down with Neufeld to talk about how the company is preparing. 

Q:  Are you concerned that opening the market will create less demand for your product? 

Vic Neufeld: It's like making your own homemade wine or beer. I think it's less than two per cent of the Canadian population who actually do that. I think people are going to try it. They're going to say it's a lot of work. Just buying the seeds. Are they really good seeds? The right strains? Then find a place in your home. Every day? You're going to be tender-loving these plants? It's not going to be happening in a meaningful way. It's going to be a very difficult task for others to enter this race if Bill Blair and the Liberal government bring forward refined rules for recreational. 

Q: You're basically hoping the government will do its due diligence, with both medical and recreational, enough that you can essentially still stay in business. 

VN: As long as what the MMPR has started, don't throw it away. It's tight regulations ... behind every gram of marijuana we sell. That needs to stay intact. 

Q: What steps are you taking to prepare for legalization? 

VN: I want to be edgy. It's absolutely going to be edgy. It's going to be our Aphria, pharma-looking medicinal bottle under MMPR. That's who we wanted to be. That's who we are. We will continue. But, under recreational, do you want to play in a billion-dollar market or a $5-billion dollar market? We will never let go of the medical side, though. It's been the bedrock of our business and it will continue to be. There's so much logic behind continuing on that path, but we need to turn our attention. Spring of 2017, you're going to blink three times and it's already going to be here. So we're really marching forward. 

Q: Edgy how? 

VN: You want to be spoken about not in a grandfatherly way. Millennials. Those are the areas of focus to us, and then how to reach out to those individuals. Are we going to have a booth at Dundas Square next 4-20? No, probably not, but you get the drift. 

Q: What does that involve in terms of marketing, advertising? 

VN: We haven't decided on anything yet, but we do have our branding options. We're close to making a decision on colour scheme of label, packaging design. Not necessarily our medical, cobalt-blue bottle for medical purposes, all over the top stuff. 

Q: How challenging is it to base a business on an industry and landscape that's constantly changing? 

VN: It's not overwhelming. It's part of growing up as part of a fledgling industry and one of 30 LPs (licensed producers) today. It is challenging.