To kick off the Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo in Toronto, the three-day affair started with a preliminary cannabis business conference, held on Thursday (May 24).

The conference featured a wide array of panels and speakers from different corners of the cannabis industry, from governance and distribution to branding and finance. One panel focused on cannabis development in the retail space touched on how freshly licensed distributors will bring prior “black market” consumers into the legal space.

Panelist Mark Goliger, CEO of National Access Cannabis (TSXV:META), told the Investing News Network (INN) about his company’s plans to integrate products from licensed producers in Canada. Goliger spoke about how many working relationships are currently in progress between both medicinal and recreational cannabis, and said that Tilray is one producer the company has locked down.

The next panel touched on the importance of branding and how some cannabis companies are forced to work their way around restrictive policies when advertising a product through social media.

Felicia Snyder, Hiku Brands’ (CSE:HIKU) senior vice president of growth, spoke to INN about the crucial steps cannabis brands need to take in order to evolve on the branding stage.

“We really need to be understanding what the consumer needs are as they evolve,” she said. “Understanding what those consumers need once they’re introduced to the category and what the category involves, more product formats, etc. — I think is going to be critical to how a brand is able to go along with the consumer on that journey.”

One of the afternoon’s final panels honed in on the financial part of the cannabis space and how the investment industry can effectively get in on one of Canada’s hottest up-and-coming commodities.

Martin Landry, GMP Securities’ managing director of equity services, discussed one of the key traits he looks for in a cannabis company when determining its valuation on the market.

“The first thing is the high level of profitability that these companies will achieve,” he said during the panel. “We think that they’re going to be able to generate margins between 25 to 40 percent; these are really high profitability levels. We think they’re going to be able to run at these levels for a couple of years before the division heats up.”

On Friday (May 25), the Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo hit the ground running with an industry day, with panel discussions and vendors as far as the eye could see.

In a conversation revolving around corporate cannabis, and touching on topics such as industry growth and profitability, panelists discussed the importance of maintaining a consistent brand and ideology.

AC Braddock, CEO of Eden Labs and a panelist in the discussion, highlighted the importance of consistency amongst her staff in terms of mentality surrounding both the brand and product.

“This is about a vision-driven industry, it’s about social justice and health and wellbeing. So it isn’t difficult to incorporate all those ideals into your brand, but the most important thing is incorporating those ideals into your team,” she said.

“Your team is the people that are customer facing, so if they don’t believe it, they’re not ingrained in it, it doesn’t [get] from you out to the world,” Braddock added.

One of Friday’s final panels revolved around collaborations, partnerships and M&A activity. Panelist heavyweights included Michael Black, a director at PwC Canada, and Rene Cormier, vice president of corporate finance at KPMG.

Cormier responded to a question about how the market has priced its valuations on certain companies, and what factors into a stock being potentially overvalued or underpriced.

“There’s no silver bullet, there’s no clear-cut answer — you ask different people, you’ll get different answers,” he said. “What I will say is that maybe there’s an important thing [in taking] a step back [to] frame how we think about valuations — so is it fair price or high price or under price? Relative to what?”

Stay tuned as the INN team covers the final two days of the Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo on Saturday (May 26) and Sunday (May 27).

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correct the name of Martin Landry and his research agency, and to add the ticker symbols of the various public companies mentioned in this article.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Cannabis for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Olivia Da Silva, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: Hiku Brands is a client of the Investing News Network. This article is not paid-for content.

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