Welcome to Outside-In with DCN where we interview upcoming startups and businesses in the cannabis industry. Each interview you will get to meet the founders taking a leap into building a business they believe. Gain knowledge of their services, their mission and what makes each of the unique.
Meet Emerald Health Therapeutics
On this Outside-In, with DCN we spoke with Executive Chairman of Emerald Health Therapeutics, Dr. Avtar Dhillon.
DCN: Dr. Avtar Dhillon, we are excited for our readers to learn more about Emerald Health Therapeutics, to kick this off, can you please share with our readers a little bit more about yourself.
Dr. Avtar Dhillon: I’m a life sciences executive, who came up through the ranks by first by completing an honors bachelor of sciences degree in human physiology, and went on to complete a medical doctor degree. I then became a venture capitalist and finally found my true passion for building healthcare companies.
After forming several successful companies, I’m now extremely excited about the opportunity at Emerald Health Therapeutics (TSXV: EMH; OTCQX: EMHTF), an emerging leader in the global cannabis industry. Emerald has a federal license to cultivate and sell cannabis on a massive scale – we not only cater to the entire multi-billion dollar Canadian market but also have the ability to export to other countries where there are similar federal laws for medicinal cannabis.
DCN: When did you decide that you wanted to start working in the cannabis industry and were there any challenges you faced when making the transition?
Dr. Avtar Dhillon: Like most non-users, it seemed very far-fetched five years ago that I would be embracing such a massive opportunity to bring the cannabis industry into mainstream medicine and leverage the adult-use market profit potential. Prior to working in the biotech industry, I was a physician who practiced family medicine for 12 years. I’ve always focused my career on how to best serve the needs of patients, and embraced the use of natural remedies along with traditional medicine.
Even though I had read about the use of cannabis for nausea in cancer patients and weight loss control in AIDS patients, I had never prescribed it as a practicing physician, nor did I know about its additional medical benefits. After reading more literature on medical cannabis, I couldn’t stop myself from going deeper into the science and evidence, particularly for children with intractable seizures. Once I learned about its use in other indications such epilepsy and spasticity in MS, as well as a reduction in opiates, use for pain management, I was hooked. I couldn’t believe how much potential existed.
However, its potential was marginalized by stereotypes and legislation largely not founded on scientific evidence. With my background, as a scientist, clinician, and entrepreneur with operational experience in the healthcare industry, it’s an incredible opportunity to apply my skill set to help shape the industry!
DCN: Can you share the backstory of Emerald Health Therapeutics and how the idea evolved?
Dr. Avtar Dhillon: Once I saw the opportunity, I immediately started looking for the right vehicle to make my mark. It didn’t take long to find that Canada was the leading country that allows cannabis research and development (R&D) and a federal process to become a Licensed Producer (LP). I was lucky enough to come across a Canadian LP that – along with a group of like-minded individuals – we could take a majority control in. A company called T-Bird Pharma was the predecessor of Emerald Health Therapeutics.
In 2014, it was one of 13 companies in Canada licensed under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. With a federal license to legally conduct R&D, we couldn’t have asked for more, but when the Liberal Party was elected, it had legalization of adult-use cannabis as one of its main priorities. Suddenly, our R&D opportunity became an unprecedented opportunity to fund our research with cash flow from legalized adult-use cannabis in Canada.
DCN: I would also like to state, congratulations! Emerald Health recently partnered with Village Farms, what does this partnership exactly mean?
Dr. Avtar Dhillon: Our partnership with Village Farms – an industry leading greenhouse grower – positions us to become a prominent, low-cost producer in the Canadian market and worldwide. It allows us to work with an experienced team that has decades of knowledge in greenhouse growing, and combine it with Emerald’s expertise in the cannabis industry. There is a huge opportunity to take advantage of large-scale production and help replace the black market with the end of prohibition.
DCN: With this partnership, I noticed you are looking to build out a 1.1million square foot greenhouse, I have always found it fascinating learning about the methods large cultivation sites utilize so that the cannabis quality doesn’t lessen, can you give us any insight into some of the technology or methods your team plans on using?
Dr. Avtar Dhillon: We partnered with a team that has extensive knowledge, technology, and capabilities to execute large-scale greenhouse cultivation. A large greenhouse footprint enables more efficient operating logistics and economies of scale — all of which result in a significantly lower cost compared to indoor growing. Based on our extensive modeling, we believe we can achieve a cost of production less than $1.00 per gram.
DCN: With establishing your company in Canada, you have an opportunity to distribute globally to other countries through the right partnerships and licenses, can you give us a peek into the future plans of distribution?
Dr. Avtar Dhillon: Yes, Emerald’s goal is to become a leading low-cost producer not only in Canada but on a global scale. There is an opportunity to build out capabilities in federally legal places, such as Canada, and quickly move into new legal markets as time goes on. Our focus has been on the globalization of cannabis products, and distributing our products to other countries will be part of our growth strategy.
Emerald just acquired Licensed Dealer Northern Vine to enhance product development and export/import to other countries. Emerald has its eyes set on other markets, including the US, and will assess when it is appropriate to move into new legal markets, pending legislation and market opportunity.
DCN: As we move to 2018, everyone is watching California, do you think California will impact Canada in any way?
Dr. Avtar Dhillon: For the near-term, we can expect California to be on track as one of the leading markets in the cannabis industry. One of the biggest changes, and perhaps challenges, will be how to merge the state’s medical and adult-use programs into one.
I think Canadian industry representatives and lawmakers will be looking at California as a template and how to successfully roll out recreational cannabis. Also, legalization in California will help to further mainstream cannabis and bring it out of the darkness and into the light.
DCN: Where do you see the cannabis industry moving towards in 2018?
Dr. Avtar Dhillon: The legal cannabis industry accelerated at an outstanding pace this past year. If this growth continues, it is estimated to lead to a $22.6 billion market in 2021. I think we can expect to see more countries legalize cannabis, as other governments are driven by potential tax and economic boosts from this industry.
With the legalization of cannabis, there will be increasing demand for new products — particularly cannabis oils, edibles, and even alcoholic beverages that contain cannabis. I believe the cannabis industry will likely see a wave of consolidation, even as it expands. Some companies will team up via mergers or acquisitions to expand their offerings. The companies that are going to flourish are the ones that can industrialize and grow on a large scale.
DCN: What challenges have you faced as a cannabis startup company?
Dr. Avtar Dhillon: There are lingering misconceptions associated with cannabis, which can create some hesitancy for potential investors. However, we are seeing a growing investor base and increased interest in the cannabis industry. We’re excited to apply the formal processes of the pharmaceutical world, in particular, to shift observations from anecdotal to clinically proven. This will help to provide greater understanding and educate others about the benefits of cannabis through clinical studies.
DCN: As we all start fresh for the new year, what is the best piece of advice you would like to share with your fellow entrepreneurs?
Dr. Avtar Dhillon: For a company to be successful, entrepreneurs need to be passionate about the type of product they’re providing to consumers. At Emerald, we’re dedicated to putting out a quality product and have a strong understanding of compliance and regulation.
DCN: Thank you for sharing with us more about Emerald Health Therapeutics, we look forward to seeing the growth of the company in 2018 before we let you go, is there anything else you would like to share with the DCN audience?
Dr. Avtar Dhillon: We’re putting in place the components for creating consistent high-value downstream products for both the recreational and medical markets. We have an industry-leading pool of cannabis genetics and a strong focus on product innovation that we believe will differentiate us from our competitors.
Our team believes cannabinoid medicines present an unparalleled opportunity for use as therapeutic alternatives to a host of conventional pharmaceutical medicines that are typically much more toxic, potentially less efficacious, and often highly addictive. We expect that proprietary intellectual property created through our product innovation efforts will be beneficial in creating competitive advantages, consumer confidence, and product preference for a growing new wave of adult users. We also would like to invite you to learn more about our company and product offerings. If you’d like more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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