IACET: How long has Canopy Growth been around?
Canopy: We’ve been here since 2013. Canopy was the first cannabis company in North America to be publicly traded. And in 2018 we became the first cannabis-producing company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Today, we operate 24 retail cannabis stores across Canada, under the names Tweed and Tokyo Smoke and 15 franchise stores with more than a dozen on the way.
IACET: So, you’ve accomplished a lot in just seven years...
Canopy: Quite a bit, really. We were the first Canadian producer to be approved to export dried cannabis to Germany, and our wholly owned German subsidiary continues to offer an ever-increasing variety of products for sale through German pharmacies. And we were the first to strike a strategic relationship with a Fortune 500 beverage alcohol supplier, Constellation Brands, to bring exciting new products to market, and to enter into ground-breaking supply agreements to sell adult-use cannabis to provincial governments across the country. In fact, Canopy was also the first to offer Compassionate Pricing to make medical cannabis affordable for patients.
IACET: So, obviously, medical cannabis is legal in Canada?
Canopy: Yes, but not only for medical use. Canada legalized cannabis for adults in 2018, becoming the first major nation to do so. While 2% of all Canadians hold medical cannabis prescriptions, and 3% of Canadians consume cannabis for Medical reasons only, about one in four Canadians self-identifies as a cannabis consumer.
IACET: That’s a lot of recreational use, isn’t it? What reasons do consumers give for their use?
Canopy: We hear a variety of reasons for cannabis use. Some people say it helps them sleep, some use it to relieve pain, some to reduce anxiety. Recreationally, it’s seen as an alternative to alcohol; people say it makes life more interesting, heightens their senses, improves their mood, and even makes them laugh.
IACET: You mentioned Germany; Do you also market brands in the United States?
Canopy: In the US we have our Martha Stewart brand that is launching this month, as well as First & Free, Biosteel, Storz & Bickel, This Works, and more to come. The products within these brands are CBD dominant and feature skincare products through ThisWorks, sports beverages with Biosteel, and lifestyle products through First & Free. There is something for everyone, and our offerings are all about supplementing wellness. Our Tweed brand cannabis is available in some states via our partnership with Acreage Holdings, who offer a diverse portfolio of cannabis cultivation, processing and dispensing operations in the United States.
IACET: Looking back on your time in training and development, what stands out as a major learning point for you?
Canopy: The most challenging piece for me was that we were racing against an industry that was continually changing. It seemed there was new research being released about the product every day. At the same time, we were trying to set up a Learning and Development department. That led us to a great consultant who suggested success and scalability would come faster with accreditation. Many of us had come from shops where training was thrown together, where we always felt we were just surviving and pushing courses out as quickly as possible. Going through the accreditation process allowed us to set ourselves up in a way that guaranteed we would have success, not only as a Department but for our learners.
IACET: What types of courses do you offer?
Canopy: There’s a lot of misinformation in this industry, so we’ve focused on making our training the gold standard. Our first course was developed for internal retail employees, so we simply call it “Cannabis Fundamentals.” Initially, it was facilitator-led and in-person, then it evolved into a blended learning course, and with COVID it went online. Another program, “Hi. Society,” is offered to any Canadian cannabis retailer who works with Canopy. It’s a 12-module course that allows sellers to learn the fundamentals of cannabis as well as how to explain them to their consumers. When we started to pursue accreditation, we weren't sure if we would be selling or education or just doing it internally. But today, our sales agents and territory managers encourage their clients to engage in the education, and well over a thousand have.
IACET: What is the most unusual, surprising, or strange thing people should know about your industry?
Canopy: I think there’s still a widely held myth that cannabis is used only by hippies and slackers. People are often surprised to learn their neighbors and their friends. It's used for mental and physical health, as well as recreationally as you would an alcoholic beverage. We still have a societal adjustment to make, in terms of how we view cannabis. People might be surprised to learn their doctor has a joint on weekends or your daycare provider may finish off her night with a cannabis beverage, or their grandparents use medical cannabis.
IACET: So why do you work with IACET?
Canopy: As an international organization, we wanted an accreditation that was recognized in the other countries where we market. So the ANSI/IACET standards were important to us.
IACET: Looking back on your training career, what was the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Canopy: For me, it was shifting my emphasis from the program to the learner. As a facilitator, you can get into the habit of viewing all your training courses about what do I need, what what's important to me, what's going to make my life easier. Going through the accreditation process was a really big reminder to focus on the learners’ needs and the tools and everything else that can bring value to them, because otherwise you're running a course for yourself, and your outcome is possibly only going to benefit you.
IACET: What advice would you pass along to people considering accreditation?
Canopy: Take the time to approach it thoroughly and thoughtfully and visualize where you want to be as an organization in the future. We wanted to grow and to achieve more success; that’s why we decided to pursue accreditation, and the focus on growth has helped shape our program. The credibility issue was a big deal for us. We see our relationships with our franchisees as partnerships, and being an IACET-certified training organization was a serious value proposition we could offer our franchisees.
IACET: Do you think IACET certification has a specific benefit from the learner’s standpoint?
Canopy: Absolutely. From the first touch, our emphasis is on the learner, which makes the learning experience more of a white glove service, as opposed to something that seems canned.
IACET: What was the hardest thing about going through the accreditation process?
Canopy: It was very intensive, but it was also a labor of love. Maybe we went over the top in our application, but we wanted to be sure it was complete. As a result, we have a great resource for onboarding new employees. Understanding the IACET Standards and how we operate is incredibly important here. And the accreditation process created a sort of “institutional memory” that will last through any internal transitions.
IACET: What learning management system are you using?
Canopy: We use Absorb as our LMS and Lucid as our authoring tool. Absorb is user-friendly and our partner groups, from other departments, are putting their own content on it as well.
IACET: What do you think training is going to look like in the future?
Canopy: Well, if COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we're going to see a lot more online learning. I see that as a terrific opportunity for everyone to be a bit more creative about how we access the learner, how we engage the learner, and how these programs can run much more remotely in the future. And so I expect we will be leaning on technology-focused interactive programming more than ever before.
IACET: Finally, what one wish do you have for the training industry?
Canopy: I would love to see those outside the training industry gain a better understanding of the importance of education and training and the value they bring to an organization when they’re well integrated into business strategy. Having a strong learning team adds tremendous value for an organization.