Budding business

Alumnus heads up cannabis company ahead of a big year

Todd Masse
Year of Graduation:
Job Title:
Cannabis Compliance President

Welcome to 2018 – and the green rush of the decade. That, according to Cannabis Compliance President Todd Masse (Marketing ’91) is what’s in store at the kickoff of a year that will see the legalization of cannabis. This summer, Canada will become only the second country in the world, behind Uruguay, to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana nationwide. It’s poised to become big business. A 2016 report by consulting firm Deloitte puts the sales of marijuana, in the first year of legalization alone, at $8.7 billion. The federal government’s Parliamentary Budget Office, meanwhile, estimates Canadians will consume 655 metric tons of cannabis in 2018.

Add all that up, and business is blooming for Masse. Since he joined Cannabis Compliance in April 2017, he’s increased staff from eight to more than 30, bringing on experts and building partnerships in food safety, security for growers, and transportation. He relies on those experts to consult with clients and offer the best advice. Masse sees a future where marijuana-growing facilities won’t be much different than those where ketchup or salad dressing is bottled. “People are coming with shiny eyes about growing weed, but this is a business,” he explains.

Todd Masse, Marketing ’91

A business that, like alcohol sales, will have heavy government involvement. Current proposals would allow provinces to oversee the distribution and sale of the product, while the federal government will control its production – everything from seed generation to growing, transportation and selling. Helping companies navigate those rules is where Cannabis Compliance comes in.

Cannabis Compliance’s clients come from the entire industry – from growers to shop owners. In late 2017, for instance, Masse’s team helped National Access Cannabis, a medical marijuana company, apply to the Manitoba government to open retail stores there. Masse says Cannabis Compliance currently has 120 applications with Health Canada on behalf of clients, and another 30 arrive in his office each day. Meanwhile, the demand for Cannabis Compliance’s services is also poised to grow as it expands globally. Marijuana is now legal in five US States, including California, where weed became legal on Jan. 1. He believes Ontario can help meet the demand, along the way bringing jobs to small towns where manufacturers have pulled out. Tweed Farms, for instance, produces cannabis in the factory where Hershey once made chocolate in Smiths Falls, Ontario.

“People are coming with shiny eyes about growing weed, but this is a business.”

Fast facts on legal weed:

  • 22% of Canadian adults consume marijuana occasionally
  • 6 million Canadians are projected to consume cannabis in 2018
  • The Canadian marketplace for recreational marijuana sales: $5 billion to $8.7 billion
  • In 2018: Canadians 15 years old and over will consume an estimated 655 metric tons of cannabis

Sources: Legalized Cannabis: Fiscal Considerations, Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer; Recreational Marijuana Insights and Opportunities, Deloitte

Being in the nascent stages of a burgeoning industry is comfortable territory for Masse. Much of his career has been in the food and beverage industry, often with new startups. He led the growth of Just Eat, a take-out food delivery app, in Canada. And in 2016 he was the vice-president of sales and marketing at Steeped Tea, a direct selling company featured on CBC Dragon’s Den. He says everything he learned in those businesses fits well into the ever-growing cannabis market.“For me, I’m coming in running a business tacitly,” he explains. “The category, it’s really fun, but to me this is just applying how I run a business.”

He’s also excited to leave his impact on an industry emerging from the black market so it can be safer. Government production standards mean marjiuana will be free of harmful pesticides, and kept out of criminals’ hands where it can be easily sold to minors.

“This is just another product that needs to be controlled, regulated, and understood,” he says. “I have kids, two are under age 18 and one is in university. I don’t want this falling into their hands. I very much want to protect them and every other kid out there.”