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Odd pot ventures: CBD back rubs, weedless brownies and cannabis cosmetics

A client receives a massage at Ste. Anne’s Spa. (Supplied)

Recreational marijuana legalization is passing on a contact high to entrepreneurs in businesses beyond bud. Many are targeting a more discerning clientele expected to cautiously embrace cannabis after Oct. 17 in Canada.

A recent study by Deloitte called for the rise of the “conservative experimenter:” A 34- to 54-year-old, with a university or graduate school education, and “family or other responsibilities.”

The prospect of “responsibility-havers” rubbing shoulders with shaggy stoner stereotypes in a dispensary checkout line bodes well for businesses aiming to normalize a product with a criminal past.

Here’s a look at three entrepreneurs capitalizing on the sidelines of cannabis:

Reefer rubdowns?

CBD products available at Ste. Anne’s Spa (Supplied)

Not exactly. The canna-massage at Ste. Anne’s spa uses CBD oil, a non-psychoactive cannabis compound known for its pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties.

It’s relaxing, but it won’t get you stoned, explains Natalie Koshowski, Ste. Anne’s director of spa, wellness and skin nourishment.

The spa, located on a sprawling country property about 120 kilometres east of Toronto, introduced the $155 canna-massage last month. The treatment lasts for an hour, and comes with a bottle of CBD oil to take home.

Koshowski said about 40 people have had one so far, and another 100 are booked through the end of the year.

“Right away, as soon as we introduced it, everyone wanted to try it,” she told Yahoo Canada Finance. “It’s a bit controversial. But the product that we are using is hemp CBD. It doesn’t have any psychoactive effects.”

Ste. Anne’s is a picturesque place for lounging in a plush robe in between gourmet meals, treatments and wellness classes. Nobody is going to mistake it for a hippie commune. That said, Koshowski notes the on-site bakery could one day be used to cook up something extra relaxing to eat post-legalization.

“We’re open to any and all ideas,” she said. “(But) we’re not going to be wanting everyone walking around the spa smoking joints.”

Pot-less pot brownies

Retreat brownies (Supplied)

For now, reTreat is selling upscale brownie and cookie mixes, with a side of instructions for novices on how not to eat too much cannabis.

But what the Calgary-based company is actually doing is building up brand recognition before Ottawa releases its rules on selling cannabis-infused treats.

Red seal-certified chef John Michael MacNeil is the culinary brains behind the frequently-sold out line of gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO mixes made in small batches with high-quality ingredients, like French chocolate.

He hopes clear instructions on how to infuse the product with cannabis at home will build trust with new users. The hope is that trust will help drive sales when the company starts selling products with psychoactive THC, once that becomes legal.

“You want people to know that they are safe and the product is reliable and consistent,” MacNeil told Yahoo Canada Finance. “If you have the corner of a cookie and then you’re leveled for two days, that’s not really fair to the customer. You make a bad name for yourself when people have bad experiences.”

The Deloitte report found nearly 60 per cent of pot consumers plan to purchase and use edibles.

MacNeil expects snack-based products for home consumption, like reTreat’s, will dominate the cannabis edibles market for the foreseeable future. Pot-infused meals in restaurants, he said, will pose new challenges.

“If you’re at a restaurant and 65 to 100 people are consuming edibles, everybody is experiencing different effects. It could be a crazy situation,” he said. “I think it will come down to certification of the chef or cook preparing the meals.”

Shaking up makeup

Evio Beauty Group partnered with Aurora Cannabis Inc. (ACB.TO) in July to launch a co-branded line of hemp seed oil and CBD-infused cosmetics. But the company is more interested in removing ingredients than adding them.

CEO Brandi Leifso said the buzz around her new ingredient of choice is a coincidence. Evio is making a play for ethical consumers, not stoners.

“We’re able to take out is the use of animal by products,” Leifso told Yahoo Canada Finance. “Horse urine is actually a preservative. There are a lot of animal byproducts that you wouldn’t expect to see, like whale byproducts. It’s not necessary to have them in there. Cannabis is a tool that can help us speed up that process.”

Leifso said she founded the company five years ago while living in a women’s shelter.

“I had $15 and a laptop. I photoshopped a catalog of products that didn’t yet exist. Then I shopped it around to local boutiques and made presales,” she said.

Privately-held Evio expects $3 million in sales next year. The company also plans to open its first physical retail location, and partner with a large department store in 2019.

Leifso said she expects cannabis products will crop up in all sorts of useful places, most of which will be unrelated to getting people high (which her products do not, for the record). For example, she said Evio is testing hemp-reinforced packaging that could reduce the company’s plastic use by 45 per cent.

“People are going to start approaching cannabis in a better way once they see it improving their life,” said Leifso.

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