When Canada legalized marijuana, the Cannabis Act made it clear: in order for a company to test their products on humans at the development stage—that is, have subjects sample them before releasing them to consumers—it must be granted an additional class of license. Only with a research license, a document that requires a separate (and rather onerous) application can a cannabis-containing product be legally tested on humans.

This might not seem like that big a deal until you consider how poorly the first wave of cannabis products rolled out in Canada: despite being backed by billions of dollars, many large licensed producers found themselves plagued with scandals, chief among them product quality issues. In 2018, consumers complained of dry, underweight, and odorless cannabis, and then, when the second wave of regulations permitted edibles and vape products in 2019, infused beverages had issues related to canning and potency. The list went on.

Since then, the consensus is that quality has started to improve, and while not all companies are public about their utilization of the research license for human trials, a trend is emerging. Smaller companies with more strategic plays and less bloated employee rosters are beginning to carve out niches

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