Advancing change in the cannabis industry

Keenan Pascal is the founder and CEO of Token Naturals, a local company creating greater access in the cannabis industry.

By receiving a licensing milestone from Health Canada, an Edmonton-based company is continuing its mission to reduce the barriers to entry and drive innovation in the cannabis industry.

“We're quite excited to bring new products and a new kind of innovation to the cannabis industry, and then walk our values across the board on what we're putting into the market,” said Keenan Pascal, CEO and co-founder of Token Naturals, a full-service cannabis production and manufacturing company.

The company was awarded a Sales Amendment from Health Canada in December 2021, which is the keystone in a trifecta of licenses for the cannabis industry (it also owns a processing and a research license). It marks the final regulatory step required to bring cannabis products to market.

"Edmonton is going to be an absolute powerhouse in terms of innovation, startups, new ideas and through leadership in Canada and North America and we’re excited.”

Bringing products direct to market

An independent Canadian company, Token Naturals manufactures high-quality cannabis products for companies and consumers in its federally licensed facility.

With the sales license, the company can now sell its clients’ products to retailers and consumers, creating greater access to the cannabis industry. It’ll also maintain its existing business-to-business model of manufacturing cannabis products and selling them back to the original license holder.

There will be Token Naturals-branded products on shelves as soon as April, starting with drink additives, which are an evolution of the bitters concept, said Pascal. (He is also the CEO and founder of Token Bitters, a local artisanal aromatic bitters company.) Oils, edibles and flower products will follow later in the year.

By adding direct-to-market to its flight of services — which include product development, formulation marketing and sales support — small producers and startup businesses can specialize in one or two unique products, which requires far less upfront capital than the large facilities that blitzed the industry in the beginning.

“Everybody has a seat at the table; our business model can help producers who don’t have a full facility validate their process and bring their first couple of skews to market,” said Pascal.

“For the young entrepreneurs, this industry is still very new and exciting — nobody’s missed the boat.”

Reducing barriers to entry in the industry

From the beginning, Token Naturals’ business model created opportunities for those underrepresented in the industry. As a one-stop shop, the company can bring products from concept to sales, which is appealing to smaller producers — which are often owned by females and people of colour — who lack access to full facilities and investment opportunities to fund product development.

The company further differs from its competitors by operating out of a facility that can adapt or grow as needed, meaning Token Naturals can more consistently compete on quality and cost for its clients.

"Our business model is really tailored to filling the checkboxes so people can bring their product to market without the challenges we had to face,” said Pascal.

Providing mentorship opportunities

Diversity has been ingrained in the company’s business model from the very beginning. As such, the company is a leader in discussions to reduce barriers to entry for underrepresented entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. As someone who’s long seen the value to both sides of mentorship, Pascal is often participating in panel discussions with stakeholders across the country to highlight ways of incorporating diversity into hiring practices, corporate cultures and business models.

The federal government has also approached Token Naturals for their recommendations on how to increase representation in the industry, said Pascal.

“It’s quite empowering to see that the decisions we made as a small startup way back in the day are actually influencing change four or five years later at the federal level,” said Pascal, who urges entrepreneurs to reach out on social media if they have an innovative product idea or new concept to discuss.

“We have an open-door policy in terms of people trying to get into the space; we really want to have more conversations with more people and drive innovation.”

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