To mark the recent legalization of recreational marijuana, we check in with some of the key players in the B.C. cannabis world. From pot growers to government officials to medical professionals, meet the people helping move the industry forward and keep British Columbians safe. Todays subject is Sylvain Toutant, director of True Leaf Medicine International

After 30 years as an executive for different companies, including almost three as CEO of DavidsTea in his hometown of Montreal, Sylvain Toutant joined True Leaf Medicine’s board in July. The Vernon-based company has 17 full-time staff and two main branches: True Leaf Med, which hopes to become a licensed producer of medicinal cannabis by this fall; and True Leaf Pet, which markets hemp-based products for pets worldwide. 

Why did you join True Leaf?

I was looking at the industry from the outside in, wondering which company could come up with a play that would be based on creating value and a brand. I’m a pet lover, have a couple of dogs—it’s always been part of my life. Even though True Leaf is in the cannabis space, their business plan was calling, first and foremost, to build a brand and create a relationship with consumers around treats for dogs and the pet industry.

How do you think you can further True Leaf’s brand?

I really believe that a brand is an emotion. You need to be able to create a story. I spend a lot of time in pet food stores just looking at consumers and how they act around the treats department and what they’re basing their decisions on, so we’re doing a lot of research around consumer behaviours and making sure we find the right positioning. The idea here is to create a brand that has a real purpose.

How does this compare to your work with DavidsTea?

DavidsTea was really about understanding the millennials and their relationship with tea, and it was an alternative drink to whatever was out there on the market. It was about making it very accessible to them and creating an emotion. We want to do the same thing. We want to be something that is really set apart in the industry; that people will understand the benefits; that will be an alternative to a lot of other products out there—and [we want to] build a relationship with our consumers.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length