“Always the Focus is Quality.”

AtlantiCann’s Christine Halef was a pharmacist in Halifax when she began thinking of alternative medicine and our dependence as a society on prescription drugs. Daughter of Turkish-Syrian entrepreneurs, Halef was raised to think independently, bet on herself and seize opportunity where it lives. In 2012, that opportunity was medical cannabis and soon, Halef assembled a team and built AtlantiCann Medical, one of the original medical cannabis companies in Canada. Eleven years later, Christine Halef is still selling weed.
“I can’t say it wasn’t business motivated,” Halef told KIND, “but I will say, since day one, the team has put our heart and soul in the brand.”
With the fast-growing MSIKU recreational cannabis brand now the lead horse in her AtlantiCann stable, Halef is still running her company, one of Canada’s only original founders still calling the shots in legal weed. As a special salute to Halef’s esteemed accomplishments, and in acknowledgment of last Wednesday’s International Women’s Day, KIND sat down with Halef to talk cannabis consumers, Halifax bud and the team behind her that’s made her eleven years in legal weed such a high.
  • KIND: It’s funny that you chose weed in the first place.

    Christine Halef: I come from a very entrepreneurial family, my father’s from Turkey and my mother’s from Syria, and our entrepreneurial spirit is strong. I was interested in becoming a doctor, but didn’t want to go to school for that long.

  • KIND: Hence. . . pharmacy.

    CH: Yes, and the pharmacy where I was working specialised in alternative medicine, so that broadened my scope and research of what else medicine could do, and be. At that same time, commercial cannabis applications became open to apply and I thought: what a great way to marry my interests in health care with my desire to do my own thing.

  • KIND: You’ll know better than anyone given your broad history, what the hell is happening right now in legal weed?

    CH: Not the moment anyone foresaw, that’s for sure.

  • KIND: Less people would’ve jumped in.

    CH: I think we’re in a limbo period. We have an oversupply of product and lower demand due to the oversupply, plus a competing grey market, which affects our industry as a whole. Coupled with inflation, it’s an uneasy time in this industry.

MSIKU CANNABIS: "For people who know the difference."
  • KIND: Obviously you saw the news this month about Canopy.

    CH: That shocked everyone. Here’s the largest LP that had the most capital behind them and the largest presence, and then to shut down a facility and let go 800 employees? That shook me to the core and I know a lot of other individuals that run cannabis operations felt the same way.

  • KIND: Almost a perfect metaphor for the end of one epoch and the start of the next.

    CH: You can say the same thing about the OCS deciding to look at their margins to help producers and retailers. Things in cannabis have to shift from the regulatory side to help cannabis brands grow.

  • KIND: Can cannabis brands still grow?

    CH: Absolutely. We’re growing. But our industry is at a pivotal point and we’ve all absorbed as much as we can with price compression, and to see Smiths Falls close, you know, it’s scary. But something has to change in the industry.

  • KIND: How have you steered your ship so steadily all these years?

    CH: We've always, always kept things lean.

  • KIND: How?

    CH: Being nimble, with a small executive team and putting our resources into our operations while prioritizing our focus on maintaining quality—alway prioritizing quality.

  • KIND: I think quality might have been forgotten about during the earliest days of legal weed.

    CH: We cared about quality from day one here and we still do, that’s been a primary focus of our brand identity. Our team knows weed and is passionate about it, and the direction of our company is heavily influenced by our team. If they like a strain, we go to market with it.

  • KIND: Maybe that’s a sign of your leadership style.

    CH: I don’t want to babysit anyone. We hire the best people and give them autonomy. These are people that are passionate about cannabis since before legislation, and we are lucky that many members of our team have been here since day one.

  • KIND: Your tag line has been, “For people who know the difference.” Is that still your value prop—the weed smoker’s weed?

    CH: People who know weed will enjoy it, yes and understand the difference. That’s always been our claim. But at the same time, someone who might not have tried it since college or the senior who might be hesitant because of the stigma—we do want to reach them too. We’ll always make quality products, but we also need to adapt to users new to the space.

  • KIND: Time for the inevitable question about being a cannabis female CEO.

    CH: Certainly I don’t think there’s as many women in cannabis in executive positions as there are men.

  • KIND: Are things changing?

    CH: It’s growing, but we’re not where we could be.

  • KIND: How has your gender affected your work?

    CH: It can be intimidating, being in a boardroom full of men and feeling imposter syndrome. There’s just not many women in executive positions and that’s not a reflection of talent, but of your own belief. I believe in my company and always have, but I think the industry needs to change more and faster than it has. The industry would be healthier for it.

  • KIND: Are women in weed reaching out to you?

    CH: I’m always happy to offer my support. Always. Especially around the licensing process. I definitely know the struggle and have enjoyed speaking at a few seminars at local universities, in the hopes that I can help women with their confidence to go for executive roles. I wish there had been female mentors I could have reached out to at the beginning.

  • KIND: Our readers are legal weed buyers who are actively engaged in this community. What would you say to them?

    CH: Our team is proud of the product we put onto the shelves and the perception that cannabis is run by big conglomerates that only care about making money at any cost is not the case at AtlantiCann. We feel incredibly fortunate to have seen success in a market that is experiencing a lot of challenges This success is not solely due to me— I can’t take credit for it. Our team has a deep understanding of cannabis culture, they live it. The creators and consumers of cannabis are the ones steering the direction of our company. The MSIKU brand isn’t me, it’s a reflection of their passion and expertise. We are proud to be a part of this community, and we’re committed to creating products that meet their high standards.

  • KIND: Whatever you’re doing, it’s working. We’re really impressed with your experience in the game (and, of course, the quality of your weed).

    CH: From day one, it was integral to me to build a great culture and team, and provide the autonomy for their passion to be unhindered. The people with me are here for a reason—it’s a passion, a privilege, to grow really great weed with them.

    For more information on Christine Halef and her incredible team at AtlantiCann, please click here.

Many members of our team have been here since day one.