This was one of the most significant weeks for cannabis in recent history, as the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment that would stop the federal government and its agencies from interfering with legal cannabis programs, individuals and businesses in compliance with state, territorial or tribal cannabis laws.
In addition, the House passed amendments that would take $5 million in DEA funding and allocate it to an opioid recovery treatment program, and would instruct the FDA to regulate CBD products as conventional foods and dietary supplements.
Steven Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said it’s “the most significant step Congress has ever taken toward ending federal marijuana prohibition.”
Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told Benzinga that lawmakers are beginning to recognize that the legal cannabis sector isn’t going away — and has the potential to be a significant supporter of small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“Congress needs to consider ways in which the government can help support these businesses and foster opportunities in the market, particularly for people and communities that have been most impacted by the war on drugs.”
In a smaller, but also significant step, lawmakers in the state of New York moved to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis, up 2 ounces or 57 grams, after failing to reach a consensus on an adult-use legalization bill.
Evan Eneman, CEO of MGO|ELLO Alliance, a cannabis finance and banking firm, told Benzinga that while the failure of a full legalization bill is a loss to New York taxpayers, decriminalization is a step forward for social justice initiatives.
“Meanwhile, the cannabis industry isn’t waiting for regulators to catch up,” as proven by investments exceeding $1.3 billion through the first half of the year, Eneman said.
“Investors have a strong appetite for cannabis and they aren’t letting roadblocks like legalization stand in their way.”
Finally, Colombia’s Constitutional Court overruled a ban on public cannabis consumption, paving the way for potential full legalization later this year.
On the markets front
The big news of the week was an initial public offering: Akerna Corp.(NASDAQ: KERN), formerly MJFreeway, listed on the Nasdaq.
“This exchange has been very resistant to cannabis companies and with them opening up to Akerna, it shows that they are finally beginning to accept the industry,” Debra Borchardt, CEO of Green Market Report, told Benzinga.
“In addition to Akerna getting in, it is also the first female-led cannabis company to trade on the NASDAQ. Jessica Billingsley is the CEO and she has definitely broken the ‘grass’ ceiling with Akerna.”
Marijuana Stocks & ETFs
Over the last five trading days:
• The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF (OTC: HMLSF) (TSE:HMMJ) gained almost 3%.
• The ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSE: MJ) surged 2.6%.
• The AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF (NYSE: YOLO) rose 0.9%.
• The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY) closed the period up 1.64%.
Top marijuana stocks with market caps above $500 million trading on U.S. exchanges performed as follows over the last five trading days:
• Acreage Holdings (OTC: ACRZF): up 1.9%
• Aphria Inc (NYSE: APHA): down 0.9%
• Aurora Cannabis Inc (NYSE: ACB): down 3.4%
• CannTrust Holdings Inc (NYSE: CTST): up 1.8%
• Canopy Growth Corp (NYSE: CGC): down 2.5%
• Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON): up 3.2%
• Curaleaf Holdings Inc (OTC: CURLF): up 6.8%
• Green Growth Brands Inc (OTC: GGBXF): down 7.3%
• Green Organic Dutchman Holdings Ltd (OTC: TGODF): up 3.7%
• Green Thumb Industries Inc (OTC: GTBIF): up 10.3%
• GW Pharmaceuticals PLC- ADR (NASDAQ: GWPH): up 1.6%
• Hexo Corp (NYSE: HEXO): flat
• Harvest Health & Recreation Inc (OTC: HRVSF): up 6.8%
• iAnthus Capital Holdings Inc (OTC: ITHUF): down 0.3%
• Marimed Inc (OTC: MRMD): up 9.4%
• MedMen Enterprises Inc. (OTC: MMNFF): up 17.3%
• OrganiGram Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: OGI): up 1.4%
• Scotts Miracle-Gro Co (NYSE: SMG): up 1.2%
• Tilray Inc (NASDAQ: TLRY): up 29.3%
In Other News
Medicine Man Technologies (OTC: MDCL) announced two additions to its management team. Both executives, in addition to Justin Dye, come from Albertsons Companies, a grocery store chain with more than $60 billion in sales.
It’s an exciting time for Medicine Man, which is growing rapidly, co-founder and CEO Andy Williams told Benzinga.
“Bringing new key personnel to the Medicine Man Technologies team with retail experience will strategically benefit our company as we expand nationally and internationally.”
Benzinga learned exclusively that, within the next few weeks, users of Shopify Inc (NYSE: SHOP)’s digital platform will be able to order cannabis through an integration with ParcelPal Technology Inc (OTC: PTNYF). Full story here.
CannTrust announced its entrance to the U.S. market, starting in California. Full story here.
The Russian parliament has passed a law that would allow the cultivation of psychoactive plants, including cannabis and opium poppies, for pharmaceutical purposes. The move aims to cover the country’s needs for painkillers in the face of sanctions. Full story here.
Innovative Industrial Properties Inc (NYSE: IIPR) announced that it acquired a property in Michigan and entered into a long-term lease agreement with Emerald Growth Partners. The company also said it will hike its quarterly dividend yield. Full story here.
Planet 13 Holdings (OTC: PLNHF), owners of the world’s largest dispensary next to the Las Vegas Strip, has signed a deal with vape brand PAX Labs to create a “customer experience” display space for PAX products at the Planet 13 Superstore Complex.
“It will be designed to help educate consumers, and promote PAX devices, all while offering new experiences to Planet 13 customers,” said Larry Scheffler, co-CEO of Planet 13.
Planet 13 is averaging over 3,000 visitors a day and 85% are from out-of-state, making it an ideal place to introduce, educate and create a connection between brands and a national customer base.
The vertically integrated cannabis company California Cannabis Enterprises (CCE) has hired Daryl Kato as its new chief operating officer. He will report directly to CCE CEO Kyle Kazan. Full story here.
Aurora Cannabis confirmed it will expand to the higher-margin edibles, vapes and concentrates market. Full story here.
MedMen announced its expansion into Florida with the opening of a retail location in West Palm Beach at 539 Clematis Street.
MedMen expects retail locations in Key West and Orlando to follow; Florida is the third-most populous state, with a robust medical cannabis program serving over 200,000 qualified patients. Of the 15 new locations MedMen plans to open across the U.S. in 2019, 12 will be in Florida, where the company is licensed for up to 35 retail locations.
“We are slated for 35 total locations in Florida, and MedMen West Palm Beach marks our first one. We couldn’t be more excited to offer greater access to high-quality cannabis in the West Palm Beach community,” according to the company.
“As we continue to grow in the state, patients now have options, and when they want an elevated retail experience delivered by some of the most highly trained staff in the industry, they come to MedMen.”
A subsidiary of Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ: NEPT), 9354-7537 Québec Inc., has received approval for cannabis license amendments from Health Canada. Full story here.
Canopy Growth announced a multiyear advanced manufacturing agreement with Colombia’s Procaps S.A.S. Monday as part of a broader update on its operations worldwide. Full story here.
Cann launched a low-dose THC beverage, available in select Med Men locations in L.A. and San Diego.
“We believe that the two cannabinoids of CBD and THC work best when their powers are combined,” Jake Bullock, co-founder of Cann, told Benzinga.
THC provides a light buzz and CBD lessens anxiety and provides calm, he said: “Together, they create a fun, social experience for consumers.”
CannaCraft announced the addition of two executives to its team as the company continues its expansion efforts. Tracey Mason was named chief innovation and strategy officer, and Jim Hourigan was named chief operating officer. Full story here.
CannabizTeam, a cannabis-focused executive search and staffing firm, announced the official debut of CannabizTEMP, a company specializing in providing consulting and on-demand access to temporary workers to the cannabis industry.
CannabizTEMP will initially focus on California, with plans to expand geographically across the United States.
“In 2018, the number of job openings in the cannabis industry grew in excess of the available talent pool. This challenge was exacerbated during high demand periods such as the holidays and harvest seasons, resulting in serious challenges for employers,” said CEO Liesl Bernard. “CannabizTEMP empowers employers to seamlessly identify qualified, reliable on-demand employees. It also offers an organized, accessible way for employees looking to enter the industry and have control over their work schedule through temporary work opportunities.”
Intrexon Corporation (NASDAQ: XON) announced a $100-million partnership with Surterra Wellness to advance its cannabinoid production. Full story here.
Organic and natural products company New Age Beverages Corp (NASDAQ: NBEV) announced it will launch its ‘NHANCED CBD line of products in Hong Kong through the umbrella of its wholly owned Health Sciences Division. Full story here.
CBD isolate extraction company Mile High Labs acquired a 400,000-square-foot former pharmaceutical facility in Broomfield, Colorado.
The company plans to expand its production and offer private-label services. The $18.75-million purchase includes land, property and assets, including laboratory and testing equipment.
Mile High Labs produces isolate in a GMP-certified facility in Loveland, Colorado. Executives plan on hiring up to 100 more employees by the end of the year.
Medipharm Labs Corp (OTC: MEDIF) said it applied to upgrade its stock from the TSX Venture Exchange to the Toronto Stock Exchange. Full story here.
Flower Co. closed a $2.8-million seed round. The company plans to use the funding to grow its team and continue to expand its services across California.
Investors behind the company include Rob Stavis; Slome Capital, investors in Eaze; Josh Abramson, founder of College Humor; Adam Draper, founder of Boost VC; Rob Stavis, Prehype; and actress Camille Hyde.
“Our vision for Flower Co. has always been to blend the attributes of Humboldt County and Silicon Valley, and the continued support from investors shows that this vision works,” said co-founder and CEO Ted Lichtenberger.
“We look forward to growing our company and expanding our services beyond the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, giving even more people safe and affordable access to cannabis.”
Halo Labs Inc (OTC: AGEEF), a Canadian cannabis extraction company, said it will expand globally through the acquisition of Lesotho-based Bophelo Bioscience & Wellness. Full story here.
Cannabis media and marketing brand Flowertown and accounting and consulting firm CohnReznick announced this week that they will be teaming up to deliver a comprehensive suite of nationwide services to the cannabis industry.
These services will include consumer education; brand-building; product and retail recommendations through storytelling on www.flowertown.com; data analytics; financial and operational strategies; technology implementation; and tax planning and compliance.
The 2 companies announced plans to accelerate reliable consumer education.
“The future of cannabis is brand-building and moving the general market consumer to the cannabis market, followed by aligning with a smart financial and advisory firm to help navigate the ever-changing cannabis landscape. The value of the CohnReznick/Flowertown relationship accomplishes all of this,” said CEO Dean Waters.
Alkhemist Los Angeles launched a collection of Hemp Incorporated denim for women and men. The denim collection is constructed using a blend of hemp for sustainability, cotton for comfort and a bit of lycra for stretch and elasticity.
Alkhemist Los Angeles has been a passion project for all involved, James Chung, the company’s CEO and founder, told Benzinga.
“Hemp is so versatile and useful beyond anyone’s guess. By focusing on hemp, we hope we can do our part in raising awareness that there are ready and fashionable solutions to today’s environmental concerns. We have started with our premium hemp blended jeans. This is just the beginning.”
The Second Annual World Cannabis Congress (WCC) kicked off in historic Saint John, New Brunswick, as 650 of the world’s top cannabis executives and over 75 speakers came together for exclusive networking and speaking engagements, including appearances by Bruce Linton, Martha Stewart and one of Canada’s most iconic retail brands, Shoppers Drug Mart.
This is the first time Shoppers Drug Mart has publicly discussed their transformative decision to enter the medical cannabis space, and it’s something the country — and the world — is watching closely.
“It’s amazing to see how much we’ve all achieved since the first WCC event,” said Civilized publisher Derek Riedle.
“Last year at this time, recreational cannabis wasn’t even legal in Canada. And today we have a government-run cannabis store right here at the event. It’s really a remarkable achievement, and one of many great leaps forward in crushing stigma.”
Keef Brands, a Colorado-based cannabis-infused beverages company, launched Keef Cola in Northern California. Keef is working with CannaCraft to manufacture and distribute the products in California.
Green Growth Brands is expanding its CBD mall-based shop presence through a partnership with Brookfield Properties, one of the top mall developers in the U.S.
Through the arrangement with Brookfield, GGB has secured over 70 leases for prime locations, including malls like Glendale Galleria, Oakbrook Center, the Streets at Southpoint and Tucson Mall.
“Brookfield operates some of the most premier shopping centers in the country,” said Green Growth CEO Peter Horvath. “The pace in which we are building one of the most valuable distribution networks of CBD is unprecedented in retail and could not be done without partners like Brookfield.”
Vibrant Health launched Green Vibrance+ CBD. The apoptogenic formula provides all of the power of Green Vibrance with the balance of PlusCBD Oil powder.
“At Vibrant Health we strive to provide the most complete nutritional supplements available. Embracing the healing properties of hemp extract by developing Green Vibrance+ CBD embodies that mission,” said the company’s Ted Parker.
Kadenwood, a new consumer CBD lifestyle company, announced the appointment of two award-winning CPG experts, Traci Mason and Jason Waggoner, to its executive leadership team. Mason will serve as VP and general manager of personal care, and Waggoner will become VP and general manager of food and beverage.
Kadenwood is determined to deliver exceptional products within the food and beverage, athletic performance, personal care and pet care verticals, said Erick Dickens, the company’s CEO and co-founder.
“Jason and Traci are committed to ensuring all products are safe and reliable as we build our portfolio of brands expanding into different CPG verticals.”
In his new book “Medical Marijuana, Real-Life Success Stories,” Dr. Thomas O’Brien said he hopes to educate people by explaining how medical marijuana can be used to help alleviate the symptoms of many medical conditions and help them find the relief they need.
“My book gives the reader a look into the journeys that 12 of my patients have traveled while being treated using medical marijuana. For example, one individual went from being unable to go out on a date due to irritable bowel disease to now being engaged and on the way to the altar.”
Another patient was suffering from chronic pain and opioid abuse and is now pain- and narcotic-free, he said.
Branded announced its official launch, aiming to compete with the California illicit cannabis market and drive customers back into regulated dispensaries offering low-cost quality cannabis. The exterior packaging includes a fixed price, preventing regulated retailers from marking up the products.
“People are buying untested, unregulated cannabis products from illegal shops— unknowingly,” said Branded CEO Kevin Bulbulyan.
“People go there because it is cheaper, as those shops don’t incur any of the costs associated with regulation. But what if that could change? Branded is offering a ‘black market price,’ but with the guarantee of quality, safety and the consistency that comes with operating strictly within a legal system.”
Cannabis education platform Green Flower Media, announced the closing of its $20-million Series A financing round. The round was led by Tuatara Capital, with additional funding from Poseidon Asset Management and Phyto Partners.
The funds are earmarked toward developing additional industry-leading certificate programs; expanding the subscription service with new original content; forming deeper strategic partnerships with both corporations and associations; and expanding the Green Flower team.
“With this raise, we are moving forward in our sole mission to educate the world about cannabis. If cannabis was just discovered today in our modern society, without its colorful past, we would celebrate this plant as among the most important medical discoveries of the 21st Century,” said Max Simon, Green Flower’s CEO and founder.
Marijuana Business Conference & Expo (MJBizCon) ranked as the fastest-growing trade show once again, as Trade Show Executive announced the “The Fastest 50” awards.
Last week, the City of Las Vegas and Clark County issued a proclamation declaring December 9-13 as “MJBizConWeek.”
MJBizCon has been certified as the fastest-growing among U.S. trade show in attendance and exhibit hall size, said Cassandra Farrington, the CEO and co-founder of MJBizDaily. That’s an indicator that MJBizCon continues to be the go-to choice of industry professionals for their business education, networking, vendor sourcing and dealflow, she said.
Pure Ratios announced a partnership with Driven Deliveries (OTC: DRVD) in California for the distribution of its product line.
Cannabis analytics firm New Frontier Data has entered an exclusive collaboration with global consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to deliver expanded insight and data to multinational companies entering the Canadian and global cannabis arenas. The partnership was announced during an event at the 2019 World Cannabis Congress in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Full story here.
The Food and Drug Administration said it knows there’s demand for cannabis products, but the agency is taking a “science-based” approach to determine their safety and efficacy as it considers how to handle their legality. Full story here.
Canopy Growth traded lower after the company posted its financial results for the fiscal fourth quarter ended March 31, including annual net revenue growth of 191%. Full story here.
The company also announced a partnership with the drug delivery and development company CURE Pharmaceutical Holding Corp (OTC: CURR).
Vireo Health International (OTC: VREOF) acquired seven medical cannabis licenses in the burgeoning Puerto Rican cannabis market.
The deal secures preapproved licenses to cultivate, process and sell cannabis products and operate up to six dispensaries across the island. This transaction marks the 11th market in which Vireo operates.
Vireo Health of Puerto Rico will be led by Christian Gonzalez, a native of the island with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez.
Gonzalez currently serves as the general manager of Vireo Health of Pennsylvania. Gonzalez’s mother is a patient in Puerto Rico’s medical cannabis program.
“I am honored and excited to bring Vireo Health to my home island of Puerto Rico,” he said. “Since Hurricane Maria, our people have faced many hardships and our economy has struggled to recover. I believe that the medical cannabis industry will help create quality jobs and drive economic recovery.”
Nearly 100% of Canopy investors voted to approve the company’s conditional acquisition of U.S. cannabis dispenser Acreage Holdings for $3.4 billion. The deal will only be executed if the U.S. legalizes marijuana on a federal level. Full story here.
Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics have published the seventh edition of their “State of Legal Cannabis Markets” report. In regulated markets, U.S. cannabis sales surged by 20% in 2018 and are on track to jump by another 36% this year, the report said, anticipating $40 billion in sales by 2024.
By Javier Hesse
Paul Ebeling, Editor