Cannabis 50: Doing Well
In 2019 public markets endured a “correction,” stock values were unstable, M&A deals were unwound or restructured, and layoffs affected many. Business leaders focused on fundamentals, innovated, and grew despite operational and regulatory hurdles.
The Cannabis 50 takes a look at industry leaders, both big and small, that made
steady progress across a range of financial, operational, and sustainability initiatives. The trials of 2019 helped shape stronger and leaner organizations ready to build the future of cannabis, hemp, and CBD.
Cannabis 50 Honorees...
For potentially game-changing deal-making
Multi-State Operator, NY
In May of 2019, Acreage Holdings shocked the industry with a pending acquisition by Canadian cannabis giant Canopy Growth. Awaiting relevant contingencies, chiefly U.S. legalization, the deal, valued at $3.4 billion at the time, would fuse two of the most highly-capitalized companies on either side of the border. In the meantime, Acreage gains royalty-free access to Canopy’s proprietary tech, IP, and brands, pouring accelerant on their ambitious growth plans. Despite a shaky stock performance, the Canopy deal, and deft sale-leaseback agreements made through GreenAcreage Real Estate, demonstrate a penchant for bold deal-making that positions the company as a must-watch industry leader.
"The area we must do better in is social justice. As the industry grows, we must not forget to take care of the people and communities that have been disproportionately hurt by the war on drugs."
- Kevin Murphy, CEO of Acreage Holdings
For taking strides forward in intellectual property protection
Multi-State Operator, CO
In July, hemp and CBD company Charlotte’s Web made history by successfully patenting the first hemp cultivar. Dubbed CW2A, the strain is cold resistant and able to produce up to 6.24% CBD and 0.27% THC, keeping the plant under the legal threshold of 0.3% CBD. The patent is a landmark step forward in intellectual property protection, a complex and emerging issue for cannabis, hemp, and CBD. Charlotte’s Web’s successful patent process opens the door for more cultivators, researchers and brands to begin owning and protecting their innovations.
For showing growth while supporting social equity
Green Thumb Industries
Multi-State Operator, IL
In a rocky year for public cannabis companies, Green Thumb Industries demonstrated steady progress on the path to long-term viability. GTI’s 3rd quarter revenue was up 296% year-over-year. In a market where many companies are overextended or burning through capital, GTI distinguishes themselves with a strong balance sheet fueled by organic growth. In 2019, GTI launched the Illinois Social Equity License Application Assistance Program, which provides start-up guidance, grants, and loans to social equity applicants seeking to enter the cannabis industry.
For an ambitious global M&A strategy
Multi-State Operator, NY
Already innovators in the science (and art) of extraction, Halo has embarked on an ambitious international play. In 2019, Halo finalized the acquisition of Bophelo Bioscience & Wellness, one of the largest cultivators in Lesotho – the first African country to legalize medical-use cannabis. The acquisition gives Halo an early-mover foothold in a promising emerging region, with nearby South Africa likely bringing a legal market online soon. As part of the acquisition, Halo plans to appoint Ms. Louisa Mojela as Chairman of Halo’s board of directors, making her the first African woman to lead a public cannabis company.
"With the 2019 vaporizer crisis involving many black market products and unregulated materials, we have seen what happens to the consumer base when steps are skipped. I believe tighter regulations around cannabis and cannabis extraction will create better products for consumers while avoiding potential health hazards."
- Kiran Sidhu, CEO of Halo Labs
For an innovative platform that supports scalable craft farming
Flow Kana operates one of the most unique and responsible business models in the industry. Ostensibly a supply chain company, they provide testing, processing, packaging, distribution and retail services to a network of over 200 craft farms in the Emerald Triangle. Their platform allows small-scale farmers to scale operations while maintaining sustainable cultivation practices. The company has social responsibility baked into its core, seeking to preserve “The California Way.” They encourage regenerative cultivation via training and a certification program, provide financial support to over 50 local non-profits, and educate the public on sustainable living practices through the Solar Living Institute.
"We as leaders in cannabis have an imperative to stand up for
what’s right and set the stage now for how the cannabis movement
will evolve. Together, we are in a position to build an industry that
transforms our culture, environment, economy, healthcare, and planet for the better."
- Michael Steinmetz, CEO and Co-Founder of Flow Kana
For a landmark consolidation strategy
Medicine Man Technologies
Multi-State Operator, CO
In 2019, Colorado’s “PubCo” bill was enacted, allowing publically-owned businesses to invest in and own Colorado cannabis businesses. Early supporters of the bill, Medicine Man wasted no time executing an ambitious roll-up strategy within the state. The company has announced a series of acquisitions and mergers that will bring a further 12 cultivation facilities, 14 manufacturing/extraction facilities, 33 retail locations and a research facility into the Medicine Man portfolio. Consolidation is an inevitability in an emerging industry, and Medicine Man is positioned to be deliver efficiencies of scale throughout the Colorado market.
For advocating for strong safety and manufacturing standards
Michigan Pure Med
In the midst of the vape health crisis shaking cannabis, this Michigan-based medical cannabis company has stepped forward as a vocal proponent of strict safety and manufacturing standards. The company voluntary follows the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices standards throughout their supply chain and has advocated that other operators follow their lead. They also advocate for banning the nonnatural additives and cutting-agents that may be responsible for vape-related illnesses. The company has taken a proactive stance that responsibility for consumer safety is not on testing facilities alone and that manufacturers play an important role as well.
For innovation in environmentally responsible cultivation
Robert Flannery, PhD
CEO of Dr. Robb Farms, CA
One of the first PhD’s in cannabis, Dr. Robb has always brought a scientist’s perspective to cannabis cultivation. In 2019 Dr. Robb Farms announced the launch of the first hybrid indoor-outdoor cultivation facility. The state-of-the-art Indoor-Outdoor HybridTM system combines the precise control of indoor cultivation while still giving plants access to direct sunlight. The resulting efficiencies include zero carbon emissions, a 75% decrease in water and nutrient use, and 100% capture of water condensate. The project represents a major step forward in producing quality and quantity while still adhering to environmental sustainability.
"I am a firm believer that “you need to breakdown before you breakthrough”, so I see 2019 as a necessary step towards building a stronger and healthier industry to come in the next few years."
- Dr. Robert Flannery, Founder and CEO of Dr. Robb Farms
For working to further the rights of cannabis businesses
Co-Founder of Harborside, CA
In 2019, the company DeAngelo co-founded, Harborside, continued their pursuit of a high-profile Tax Court case that illuminated and publicized the issues cannabis
companies face under IRC280E. The tax law limits the type of deductions cannabis companies can take, creating an unfair burden for legally-operating businesses. Harborside successfully fought against a previous ruling, reducing the company’s tax liability by $25 million. The case created precedents related to “good faith” intention, and has highlighted the IRS’ aggressive interpretation and unclear guidance on IRC280E, (hopefully) making strides toward eliminating it in the future.
For a successful cannabis business approach
Multi-State Operator, FL
In a year marked by shaky performance by public cannabis companies, Trulieve lapped the field with a focused business approach that has made them one of the few profitable large companies. The company’s strategy has concentrated on establishing a strong foothold on Florida’s medical cannabis market, where their 40th retail location opened in 2019. Their third quarter revenue increased 150% year-over-year to hit $70.7 million, with stock price performance following suit. While many public operators sought aggressive multi-state expansion, Trulieve focused on improving fundamentals and proved out the benefits of their strategy.