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This week, we’re spotlighting state cannabis markets in various states of flux: hung up in court, on the precipice of sales and somewhere in the early stages of the transition from medical to adult-use. It’s an exciting time in the industry. As 2021 opens, we can see new business landscapes taking shape in nearly every corner of the U.S.

Federal reform, while far from clear, is inching closer into our sightlines, too.

Here are some of the top headlines from this past week:

Despite the entire adult-use market being held up by a recent appeals court ruling (deemed unconstitutional, in fact), South Dakota legislators are moving forward with plans to license retail businesses. It’s new territory for the cannabis landscape, and it remains unclear how this tension will resolve. Read more 
Meanwhile, in West Virginia, dispensaries are getting ready to open their doors once product is in place later this year. Read more And in Pennsylvania, a bipartisan bill has emerged that would legalize adult-use cannabis. It’s a significant step forward in a state whose governor and lieutenant governor have championed the cause. Read more In Arizona, Verano Holdings announced its acquisition of Territory Dispensary, expanding the multi-state operator’s footprint in this newly legalized adult-use market. Read more Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation CEO Morris Denton provided a glimpse into his business’s response to severe winter weather this month. “Our team is a resilient bunch,” he said, “and very purpose-driven and passionate about doing our best to get our medicine safely and quickly into the hands of our patients whom we serve throughout the state of Texas.” Read more 

And elsewhere on the web, here are the stories we’ve been reading this week:

Virginia Mercury: As of Friday morning, Virginia lawmakers were scrambling to align an approach to adult-use cannabis legalization—resolving differences over regulatory language set up for 2021—and it wasn’t quite clear whether a Saturday deadline would be met. Read more 
NJ.com: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has announced his picks for the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which will oversee the recently legalize adult-use marketplace. Read more  
MLive.com: Cookies, which already had a retail site in Detroit (medical-only, for now) celebrated its grand opening in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Friday. Read more   
ABC15: While Arizona got off to a quick start with its adult-use licensing process, the medical cannabis market in rural areas of the state is suffering. Retailers have sued the state, insisting that the licensing procedure over the past few years has left an imbalanced landscape for patients to navigate. Read more  
Marketwatch: Soccer star David Beckham’s cannabis skin care company, Cellular Goods, is off to a hot start on the London Stock Exchange—only a few days after the trading platform began allowing cannabis businesses into the fold. Read more 

 

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Shannon Price | Adobe Stock
Job growth in the cannabis sector doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

The legal cannabis industry now supports 321,000 workers in the United States, with 77,000-plus jobs created in 2020, or roughly a 32% increase across the 37 states and the District of Columbia with medical or adult-use markets, according to a report by Leafly.

While cannabis companies were not immune to layoffs and furloughs during the onset of COVID-19, as job growth experienced a lull between March and August, hiring picked back up, and many operations thrived during the pandemic. The year-over-year growth showed that the cannabis sector created jobs at a faster rate than almost any other American industry, according to Leafly.

James Yagielo, the CEO of HempStaff, a recruiting and training company based in Miami that specializes in the cannabis and hemp industries, said the 32% increase reported by Leafly did not leave him open-mouthed. 

“It was not really that surprising because it was essential business, so that really narrowed down a lot of the different industries because a lot of industries are not essential,” he said. “So, I think that may have definitely skewed the numbers in cannabis’ favor. But, additionally, even though last year was a horrendous year for most people, our recruiting numbers pretty much matched 2019. We didn’t get the increase we expected, but we didn’t really get decrease either.”

When September 2020 hit, job growth picked back up in the sector, Yagielo said.

JENKINTOWN, Pa., Feb. 26, 2021 – PRESS RELEASE – TerraVida Holistic Center LLC, a premier, women-owned and operated medical cannabis company in Pennsylvania, is pleased to announce that it has entered into an agreement to merge with Verano Holdings Corp. (CSE: VRNO), a leading multistate cannabis operator with a portfolio that encompasses 14 U.S. states.

Verano plans to expand TerraVida’s retail footprint in Pennsylvania to six operating dispensaries, plus a license for three additional dispensaries. This includes TerraVida’s three current dispensaries—some of the state’s top performing dispensaries—located in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area. This acquisition will escalate Verano’s access to Pennsylvania’s surging patient population—the fifth most populous state in the U.S., currently accounting for approximately 400,000 registered medical marijuana patients.

“The TerraVida team is thrilled to have the opportunity to increase our capabilities, expand the TerraVida brand and provide access to medical cannabis to patients in need throughout Pennsylvania,” said Chris Visco, co-founder and CEO of TerraVida Holistic Centers. “This new partnership with Verano will allow us to triple our dispensary footprint and give us the infrastructure to help as many people as possible while continuing to educate Pennsylvania on the benefits medical cannabis and break free of underlying stigmas—it is a very exciting time for us.”

RELATED: How TerraVida Holistic Centers opened three dispensaries in just three months to serve Pennsylvania’s new medical cannabis market.

Verano has entered into an agreement and plan of merger pursuant to which subsidiaries of Verano will merge with and into TerraVida Holistic Centers, LLC (“TerraVida”) and GVB Holding Group, LLC, which operate three of the state’s top performing medical dispensaries in Sellersville, Abington and Malvern, Pennsylvania. The merger consideration includes cash consideration of US$62,500,000, subject to adjustment, with US$15,000,000 being payable on the closing date, US$10,000,000 payable within 90 days after the closing date, and the remainder payable within 180 days after the closing date. In addition, the merger consideration includes Class A shares or Class B shares equivalent to 3,013,500 Class A shares on an as converted basis, including a minimum of 1,506,750 Class A shares.

TerraVida’s highly regarded management team will remain in place following the acquisition as Verano looks to build on the strong foundation the team members have established in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The South Dakota Senate approved Senate Bill 187B Wednesday, which was sponsored by Sen. Brock Greenfield.

The measure, which passed 19-16, is designed to put a system of laws in place to regulate the sale, possession and consumption of adult-use cannabis per the voter-approved Amendment A in the general election, which was challenged by Gov. Kristi Noem and ruled unconstitutional by Circuit Judge Christina Klinger on Feb. 8.

RELATED: South Dakota Judge Strikes Down Adult-Use Amendment

The bill acknowledges that Klinger deemed Amendment A as unconstitutional, but "the legislature recognizes that a majority of voters approved the legalization of the sale, possession and consumption of adult-use retail marijuana."

The majority of state senators voted in favor of enacting the legislation to ensure there are regulated and enforceable laws in place regarding the sale, possession and consumption of adult-use cannabis, in case the South Dakota Supreme Court overrules Klinger’s ruling that Amendment A was unconstitutional.

The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives but has not yet been scheduled for action.

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In early February, the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC) announced the successful applicants to receive a medical cannabis dispensary permit.

RELATED: Medical Cannabis Dispensary Permits Announced in West Virginia

The OMC posted the full list of dispensary permit holders on its website, which consisted of Ohio-based medical cannabis dispensary Terrasana Cannabis Co. and West Virginia-based medical cannabis dispensary Harvest Care Medical.

Terrasana applied to receive six dispensary permits at the beginning of this year and was awarded all six. The dispensary business was also granted a cultivation and processing license, said William Kedia, Terrasana Cannabis founder and CEO. 

Both dispensaries are making changes and finalizing a game plan in preparation for the expansion.

"The hiring process will not start until we start construction, just because of the timeline," Kedia said. "I don't want people waiting on us to do the project for three to five months until it's finalized. So, as we get to those time points in our game plan, we will hire appropriately and train everyone so everyone is on the same page and ready to go the minute we get the dispensaries, growing and processing facilities all open at the same time."

SALINAS,Calif., Feb. 25, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- PRESS RELEASE -- Indus Holdings, Inc., a vertically-integrated,California-focused cannabis company, announced the acquisition of substantiallyall of the assets of the Lowell Herb Co. and Lowell Smokes trademark brands,product portfolio, and production assets from The Hacienda Group effectiveimmediately. Lowell Herb Co. is a California cannabis brand thatmanufactures and distributes distinctive and highly regarded premium packagedflower, pre-roll, concentrates, and vape products.

Thetransaction is valued at approximately $39 million and is comprised of acash payment of $4.1 million and the issuance of 22,643,678 SubordinateVoting Shares of the Company (of which 5 million will be held in escrow tosecure certain indemnification obligations undertaken by the sellers in thetransaction). The share consideration was issued in a private placementtransaction and the Company has agreed to register such shares for resale inthe United States. Hacienda has agreed to continue to produce Lowell productsfor an interim period for the account of the Company pending completion of thetransfer of certain regulatory assets.

In connectionwith this acquisition, the Company intends to complete a change in itscorporate name to LowellFarms Inc.

It is currently anticipated that the Company’sSubordinate Voting Shares and Warrants will begin trading on the CanadianSecurities Exchange effective on March 5, 2021, under the ticker symbolsLOWL and LOWL.WT, and that the Subordinate Voting Shares will begin trading onthe OTCQX effective on March 5, 2021, under the ticker symbol LOWLF. No actionis required to be taken by existing securityholders of the Company with respectto the name change. Outstanding share and warrant certificates are not affectedby the name change and do not need to be exchanged.

"Thecombination of Indus and Lowell will create a leading producer of Californiacannabis and the next step for the first great American cannabis brand,"said Gregory Heyman, founder of Beehouse, Lowell’s largest investor. "TheIndus team’s commitment to growing excellent cannabis and the communities theyserve also realizes Lowell’s mission to normalize cannabis in America."

“The cannabisindustry is awash in brands competing for our attention, but Lowell has risento the top of the fray as a brand that simultaneously empowers a movement,welcomes the curious, and greets the reacquainted all with a grace and elegancethat other brands can only aspire to,'' said George Allen, Chairman of theBoard for Indus Holdings, Inc. “Every resource under our control will beemployed in unlocking Lowell’s full potential.”

CHICAGO, Feb. 24, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- PRESS RELEASE -- Verano Holdings Corp., a leading multi-state cannabis company, today announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire three active dispensaries and one cultivation and production facility in Arizona. Upon completion, this transaction would increase Verano’s presence in the key state of Arizona and support the Company’s focus on becoming a market leader in this market. Closing of the transaction is subject to customary conditions, contingencies, and approvals, including regulatory approval.

“Pursuant to our recent go-public, we are strategically focused on expanding our presence in limited-license, high-growth markets,” said George Archos, Co-Founder and CEO of Verano. “Arizona recently added adult-use to its program, and we look forward to accelerating our proven, vertically integrated model to help meet rising demand.”

Transaction Highlights

Verano, Verano Arizona Holdings, LLC (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Verano, known here as “Verano Arizona”); NZCO LLC, an Arizona limited liability company; Murff & Company LLC, an Arizona limited liability company; JWC1 LLC, an Arizona limited liability company; Hu Commercial Properties LLC, an Arizona limited liability company; and COBISH LLC, an Arizona limited liability company; the board members of AZGM 3, Inc., an Arizona non-profit corporation; the members of Vending Logistics LLC, an Arizona limited liability company; the managers of Vending Logistics LLC; Best-in-Show Holdings L.L.C., an Arizona limited liability company; and the sole member of The Medicine Room LLC, an Arizona limited liability company; and the managers of Medicine Room LLC have entered into a reorganization and merger agreement pursuant to which the Target Companies will merge with and into Verano Arizona.

The merger consideration includes $7.25 million, payable in cash, subject to adjustment, and Class A Subordinate Voting Shares in the capital of Verano and/or Class B Proportionate Voting Shares in the capital of Verano equivalent to 3,989,875 SVS on an as-converted to SVS basis.

The transaction includes three premium, high-traffic and easily accessible dispensaries located in Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert, Ariz., an 11,000-sq.-ft. indoor cultivation facility, an 8,100-sq.-ft. greenhouse in Winslow and two real estate locations, collectively known as Territory Dispensary.

Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation (TOCC), a vertically integrated medical cannabis company headquartered in Manchaca, Texas, just southwest of Austin, struggled to make deliveries to patients last week during the state’s winter storm that brought historically low temperatures, icy roads, and widespread power and water outages.

While TOCC’s facility kept its power, many of its employees did not. And while the facility continued to run, hazardous road conditions made it impossible to drive throughout the state to deliver cannabis medicine.

Contributing Editor Cassie Neiden Tomaselli caught up with TOCC CEO Morris Denton, who shares some of the grim details of last week and how he believes the Compassionate-Use Program could improve to make medicine more accessible should another weather event impact the state of Texas.

Editor’s note: This interview was conducted on Feb. 19. It has been edited for length and clarity.

 

Cassie Neiden Tomaselli: How is the team doing overall?

Clinton Blackburn | Adobe Stock
 Pennsylvania State Sen. Dan Laughlin is not a fan of cannabis. He doesn’t use the product. And he doesn’t think it’s great for others to use it either.

But the lawmaker from Erie County, in the northwest corner of the state, became the first Republican in the Pennsylvania legislature to sponsor an adult-use cannabis legalization bill, which he introduced with Democrat Sen. Sharif Street on Feb. 24.

During a press conference with the two sponsors Wednesday afternoon, Laughlin said he knows it seems odd that he’s not a proponent of cannabis, yet he’s a primary underwriter of the legalization bill. But since he started working on the legislation with Street, an African-American of Philadelphia, he realized some of the social damage that communities of color have experienced over minor offenses, he said.

“That really got my attention,” Laughlin said. “But I think the final straw was a conversation that I had with one of my kids. And I checked with him. He said it was OK to mention this in the hearing. He told me that he could have a bag of weed delivered to the house in under an hour, and that’s better service than Amazon. And I realized that anyone in Pennsylvania that wants to smoke marijuana is probably already doing it. So, we might as well take this and regulated it. I think [it] is the most responsible thing that we can do.”

The approach to the bill focuses on a safe and legal means for adults 21 years and older to purchase and use cannabis; social and economic equity that includes expunging non-violent cannabis convictions; agricultural arrangements in a safe and regulated manner; and new tax revenue and job creation.

According to a press release from Street, polling indicates that nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support adult-use legalization. And according to testimony from the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office, adult-use legalization can generate between $400 million to $1 billion of new tax revenue for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb. 24, 2021 - PRESS RELEASE - Segra International Corp., an AgTech firm focused on cannabis tissue culture and BioAgronomics Group, an internationally recognized cannabis breeding and consulting company, are pleased to announce that they have entered into an agreement to distribute numerous premium cannabis cultivars within the Canadian Market. Through decades of genetic selection and intensive breeding efforts by world-renowned industry experts, including Robert Clarke and Mojave Richmond, BioAgronomics Group has developed a portfolio of proven classic and proprietary cannabis cultivars. Now, through Segra’s Plant Tissue Culture technology, this premium genetic catalog will be available to Canadian licensed producers and select international markets for the first time.

“BioAgronomics Group is thrilled to be joining forces with Segra International to advance the Canadian cannabis industry through providing high-quality, unique cultivars,” commented Robert Clarke, co-founder of BioAgronomics Group. “We expect this partnership will lead to increased access to popular and agronomically productive cannabis cultivars for licensed growers in Canada and internationally.”

In addition to the carefully selected “classic cultivars” curated by BioAgronomics Group specialists, Segra will also be able to supply proprietary and exclusive cannabis varieties from the BioAgronomics Group portfolio. These proprietary genetics were bred for potency and novel cannabinoid and terpene profiles, as well as ideal crop morphology and heightened pathogen resistance. Preparing BioAgronomics Group’s proven cultivars utilizing Segra’s tissue culture technology will ensure consistently high-performing plants that offer high yields of enhanced THC and terpene content. As with all Segra tissue culture products, the plantlets arrive as verified clean stock. Segra and BioAgronomics Group are pleased to offer these premium cultivars in our effort to help growers start with better genetics to realize higher profits.

“We are incredibly excited at the opportunity to partner with the team of industry-recognized experts at BioAgronomics Group and offer their cultivars, through tissue culture, to Canadian producers,” said Segra CEO Jamie Blundell. “BioAgronomics Group has a tremendous amount of experience developing premium cannabis cultivars for commercial production, and we’re honored that they are trusting Segra with their valuable genetic IP. Partnerships with leading experts and breeders, like BioAgronomics Group, combined with the benefits and biosecurity of plant tissue culture, will help producers dramatically improve financial performance as the industry and consumer preferences continue to evolve.”

To learn more about our partnership and how Segra and BioAgronomics Group’s Tissue Culture plantlets can improve your output and reduce risk, please contact Segra at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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District Growers established itself in Washington, D.C., in 2012, part of a medical cannabis market that has grown steadily ever since. 

Founder and President Corey Barnette says that his extensive business background gave him a solid foundation for his entrance into the cannabis space. And now that he’s spent years here, navigating the cultivation side of the industry and monitoring broader trends in the U.S., he says that there are ways for business owners to challenge the working assumptions about social equity and market development.

While he may be in D.C., a smaller market than many of the larger states coming online, he points to the fragmentation of the U.S. cannabis space as a major problem.

“We have to build long-term relationships to build a stronger cannabis community among ourselves to be competitive and profitable for years to come,” he says.

Here, our recent conversation with Barnette helps illuminate that need.

Mila Marshall: You are one of the licensed industry’s few African American growers. How did you find yourself one of the few history makers in the cannabis industry?

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 23, 2021 — PRESS RELEASE — Agnetix, a pioneer in data-driven horticulture lighting technology, has been selected as primary lighting partner by BP Logistics, currently constructing several new cannabis greenhouses and indoor grows totaling over 110,000 square feet in the San Francisco area for a total of over 2,000 high-powered A3 luminaires. 

BP Logistics is a California-licensed cultivation group owned by Minh Mai, CEO, and Chauncey Man, chief operating officer. Along with their team of experienced cultivators, the high-energy pair is determined to bring Asian cultivators to the northern California cannabis market with a forward-thinking grow strategy. Selecting Agnetix A3, one of the world’s most energy-efficient and most powerful LED horticultural grow lights, will ensure they have a significant advantage. This partnership marks a pivotal step in the team’s plan to develop technology-forward and sustainable facilities powered by energy-efficient and intelligent systems including lighting, HVAC, water management, nutrient control and data capture. 

“Agnetix is by far the best grow lighting system on the market today,” Mai said. “The A3 water-cooled lighting system delivers a tremendous amount of high-quality light that benefits our plants while greatly reducing our carbon footprint.”

The team chose Agnetix as its primary lighting and cultivation management system for its high-energy efficiencies and data visibility. Agnetix provides a full suite of value-added benefits and a one-of-kind decision support system, employing energy-efficient LED lighting, canopy-level sensors, networking technology and data analytics.

“As we make this major shift in our model, having Agnetix as our partner will provide us with a sure path to exceeding our business goals,” Man said. “The superior level of customer service from the Agnetix team is unparalleled.”

Agnetix CEO Jordan Miles said, “We are thrilled to partner with this team and support their unique vision for sustainable growing facilities. Crop visibility, data-driven insights and remote control are just a few ways we endeavor to mitigate risks across all of their growing facilities and provide a greater peace of mind.”

California’s regulatory framework for cannabis and hemp-derived products, including CBD, continues to evolve, most recently via updated Proposition 65 warning requirements that came into full effect Jan. 3, 2021. As of that date, anyone offering for sale cannabis and hemp-derived products in California must provide an appropriate warning in accordance with the current regulations, with limited exceptions.

Noncompliance with the new regulations may result in government or private prosecution, with potential penalties of up to $2,500 per day for an alleged violation.

Proposition 65 Warning Requirement

California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Prop. 65, requires the state of California to maintain an updated list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.

Persons or companies who offer products for sale in California containing Proposition 65-listed chemicals must provide a “clear and reasonable” warning to the consumer (with limited exceptions) or face the prospect of penalties. Businesses usually choose to apply either the standard or “short form” default warnings provided in the Proposition 65 regulations, as these are deemed presumptively “clear and reasonable,” whereas any other warning language runs the risk of being challenged as noncompliant.

Prior Proposition 65 Requirement Limited to Smokable Cannabis

Following New Jersey voters’ approval of a constitutional amendment to legalize adult-use cannabis last fall, Gov. Phil Murphy today signed legislation to do just that. The Feb. 22 signing of three separate bills came after weeks of back-and-forth in the state legislature, and, ultimately, after years of debate in New Jersey over how to accomplish this goal.

“This process may have had its fits and starts, but it is ending in the right place. And, I firmly believe, this process has ended in laws that will serve as a national model,” Murphy said

One of the last hurdles to clear in today’s “cleanup bill” was the approach to law enforcement when dealing with underage cannabis possession, part of a broader intention to pass decriminalization legislation alongside the implementation of a regulatory regime. The debate over that bill lasted until just before Murphy’s 12 p.m. ET deadline to act on related cannabis legalization bills. State legislators landed on a cleanup bill today that sets up a written warning and community service policy for underage possession, rather than punitive civil penalties. (For those 21 and older, possession of up to six ounces is now legal, a critical step toward the amelioration of the long-standing war on drugs.)

"This is a major milestone on the path to ending cannabis prohibition in New Jersey," said Jennifer Cabrera of Vicente Sederberg LLP, in a public statement.

There is no immediate timeline for adult-use cannabis sales to begin in New Jersey, though a soon-to-be-named Cannabis Regulatory Commission is expected to convene in the near future to get the ball rolling.  

"The legislation was intended to promote small locally owned businesses and should foster a vibrant craft cannabis industry in the state," Cabrera said. "It reserves licenses for microbusinesses and offers them a streamlined application process that will reduce barriers to entry and help them get a footing in this growing industry. There are some additional steps we would like to see policymakers take to make it easier to operate these microbusinesses, and we look forward to working with them as they fine-tune the system. Still, this is a great starting point and opens the door to a lot of exciting opportunity for local entrepreneurs."

Despite operational hiccups stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain shortages, Missouri Health & Wellness is working quickly to open five dispensary locations in the state’s medical cannabis market, which officially launched its first sales in October.

The company holds five retail licenses, which is the maximum number of licenses that any one company can have in Missouri’s market. Missouri Health & Wellness opened its first location in Washington at the end of November, and its second location in Sedalia just before Christmas. The company then opened a third dispensary in the state’s capital, Jefferson City, on Jan. 25. Now, Missouri Health & Wellness has its sights set on its final two stores in Kirksville and Belton, which will open by the end of the winter.

Photos courtesy of Missouri Health & Wellness
Missouri Health and Wellness: Washington, Mo.

The company is standing up its locations quickly, despite Missouri’s medical program experiencing delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Missouri Health & Wellness HR Director and Regional Manager Kathleen Beebe says it took a year and a half for the state’s first dispensaries to open after the state began issuing patient ID cards, but there has been a steady increase in the number of patients enrolling in the program.

“What’s most exciting is when you have patients walking in the door for the first time and you hear about … what they’ve been dealing with, and they’re so excited to have another option,” Beebe tells Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.

Most of Missouri Health & Wellness’ patients are 60 years old and older, she says, and many are first-time cannabis consumers who are frustrated with the results of traditional medicine.

“I think that’s the No. 1 thing that excites me most about this industry, is that we are bringing some relief to people,” Beebe says.

missouri health wellness
Henryk Sadura | Adobe Stock
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ biennial budget proposal to regulate and tax adult-use cannabis appears to be dead on arrival.

As part of his $91-billion budget released Feb. 16, legalizing cannabis would generate more than $165 million annually for Wisconsinites, beginning in the second year of the biennium, Evers announced in a statement. Under the governor’s proposal, that money would increase revenue, create jobs and reduce costs associated with the state’s criminal justice system. The proposal also includes legalizing medical cannabis.

But two days after the 717-page budget was released by the Democrat executive, it was met with scrutiny by two key Republicans who control the majority in both chambers of the state legislature. During a virtual luncheon hosted by WisPolitics.com, an online magazine and news service covering political and governmental news in Wisconsin, Rep. Mark Born and Sen. Howard Marklein slammed Evers’ inclusion of cannabis legalization in the budget.

Born and Marklein are the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), meaning they hold the fiscal keys as two of the most important decision-makers in the state Capitol. The committee members will spend the next few months rewriting the governor’s budget, with their version going to the Assembly and the Senate for a vote—Republicans own a 60-plus-percent majority in both chambers.

“Well, [cannabis legalization is] a huge issue; huge topic that I don’t believe should be included in the budget,” Marklein said. “It’s a significant enough policy change that that topic needs to be debated in the light of day on its own. I’ve heard from my sheriffs, my healthcare professionals, social workers, we’ve heard from representatives and legislators in Colorado on this topic, and it’s a big policy shift, and I just believe it’s too big to be inserted into the state budget.”

Piggybacking on those comments, Born said, “This is a major thing that has a lot of stakeholder groups on both sides. The senator just mentioned some of them. So, obviously we do public hearings on the budget, but they are on a lot of issues and they’re time limited because of how many things we have to dive into. These are big, broad discussions, and this is just one example of many of them that the governor put into this budget where it doesn’t belong.”

This past week in cannabis kept our attention fixed on New Jersey, even if a snowstorm wedged its way into the mix and pushed a Feb. 19 legislative deadline into Feb. 22. Gov. Phil Murphy has a chance to sign the state’s adult-use legalization bill into law, granting the mandate of voters, but it remains to be seen how this will go down next week.

Of course, that’s not the only thing happening in New Jersey.

After the New Jersey medical cannabis dispensary licensing process was halted in late 2019 amid a legal dispute, an appeals court ruling Feb. 18 has once again restored the green light to regulators and prospective businesses. Some 150 applications are back on the table, with the state able to issue up to 24 new licenses. Read more SLANG Worldwide is bringing its suite of cannabis brands to Missouri and Virginia, two newly legalized medical cannabis markets that offer a lot of promise to the business. In the same stroke, SLANG is expanding its presence in Michigan’s retail sector. Read more Despite Curaleaf’s share prices dropping after a warning letter from the FDA, a judge found the company has been transparent about risks associated with the industry. Read more HEXO Corp. announced its acquisition of Zenabis Global Inc. earlier this week, a major headline that sees the Canadian licensed producer planting a flag in Europe’s cannabis market. Read more New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced 30-day amendments to the Governor's proposal to establish a comprehensive adult-use cannabis program in New York. Read more 

And elsewhere on the web, here are the stories we’ve been reading this week:

Yahoo! Finance: “Jamaican export legislation, expected to be finalized in mid-2021, is back on track, and the global industry’s need for a solution to quell supply shortages remains.” Read more Pasadena Star News: Nearly a dozen lawsuits from different cannabis companies had been filed against the city of Pasadena since 2019, and now most of them are gone. Read more San Francisco Chronicle: “Medical marijuana workers now have priority access to the coronavirus vaccine, under revised California guidelines.” Read more Leafly: As of January 2021, the U.S. cannabis industry is supporting 321,000 full-time jobs. Read more High Times: The London Stock Exchange will now allow cannabis businesses to trade publicly. Read more 

 

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SLANG Worldwide is bringing its suite of cannabis brands to Missouri and Virginia, two newly legalized medical cannabis markets that offer a lot of promise to the business. In the same stroke, SLANG is expanding its presence in Michigan’s retail sector.

This all came about through SLANG’s new strategic partnership with Merida Capital Holdings, a private equity firm that touts a deep portfolio—both plant-touching and ancillary. For SLANG, the move allows the business to place its proprietary brands (O.penBakkedDistrictPressiesLunchbox Alchemy and Firefly) in front of new patient and customer bases.

As CEO Chris Driessen said, "Integrating our brands in emerging markets through strategic partnership is core to our growth strategy.” Here, we caught up with Driessen to learn more about the partnership and about the inherent attraction of newly legal markets in the U.S.

Eric Sandy: In terms of Missouri and Virginia, how do you view the opportunities in these two emerging markets

Chris Driessen: As emerging markets, these are markets where you work with a strategic partner—in this case, Merida and their affiliates—to bring products to market. It's similar to what we've done in Florida with Trulieve or Michigan with Gage. This fits that model perfectly. What's really interesting about both of these states, from my point of view—one, Missouri's regulations, the way they're rolling out the program, it’s a pretty wide open market. It’s a state with a good population. Certainly on their southern border with Oklahoma, there's massive access for patients there. So, as far as the model itself, the way they've drawn up the program bodes very well for a business like ours. And then you turn to Virginia, which is a little different—more limited, a little more restricted, but with all the recent regulation with what the governor is trying to do there, it could come on really quick. Obviously, we want to skate to where the puck is going, not to where it's at. So, two separate markets, but we're excited about both for two different reasons. 

ES: As you step into a new market like these two states, what are some of the keys to bringing your brand to a marketplace with patients or even consumers who may not yet be familiar with your brand?

After the New Jersey medical cannabis dispensary licensing process was halted in late 2019 amid a legal dispute, an appeals court ruling Feb. 18 has once again restored the green light to regulators and prospective businesses. Some 150 applications are back on the table, with the state able to issue up to 24 new licenses.

The court also insisted that the New Jersey Department of Health clean up its licensing process and take a more transparent approach to the work.

"Hopefully this decision will allow everyone to move on and start getting down to the business of providing patients the medicine they need," said Edmund DeVeaux, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, in a public statement. "Far too much time, energy and money has been expended on this entire licensing process with too few results to show for it."

In December 2019, a lawsuit gathered eight rejected medical cannabis applicants to put forth claims of procedural error. As that case kicked off, the state halted the licensing process entirely. Included in today’s ruling, the appeals court did overturn the rejection of ZY Labs, one of the original eight plaintiffs, and kicked the decision on that application back to the Department of Health. The other seven applicants in the legal case remained on the sidelines.

“This was a significant victory for ZY Labs,” said Lee Vartan, an attorney that represented the applicant, told NJ.com. “ZY Labs is confident in the strength of its application and looks forward to being awarded a license to cultivate medical marijuana in the central region.” New Jersey issues both cultivation and retail licenses, as well as a limited number of vertical licenses across the state.

As of now, only 13 dispensaries are operating in New Jersey (under the aegis of 10 licensed businesses). According to the state, those dispensaries are servicing about 100,000 registered patients.

After a year and a half of litigation, a New York federal judge has tossed a proposed securities class action suit against Curaleaf that alleged the company’s inaccurate labeling of its cannabidiol (CBD) products caused its share prices to drop.

Investors in the company filed the lawsuit in August 2019 after Curaleaf received a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for selling CBD products with unsubstantiated health claims about the products treating cancer and Parkinson’s disease, among other health conditions. (Curaleaf responded by removing the health claims from its website and social media accounts.)

The day after the FDA administered its letter, Curaleaf’s stock price fell $0.54, or over 7 percent, and continued to fall in the following days.

The plaintiffs have argued that Curaleaf did not properly disclose the risks associated with selling CBD products.

However, in a Feb. 16 ruling, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan said Curaleaf has been fully transparent about the legality of its business.

“Starting on its first day in existence, the Company publicly and repeatedly acknowledged the very information that plaintiffs contend it concealed: its cannabis-based products are not approved by the FDA and thus the FDA may regard their promotion as violating established law,” Cogan wrote in his opinion.