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CHICAGO, Illinois, Aug. 04, 2021 -- PRESS RELEASE -- Lowell Farms Inc., a California-born innovator in cannabis cultivation and maker of the brand Lowell Smokes and Ascend Wellness Holdings Inc, a multi-state vertically-integrated cannabis operator, announced the long-awaited debut of Lowell Smokes in Illinois on Aug. 5. The iconic Lowell Smokes pre-roll pack will initially be available to consumers at eight retail locations throughout Illinois:Ascend by MOCA dispensaries in Logan Square and River North in Chicago;Midway Dispensary locations in Chicago and Chicago Ridge; andAscend dispensaries in Springfield, Collinsville and Fairview Heights.

In April, Lowell Farms entered into a strategic licensing agreement with AWH to bring the iconic Lowell Smokes brand to Illinois. The collaboration designates AWH, a distinguished pre-roll producer, as Lowell Farms’ wholesale partner. Sold in six-packs of pre-rolls, Lowell Smokes will be available for wholesale purchase and sale at dispensaries throughout Illinois in late August 2021.

“Almost overnight, Illinois has become an incredibly vibrant and exciting cannabis market with some truly exceptional product. We are glad to be partnered with Ascend and their cultivation team to bring Lowell to life in this great state,” says Lowell Farms Inc. Chairman George Allen. “Legalization has been a long time coming in Illinois, and we cannot imagine a place we would rather be this summer to celebrate all those that made it happen.”

The relationship advances AWH’s goal of bringing popular West Coast brands to its markets east of the Mississippi River. It also marks the first time Lowell Farms’ products are available outside the state of California.

“Lowell is an iconic brand that we think is an ideal fit with our capabilities in Illinois,” added Abner Kurtin, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of AWH. “We’re thrilled to expand our offering in Illinois with Lowell Smokes’ award-winning pre-rolls.”

Lowell pre-rolls will be available to Ascenders Rewards Club members on Wednesday, August 4th. Upon official launch to the public on August 5th, Illinois consumers will be able to order Lowell Smokes products online at letsascend.com. For more information on Lowell Farms Inc. brands, please visit lowellfarms.com.

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A bill to decriminalizecannabis in Louisiana went into effect on Aug. 1.

House Bill 652, which Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law on June 15,removes the threat of jail time and reduces the maximum penalty to a $100 finefor first-time offenders who possess up to 14 grams of cannabis. 

As previously reported by Cannabis Business Times, underthe state's previous legislation, individuals who possessed an ounce of cannabis or lesscould be charged with 15 days in jail and a $300 fine for the first conviction.Following that, penalties would increase for the second, third and fourthconvictions.

RELATED: Louisiana Gov.John Bel Edwards Signs Cannabis Decriminalization Bill Into Law

Now, Louisiana has joinedseveral other states that have implemented decriminalization bills, and madehistory by becoming one of few Southern states to pass similar legislation, LafourcheGazette reported.

State Rep. Cedric Glover, whosponsored the bill, said, "When I saw two city council members in myhometown of Shreveport—one conservative and one progressive—find the commonground needed to come together and find the way to decriminalize personal-usemarijuana possession there, I knew it was time to take this reform to the statelevel. Criminalizing marijuana possession is harmful to the people of Louisianain so many ways, but it's been particularly harmful for black and browncommunities, lower-income folks, and young people. My fervent hope is that thisnew law will finally bring some relief and a feeling of freedom to thosecommunities."

Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan has conditionally certified two cannabis-related ballot initiatives for the state’s 2022 ballot, according to an Oil City News report.

One measure would legalize medical cannabis, while the other would decriminalize cannabis for personal use.

With Buchanan’s conditional approval, the local organizations supporting the initiatives can now begin gathering signatures to get the measures before voters next year, Oil City News reported.

Wyoming requires ballot initiative campaigns to gather signatures from “15% of those who voted in the preceding general election,” which equates to 41,776 total signatures, according to the news outlet.

VANCOUVER, Wash., July 29, 2021 – PRESS RELEASE – Hawthorne Gardening Company announced plans for an industry-leading brand to join the Hawthorne portfolio. The company signed an agreement to acquire HydroLogic on a target date of Aug. 27. This move will expand Hawthorne’s product portfolio and create even more opportunities to provide its customers, retailers and partners with a comprehensive approach that meets their needs.

The target date to complete the HydroLogic acquisition is Aug. 27, at which time it would become part of Hawthorne. After that date, Hawthorne would become the exclusive provider of the HydroLogic and HyperLogic brands in the United States. Select distributor partners serving the U.S. and Canadian markets will remain in place.

Here are some of the benefits for our partners, customers and retailers:

Access to best-in-class water filtration brands. From off-the-shelf hobbyist solutions to large custom-designed commercial water filtration systems, the HydroLogic and HyperLogic brands are the standard in the industry for quality and performance.More marketing and sales support. You’ll see increased marketing and sales efforts around these brands. Both of these brands will enter Hawthorne’s Signature lineup and support the Hawthorne 360 Total Solution approach.

Hydro-Logic Purification Systems Inc., based in Santa Cruz, Calif., is a leading provider of products, accessories and systems for water filtration and purification in the cannabis industry.

“We continue to build and expand our industry-leading portfolio of best-in-class brands that benefit from leveraging our unique capabilities in R&D, marketing, sales and supply chain efficiency,” Hawthorne President Chris Hagedorn said. “We’ve had tremendous partnerships with HydroLogic over the years and look forward to taking these brands to an entirely new level, further integrating them into our comprehensive product portfolio. Our focus is on serving the industry at a scale unparalleled by others.”

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The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) has issued 69 adult-use cannabis licenses, including 32 craft grow licenses, 28 infuser licenses and 9 transporter licenses.

The licenses were established under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act that legalized adult-use cannabis in the state, and were awarded to social equity applicants.

“As part of the administration's ongoing work to establish a legal cannabis industry that reflects the diversity of Illinois, the state has created multiple avenues to entry to encourage participation in the industry," said Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor to the Governor for Cannabis, in a public statement. “With the issuance of these first licenses, Illinois is expanding access to people and communities that were previously shut out. We look forward to seeing businesses get off the ground in the months ahead.”

The full list of licensees is available here.

Additional applicants that received a Notice of Award for Craft Grow and Infuser licenses have requested and received an extension from the IDOA to submit their licensing fee and other documentation, and will receive their licenses after submitting the required paperwork.

EUREKA, Calif., Aug. 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- PRESS RELEASE -- Papa & Barkley, a cannabis wellness company for topicals and tinctures in California, announced today the appointment of Bo Becker as its new chief marketing officer. Becker joined in mid-July as part of an expansion plan to accelerate product innovation and increase national brand awareness. Becker will own the full end-to-end consumer journey, inclusive of branding, direct-to-consumer strategy, and a significant focus on scaling earned media value.

Becker has spent 16 years in marketing, holding several executive roles at CPG nutrition and wellness companies. Most recently, Becker served as vice president of marketing at Charlotte's Web, where he played a critical role in scaling the company's CBD business nationally. Becker's proven track record in the cannabis industry and deep experience in digital-first branding, will catapult Papa & Barkley into its next stage of growth, beginning with the launch of its Sleep Releaf Collection this summer.

Evelyn Wang, CEO of Papa & Barkley says, "Papa & Barkley has always stood out amongst the competitive set of cannabis brands as the gold standard for trust and efficacy. Now the task at hand is to get out the loudspeaker and announce to consumers that our products, crafted using our whole plant solventless infusion process, deliver the most effective results. This is where Bo comes in; I'm confident in his ability to significantly scale the brand's awareness and reach a broad base of consumers, including those who may not have previously considered a cannabis solution for wellness. His curiosity and commitment to unlocking consumer insights will drive transformational messaging."

Recently Papa & Barkley tapped Cassie Perlman, VP of brand marketing and strategy, Anne-Sophie Roumilhac, VP of e-commerce, Jaclyn Sepulveda, director of social media and influencers, and Shelly Nghiem, director of e-commerce to join its team of experienced cannabis marketers. They bring robust experience in consumer packaged goods, performance marketing, direct-to-consumer, and brand strategy.

"I am a firm believer in the wellness potential of the cannabis plant. As a leading brand, the broader our reach and the bolder our marketing efforts, the more lives we can transform." says Becker. "We've gone through immense internal growth this year and I am excited to lead such a talented and passionate group of changemakers. We couldn't be more prepared to champion the brand and support our consumers along their wellness journeys."

A group of cannabis advocates in Ohio has launched efforts to “regulate marijuana like alcohol” in the Buckeye State after the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the campaign’s push to place adult-use legalization on the state’s 2020 ballot.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted summary language of an initiated statute to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office last week, and will find out whether the language is approved by Aug. 5.

The proposed law would legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sales to adults 21 and older, as well as allow adults to grow six plants at home for personal use, with a maximum of 12 plants per household.

The proposal would levy a 10% tax on adult-use cannabis sales, on top of regular state and local sales taxes. The tax revenue generated would be allocated to very specific areas, including:

36% for a Social Equity and Jobs Fund to create a program to support social equity applicants in the adult-use business licensing process;36% for a Host Community Cannabis Fund, to support communities that host adult-use dispensaries;25% for a Substance Abuse and Addiction Fund, to support substance abuse education and treatment; and3% for a Division of Cannabis Control, which would oversee the adult-use cannabis industry.

It replaces prohibition with a sensible framework for regulation and taxation,” Tom Haren, a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, told Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary, adding that the proposed law will generate an estimated $400 million in new tax revenue. “It utilizes the existing medical marijuana infrastructure to provide a quick path to legal sales to adults that will provide an alternative for Ohio consumers to the unregulated market or spending their money out of state.”

MATTIO Communications

NEW YORK, Aug. 3, 2021 – PRESS RELEASE – MATTIO Communications, one of the longest-running and largest cannabis marketing services firm, launched "High Priority," a new podcast that examines the lasting impact of cannabis prohibition and how public and private social equity measures are shaping the future of the industry.

Weekly episodes hosted by Alexis Dionne and Chelsea, two PR professionals and women of color in cannabis, feature interviews with industry experts, including impact brand founders, policy advocates, investors and historians, about the most pressing social equity issues today. Upcoming interviews include conversations with 40 TonsMarijuana Policy Project, LanternOur Academy and other brands and organizations committed to creating a more equitable business community.

"High Priority" is part of the company's larger MATTIO Voices initiative, which aims to broaden existing perceptions of what it means to be a cannabis professional by spotlighting industry stakeholders who are BIPOC, LGBTQIA and disabled. The initiative consists of three pillars: a pro bono program which offers at least one quarter of PR services to entrepreneurs of color or social equity licensees; High Priority, a free platform that enables brands and reputable nonprofits to reach wider audiences; and ongoing fundraising for nonprofits focused on addressing the harm perpetuated by the war on drugs, including the Last Prisoner Project.

"As the largest cannabis agency in the country, we have a unique responsibility to leverage our reach to not only educate other industry leaders, but also support underrepresented entrepreneurs and advocates who are at the forefront of creating a truly inclusive and next-generation sector," said Rosie Mattio, founder and CEO of MATTIO Communications.

New episodes of High Priority are available every Tuesday and can be found on Apple, Spotify and all major podcast platforms. For more information, please visit www.mattio.com/high-priority-podcast.

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Montana’s medical cannabis licensees will soon be subject to new advertising limitations and requirements.

The Montana Department of Revenue announced proposed rule changes for advertising last month and plans to hold a public hearing Aug. 13 to consider the adoption of the rules, which are slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2022—coinciding with the start of adult-use sales.

Some of the notable provisions proposed by the department include:

Licensed businesses would be limited to two outdoor signs, which must be affixed to a building or permanent structure—billboards, banners and flags would be prohibited. Each outdoor sign is limited to 1,600 square inches (or roughly 11 square feet) and must include required warning language. A licensee may use the terms “marijuana” or “cannabis” in its signage or its electronic advertising, but may not use colloquial terms (e.g., pot, reefer, ganga, weed) or contain depictions of cannabis plants or paraphernalia. All advertising must be in black font with white background and include licensing, age restriction and warning statements.Businesses would not be allowed to advertise on social media platforms, TV, radio or in print, such as newspapers or magazines. Businesses would not be allowed to sponsor a charitable, sports or similar event, nor offer promotional items, giveaways, coupons or merchandise.  A business that advertises via webpage must utilize appropriate measures to verify that individuals visiting the webpage are over 21 years of age.

As passed under provisions of Initiative 190—the state’s voter-approved ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis—the Department of Revenue is now responsible for administering the entirety of Montana’s cannabis regulatory framework for both medical and adult use.

On the heels of the voter-approved measure, the Montana Legislature passed House Bill 249, which allowed medical cannabis businesses to engage in some electronic advertising activity that was previously prohibited, such as by website, as long as they didn’t show cannabis use, make health claims or target under-age consumers.

According to the notice of proposed rule changes released by the Department of Revenue last month, “H.B. 249 also confirms the Legislature’s desire to severely curtail forms of advertising pertaining to the sale, cultivation or manufacture of marijuana.”

AURORA — PRESS RELEASE — As of Aug. 1, 2021, Victoria Williams is the first person in the State of Illinois to be issued a Cannabis Transportation License. This certification authorizes her business to transport cannabis and cannabis-infused products on behalf of other Illinois cannabis business establishments.

“I am so excited to take this step forward not just for my business, but for the entire cannabis industry in the state of Illinois,” remarked Williams. “I’m also very proud to represent my community as a Black woman, an educator and a businesswoman.”

Over the past six years, Williams and her partners at ACC of Illinois have developed multiple educational platforms and hands-on training programs necessary to participate in the cannabis business. This was developed alongside the cannabis tour she led in Denver, Colo., which provided potential applicants with courses on dispensary and processing facilities, networking opportunities with owners, and cost analysis strategies. She is also the author of three books titled Cooking with a Twist, Cannabis Puzzles, Illinois Dispensary Training Manual and How to Start a Daycare Sis!

“Our main goal is to address the lack of information about cannabis education and business, especially within Black and Brown communities,” said Williams. “My partners at ACC of Illinois and I are dedicated to providing education, training, networking opportunities to groups that were the most targeted by anti-drug laws in decades past.”

Three cannabis license applicants have sued the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), claiming they were wrongfully excluded from an upcoming licensing lottery.

Justice Grown, Emerald Coast LLC and ReNu LLC filed the complaint in federal court July 30, claiming that their applications should have received perfect scores, thus qualifying them for an Aug. 19 lottery to win a cannabis retail license, but they were wrongfully denied points due to regulators’ scoring errors, according to a Law360 report.

The businesses say IDFPR notified them on July 29 that the agency would not consider their requests to re-score their applications, Law360 reported. The lawsuit alleges that denying the companies the opportunity to challenge their scores violates their constitutional right to due process.

The applicants have requested a court order forcing the state to let them participate in the upcoming lottery, according to Law360.

IDFPR awarded 55 cannabis retail licenses to 53 firms on July 29 in the first of three licensing lotteries meant to improve social equity in the state’s adult-use market. Regulators plan to hold two more lotteries on Aug. 5 and Aug. 19 to award 130 additional licenses.

A new lawsuit in Oklahoma alleges that the Medical Marijuana Authority violated the state’s Open Meeting Act when it adopted new emergency regulations earlier this year without notifying the state’s cannabis industry of the meeting or holding a public comment period on the rules.

Tulsa-based attorney Ron Durbin and co-counsel Rachel Bussett claim that the medical cannabis board was formed “in secret” and then “held a secret meeting to approve some regulations, and then sent those off to the governor as emergency regulations,” according to a KOKH report.

The attorneys claim that no agenda was posted for the Medical Marijuana Authority’s meeting regarding the emergency rules and that cannabis industry stakeholders were not notified of the meeting, which Durbin and Bussett said offered regulators “little time to read and understand” the regulations that were ultimately adopted, KOKH reported.

The lawsuit seeks to separate the Medical Marijuana Authority from the Oklahoma State Department of Health and place it under the control of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, according to KOKH.

Durbin announced his plans to sue the state’s medical cannabis board July 30 at a rally at the capitol, where medical cannabis patients and other industry stakeholders gathered to call for increased transparency from the Medical Marijuana Authority, according to The Oklahoman.

Over the past several months, onlookers have watched heavily hyped, high-inducing cannabinoids divide the hemp industry. As a growing number of states step in to regulate these controversial substances, such as delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), multiple cannabinoids join the fray. A semi-synthetic cannabinoid known as THC-O acetate is one substance gaining attention.

To learn more about THC-O acetate, Cannabis Business Times, Cannabis Dispensary and Hemp Grower spoke with board-certified neurologist Ethan Russo, M.D., who’s devoted the last 25 years to studying the medicinal aspects of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. That includes more than a decade as senior medical adviser to GW Pharmaceuticals, the company behind Epidiolex, the only cannabidiol (CBD)-containing drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Russo is now CEO and founder of CReDO Science, a company devoted to making cannabis safer and better.

Photo courtesy of Ethan Russo
Dr. Ethan Russo, M.D.

Jolene Hansen (JH): The hemp industry is seeing a proliferation of controversial cannabinoids, including THC-O acetate. Does this surprise you or did you see this coming?

Dr. Ethan Russo (ER): More the latter. All this nonsense about these synthetics, I see as a byproduct of prohibition. If there were legalization of cannabis products with appropriate regulation, I don't think any of this would be happening. The continuation of prohibition has basically been a catalyst to this kind of development of products that people would like to think are legal but clearly are not. Certainly THC-O acetate falls in that category.

JH: So, what is THC-O acetate and how is it derived?

ER: It starts with tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC. That's the natural product that is the main psychoactive component of cannabis. THC-O acetate is what's called a semi-synthetic derivative, or analogue. Through a chemical process using a very toxic chemical called acetic anhydride, you can turn some of the delta-9 THC into THC-O acetate.

Portland, OR -- PRESS RELEASE -- On Aug. 2, the OLCC became the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, dropping the word “Control” that had defined the agency’s original post-Prohibition mission. Previously referred to as the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the agency began regulating recreational marijuana after voters approved Measure 91 in November 2014.

This change comes five years after voters passed Measure 91 which directed the agency to establish a framework for regulating Oregon’s recreational marijuana marketplace. While the change updates the agency’s name to better reflect its mission, the OLCC acronym will remain the same.

“The industries we regulate matter, they matter a lot to the state of Oregon’s economy,” said Paul Rosenbaum, Chair of the Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission. “The cannabis industry in Oregon has become a billion dollar business and changing our agency name reflects our role in generating revenue to fund state programs.”

Newly issued alcohol and marijuana licenses, and alcohol server and marijuana worker permits, will be modified to include the new name and logo. Existing versions of these official documents continue to be valid with the agency’s previous name and logo, and will be replaced when the licensee or permit holder renews them.

The OLCC will make minor public facing adjustments to reflect the name change; the modifications will have a minimal cost. Exterior signage at OLCC headquarters and regional offices will gradually be brought up-to-date. Documents on the agency website will continue to be updated with the new OLCC logo. The agency will deplete its existing stock of paper documents branded with the agency’s old name and logo; these items will be replenished with the new name and logo when existing supplies are exhausted.

Recent legalization has added fuel to the green rush. As it makes its hurried way toward the East Coast, this wave of momentum feels like rocket fuel behind the maturation of the cannabis industry. While we’re far from a consistently regulated, low-stigma and widely embraced market, there are already multi-state operators (MSOs) like Cresco Labs and Curaleaf that are well poised to expand their reach and welcome in anxious to expert consumers with well-tested—and funded—brands, products and operations.

That’s not to say that leadership is guaranteed to these players—far from it, especially when you take into account how fragmented the market is—but it does give us an indication of where things may be headed. Most importantly, we can see how integral it will be to precede costly cannabis market entry with a compelling brand to help you rapidly compete with massive vertically integrated competitors who may well be situated to beat on cost, data and scale.

When thinking about the potential for cannabis branding, it may be useful to look to the beer industry’s Big Beer vs. Craft Beer dynamic for some clues.

For many years, the beer industry was dominated by a few major players, such as Coors, Budweiser and Heineken. For over fifty years following Prohibition, there were only a few hundred regional breweries, until President Jimmy Carter signed a bill legalizing homebrewing. Over the next ten years, the number of local beer brands began to grow, culminating in a craft beer renaissance beginning in the 1990s and exploding with the IPO of Boston Beer Company, the makers of Sam Adams, in 1995. With no signs of slowing down, Craft Beer has been giving Big Beer a run for its money and has forced them to take notice. In 2017, Heineken acquired Lagunitas Brewing Company for $1 billion, according to some estimates.

It is possible that when MSOs (e.g. Big Cannabis) eventually plateau in growth in the context of a flooded industry, the next logical step may be the snowballing acquisition of smaller, niche brands (e.g. Craft Cannabis) to expand their consumer base and offerings.

In anticipation of a potentially similar future, a simple and clear brand that compellingly elevates what makes you special to bombarded consumers will be essential to quickly stand out, command a premium and build loyalty through crowded physical and digital shelves. Perhaps as well, it will become the next “Big Beer,” or be positioned well for a lucrative acquisition.

LAFAYETTE, Colo., Aug. 2, 2021 – PRESS RELEASE – urban-gro Inc., a fully integrated architectural, engineering and cultivation systems integration company for commercial cannabis and food-focused Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) facilities, announced that it has completed the acquisition of MJ12 Design Studio and associated companies, 2WR of Georgia and 2WR of Colorado (2WR+ Partners). The acquisition extends urban-gro’s services into early-stage conceptual design and planning, and it creates the industry’s first fully integrated architecture, engineering and cultivation systems company serving the cannabis and food-focused CEA sectors.

urban-gro funded the $9.1-million transaction with a combination of cash and UGRO common stock (issued out of corporate treasury stock from prior buyback program), including contingent consideration of up to $2 million based on achievement of certain performance metrics. The company expects the transaction to be accretive to earnings within the first year and drive significant waterfall revenue opportunities for urban-gro’s existing suite of products and services. In a pandemic-impacted 2020, 2WR+ Partners improved upon 2019 numbers and reported revenue of $6.2 million, net income of $900,000, adjusted EBITDA of $1 million, a gross margin of 43% and an operating margin of 16%.

“In addition to increasing the value to our shareholders through an increased earnings per share in the first year following consolidation, we believe that this acquisition creates more than $10 million in incremental waterfall revenues for our existing offerings of engineering and design services as well as cultivation equipment sales,” urban-gro Chairman and CEO Bradley Nattrass said. “With the inclusion of architectural design to complement our existing services, we can now offer fully integrated design solutions for processing, extraction and retail facilities as well. With this acquisition and continuing to work closely with our existing strategic manufacturing partners, we are much closer towards delivering complete, end-to-end turn-key indoor CEA facilities for our clients.”

Nattrass added, “We have a long history of working with MJ12 Design Studio on a variety of major CEA projects. The past successes of urban-gro and MJ12 Design Studio provide an excellent framework for how our teams will come together as one entity moving forward, providing significant value to our customers. We’ve already launched this integration, recently bringing the company’s now combined 80 employees together to kick-off this exciting new stage of urban-gro’s evolution.”

MJ12 Design Studio Principal Sam Andras, AIA, will join urban-gro’s senior leadership team in the role of executive vice president of professional services. Andras will lead urban-gro’s full building and cultivation systems design services. Collectively, the company’s portfolio of experience totals more than 450 CEA facilities.

“On behalf of our 23 employees, we are excited to become part of the urban-gro team,” Andras said. “Through the synergies of our two firms, we can leverage the collective experience and expertise of our professionals to deliver high performance facilities that will allow for cultivating the highest quality production of plant-based medicines and food crops at the local level across the globe. We bring with us a deeply experienced team with over 110 CEA facility designs comprising over 9 million square feet in 21 states and four countries. I view the ability to provide fully integrated design solutions under one roof as a natural step in the progression of offerings within the CEA industry and something the industry has needed.”

Genetixs, a California-based cannabis company, has named Tennessee Titans’ Julio Jones and his former Atlanta Falcons teammate, Roddy White, as defendants in a lawsuit alleging that the duo illegally harvested and sold millions of dollars’ worth of cannabis in California.

White’s company, SLW Holdings, is one of five business entities that comprise Genetixs, according to an AP News report, and Genetixs’ complaint claims that Jones and White worked with two other defendants to conduct black market sales out of a Genetixs facility in Desert Hot Springs. The lawsuit alleges that the group has not reported cannabis sales since March and estimates that they have sold $3 million in cannabis per month since then.

The complaint also claims that Genetixs fired a manager in March after a state inspection of the company’s facility found several violations, AP News reported, and says that the manager did not report the cannabis sales, as well as refused to provide budgets and other business-related documentation to Genetixs.

After the manager was let go, the lawsuit alleges that Jones, White and others operated an “illegal black-market operation from the Genetixs Cannabis Facility to sell cannabis and misappropriate the illegal sales proceeds without reporting them,” according to AP News.

Genetixs holds a cannabis business license in California, but says it could now lose its license due to the actions detailed in its lawsuit, which was filed July 21.

A lot has happened in the world of cannabis legalization since Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012.

Over the last decade, many states across the country have moved to legalize recreational and/or medical use. Others have begun decriminalizing cannabis. As the industry continues to mature and develop, there are signs that cannabis is following the familiar path of the pharmaceutical industry. Paying close attention to these cues can help cannabis entrepreneurs anticipate what's coming as the industry continues to evolve.

 

Extracting specific plant properties rather than using the plant as a whole.

When people think about cannabis, they now focus on single cannabinoids within the plant. THC is the most well known cannabinoid, but it's more mellow sister CBD has also launched an entire additional sector of business. Right now, people are fixated on delta-8, and were previously focused on CBG and CBN. But the truth is that drilling down to specific properties has all been done before by pharma.

Aspirin was originally derived from a compound in willow bark. Nowadays, it is created synthetically, but it started out as a salicin extraction from willow bark that was then converted to salicylic acid to make aspirin. When you take vitamin C rather than eat an orange, you are opting to have a specific property taken out of a plant and consumed in a high concentration.

The link between food and health was established centuries ago. Hippocrates famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” While creating a very high concentration can aid in health depending upon the medical issue, it is also likely that most of that will be flushed out from the body rather than absorbed.

Many cannabis companies are working to understand Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) trends so that they may mitigate risks and establish compliant policies at the enterprise level.

The growing impetus behind the current focus on ESG is not only to comply with new regulations and meet consumer and employee demand, but also to increase the capacity to attract capital as many investors are looking to invest in companies with ESG initiatives in place. Given increased demand for ESG action from businesses, many cannabis companies are uniquely positioned to benefit from highlighting their current ESG efforts and incorporating additional ESG practices.

ESG is in the headlines, but it is more than just a fad.

At its core, ESG is a process for evaluating longer-term environmental, social and governance risks that are often considered when implementing traditional risk management strategies. This evaluation includes everything from a company’s treatment of employees and contract labor to its potential unintended impacts on the communities in which it operates. This can encompass product safety and labelling, carbon emissions, water consumption, as well as a company’s adoption of meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion programs. The list is long, but it is also important and cannabis operators are poised to take advantage.

Because the nascent legal cannabis industry often finds itself needing to overcome public and policymaker misperceptions and abide by strict regulations, many cannabis companies have already incorporated ESG-like policies and good governance into their business model.

Growers already analyze their environmental impacts. Brands are required to know the sources of their ingredients and to track their quality. Cannabis product labels are scrutinized for misrepresentations. Because cannabis companies are typically less corporately established entities and because many have evolved from a non-traditional financial background, cannabis companies already also tend to be more diverse and concerned about social justice. By converting de facto ESG policies into express, well-formulated and executed ESG policies, allows companies to add value and position themselves for stronger growth in the marketplace.

As July comes to a close, we’ve got plenty of work to do in the cannabis space. Perhaps the biggest story of the month was the announcement of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, a fairly comprehensive legalization bill that actually stands a chance at making headway in Congress this year.

It’s hard to say what that means to currently licensed cannabis business owners, except for the fact that change is coming. But you already knew that, right? That’s the name of the game.

N.B.: Next month, we’ll be in Las Vegas for Cannabis Conference 2021. Check the full schedule of educational programming here—and make sure to register! 

We’ve rounded up some of the key cannabis headlines from the week right here.

Ohio is making a run at adult-use legalization. Will it work? Read more 

“Colorado has created the Cannabis Business Office to promote social equity and provide financial and technical assistance to entrepreneurs in the industry.” Read more