Columbia Care launched Cannabist, its new dispensary retail brand.
Photo: Columbia Care | col-care.com
The first rebranded Cannabist retail location saw its first sale on April 30 in Springville, Utah. 
 

According to Columbia Care, the Cannabist brand will provide patients and customers with a simple and approachable cannabis shopping experience while accommodating a range of experience levels. Cannabist will feature a number of premium brands, the company says, and will collaborate with brands run by social equity businesses and other industry leaders.

The first Cannabist location in Springville, Utah, saw its first sale on April 30, and three more Columbia Care locations—in San Diego; Tempe, Arizona; and Villa Park, Illinois—will rebrand as Cannabist by the end of May. An additional pipeline of more than 60 new and existing locations will follow over the next two years, according to Columbia Care.

“Cannabist is not only a reflection of where we are now and all of the markets we serve, but it is also a commitment to where we are going,” says Jesse Channon, Chief Growth Officer at Columbia Care. “We believe Cannabist will become a hub for all those who incorporate cannabis into their lives—regardless of what brought them to us. The Cannabist brand can grow with an ever-changing industry, continue to meet the needs of our patients and customers and serve as the platform for continuous innovation.”

According to Columbia Care, Cannabist stores are designed to encourage employee and customer interaction through both product recommendations and general education. Cannabist staff will undergo training to ensure a positive customer experience, the company says.

In addition, Cannabist locations will continue utilizing digital shopping platforms, including its own web-based application that is scheduled to launch in June, according to the company.

ALPHARETTA, Georgia, May 11, 2021 - PRESS RELEASE – MerchantE, an end-to-end digital commerce platform, is now offering its payment processing services to the growing CBD market. 

“We are expanding our merchant portfolio into markets that have had a difficult time finding support from a payment processor, and the CBD business is now a focus for us," said Mike Rouse, chief executive officer at MerchantE. “The CBD industry has grown rapidly in the past few years and is only expected to get larger. We’re looking forward to providing payment services to clients in this emerging industry."

The global cannabidiol (CBD) market was valued at $2.8 billion in 2020 and is estimated to grow to $13.4 billion by 2028, according to a February 2021 report from Grandview Research. This growth is being fueled by increasing demand for CBD-based health and wellness products and more favorable government regulation of CBD production and distribution.

MerchantE has partnered with Fresno First Bank to serve as the sponsor bank for CBD clients. The CBD market has traditionally been considered high-risk for payment processing, making it more difficult and more expensive for merchants to accept and manage credit and debit card transactions. MerchantE, working with Fresno First, is now able to provide more transparent, reliable and affordable payment processing to clients in this growing market. For more information about services available to the CBD market, please visit MerchantE.com/NewMarkets.

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If you’ve attended Cannabis Conference or any number of other industry events over the past decade, you may have seen the late Roger Martin. A towering figure at 6’6”, the grayish-white-haired man could be found strolling the expo floor or sitting in conference session rooms, talking with everyone he could in a kind, soft-spoken manner to spread the word about HeroGrown Foundation, an organization he and his son Nick Martin founded in 2011. Originally named “Grow for Vets,” the organization’s founding mission was to help provide veterans with access to cannabis and CBD as an alternative to opioids. Roger—a former U.S. Army veteran and law enforcement officer who developed (and overcame with cannabis) a “VA-fed opioid addiction,” as Nick explains it—died in June 2020; Nick is now continuing to carry out HeroGrown’s expanded mission as its director and working to “save heroes” by providing access to cannabis as a safer alternative to opiates to as many veterans and first responders as possible.

Here, Noelle Skodzinski, editorial director of GIE Media’s Cannabis Group (including Cannabis Business Times, Cannabis Dispensary, Hemp Grower, Cannabis Conference and Hemp Grower Conference), talks with Nick about what it’s like working to build on his and his father’s original vision, how the Reno, Nev.-based 501(c)(3) charitable organization has evolved over the years, and what those in the cannabis industry who want to support veterans and first responders can do to help.

Courtesy of Nick Martin
Roger Martin

Noelle Skodzinski: What inspired you and your dad to launch HeroGrown (then Grow for Vets)?

Nick Martin: I helped my father beat his VA-fed opioid addiction using cannabis in 2010. Having discovered the power of the plant, we began giving free cannabis to veterans starting in 2011. In 2018, we began accepting first responders as members and changed our name to HeroGrown Foundation. 

NS: What was the original mission vision for it and why were you and your father passionate about it?   

NM: Over 50 veterans and first responders die every day from suicide and drug overdose. Cannabis saved my dad’s life, so we set out to save as many heroes as we could using cannabis.

T

The Green Organic Dutchman Holdings (TGOD) is in the process of selling its Valleyfield cultivation and processing facility in Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada.


 

TGOD expects the Valleyfield facility sale to "increase its financial flexibility in order to reduce its debt and capitalize on future opportunities," the company says. TGOD anticipates closing a purchase agreement for the facility by the end of June.

"We are pleased with the level of bids for the full Valleyfield facility, which upon closing would allow us to potentially retire all debt and provide additional expansion working capital," says Sean Bovingdon, CEO and interim CFO at TGOD. "Furthermore, most of the offer include the ability for TGOD to leaseback the small portion of the Valleyfield facility we are currently using, such that there will be minimal disruption to our current operations at the Valleyfield facility and no requirement for the company to expend capital for any relocation."

To date, TGOD has realized $2.64 million in various excess asset sales, the company says.

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2021 – PRESS RELEASE – Members of the board of directors for Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), the largest trade association dedicated to serving the needs of minority cannabis businesses and minority communities, held their annual election last month to fill four open board seats and elect the association’s board officers.
MCBA | minoritycannabis.org

New board members include: Mario Guzman, owner of cannabis brand Sherbinskis, who is best known as the breeder behind legendary strains such as Sunset Sherbert and Gelato; Cedric Haynes, who currently serves as the director of emerging marketplaces for WeedMaps; Willie Mack, a brand marketing executive who has worked for clients including Absolut Vodka, Estee Lauder, GQ, Microsoft, Obama Administration, Vanity Fair and Wired Magazine (he now serves as CEO and co-founder of Think BIG and Frank White); and Kika Keith, founder and CEO of Life Development Group, and co-founder and president of Social Equity Owners and Workers Association.

“I could not be more proud to represent minorities in the cannabis space. It’s always been in my heart to help people, now I have a tribe of like-minded people that I can join arms with and help make much-needed changes in our community. Thank you MCBA for the honor of being able to serve on this board,” Guzman said.

“It’s an honor and privilege to serve on the MCBA Board of Directors, and I’m excited to offer my public policy experience in furtherance of the mission. I look forward to working with MCBA leadership, staff, members and partners to create equal access for minority-owned cannabis businesses and advance economic empowerment for communities of color,” Haynes said.

“The team at MCBA has been vital to Think BIG’s education around cannabis legalization. I am grateful and honored to be joining the board as it will allow me to continue as a resource and representative of the Black and Queer communities’ fight for cannabis industry access, funding and legalization,” Mack said.

In addition to adding four new board members, MCBA’s board also elected Kaliko Castille, an industry veteran and co-founder of ThndrStrm Strategies, as its president and Jazmin Aguiar, president of The Working Group, as its vice president.

Trulieve Cannabis Corp., the largest fully licensed medical cannabis company in Florida, announced May 10 its definitive arrangement agreement for the acquisition of Arizona-based Harvest Health and Recreation Inc., in a $2.1-billion deal.

Primarily a vertically integrated “seed-to-sale” company, Trulieve touted the all-stock transaction as one that creates the most profitable multistate operator in the U.S. Harvest Health and Recreation, a multistate operator in its own right, has a retail and wholesale footprint that recorded continued growth over the past decade.

The handshake was not surprising as far as merger-and-acquisition activity in the cannabis space, which has been hot and heavy since the November 2020 election, but the whopping price tag attached to the deal was a head-turner, said Jonathan Havens, a partner at Saul, Ewing, Arnstein and Lehr’s Philadelphia-based law firm. He counsels clients on transactional matters in the cannabis industry.

“This is a big deal. The price tag is obviously quite notable,” Havens said. “But look, the M&A, the deal activity in the cannabis space, has been hot for a while and I think will continue to be hot. The price tag here is big. Trulieve is a very strong operator with a strong balance sheet, which gives them the opportunity to go out and make acquisitions like this.”

RELATED: M&A Uptick Expected to Continue in 2021

The Trulieve-Harvest deal shows that the cannabis industry is maturing and pursuing more targeted, strategic acquisitions rather than the land grab of early 2019, said Sander C. Zagzebski, a member at Clark Hill, a multidisciplinary, international law firm. Based in California, Zagzebski represents clients in mergers, acquisitions, dispositions and other change-of-control transactions.

MINNEAPOLIS, May 5, 2021 – PRESS RELEASE – Cannabis retailers have a new tool to enhance legal compliance, fight fraud, protect their staff and be certain of their ID checks. Veridocs Inc., a leader in solutions for ID authentication and identity management, is introducing the Veridocs BrightTower Retail Safety and Security System. This affordable, modular system automates the age verification process with technology far more advanced than a barcode scan and can also check internal and external watch lists according to state and local regulations. With ID readers, software, training, and additional options and integrations, BrightTower Retail delivers a flexible tool that outperforms standard ID verification systems and helps cannabis retailers maintain strict compliance.

BrightTower Retail’s ID authentication starts when a customer or staff member inserts an ID into the reader. It is quickly compared against a global database to confirm the presence of security features such as UV and other specialized inks, plus other electronic features present in the document. The technology confirms a match between the encoded data (such as barcodes and chips) with the data printed on the front of the document. This helps retailers easily spot barcode forgeries, which are increasingly common on fake IDs.

Cannabis retailers also have the option of incorporating watch list checks, automatically comparing the data on the ID document to databases as required by any state and local regulations. An option for facial matching compares the ID photo to a live image of the person presenting the ID, giving staff a useful tool to flag customers “borrowing” an older sibling or friend’s ID. Retailers can also use the technology to keep audit trails of ID scans for future reference and enforcement concerns.

BrightTower Retail includes on-demand training modules designed by experts in organizational safety and security. With this training, retailers can easily onboard staff members and help them make the right decisions when a fake ID is flagged, or a security concern arises.

Additional options such as security cameras with covert triggers are available for users to add extra layers of protection customized for their environments. BrightTower’s security experts—veterans of safety, security and fraud prevention—are also available for custom consulting and on-site assessments and trainings.

“BrightTower Retail was designed to help eliminate staff guesswork in spotting fake or ‘borrowed’ IDs,” Veridocs President and CEO Joe Oprosko said. “We’re giving retailers the tools—in both technology and training—to be certain they’re protecting themselves against fines, possible threats and fraud.”

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The legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana remains one of the hottest trends in state taxation. Currently, 16 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia have passed bills or approved ballot measures that allow for the sale of recreational marijuana, and more states are poised to pass legislation this session. In total, actual recreational marijuana sales are happening in 11 states.

The Virginia legislature now has passed a bill that would legalize sales starting in 2024; legislators are currently working with Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to amend and finalize legislation. New Mexico lawmakers are very likely to pass legislation during an ongoing special session.

Voters in four states approved ballot measures in November, but only one state (Arizona) has established an operational marketplace. Vermont, which passed legalization back in 2018, has finally approved legislation, and the state plans to be operational starting in 2022. Recreational sales are delayed due to pending legal action in South Dakota and federal prohibition in the District of Columbia, although change is on the horizon in DC.

The unique legal framework under which marijuana use and sales operate—that of differing state and federal legality—means that every state market is essentially a siloed market. Marijuana products cannot cross state borders, so the entire process (seed to smoke, so to speak) must occur within state borders. This unusual situation, along with the novelty of legalization, has resulted in a wide variety of tax designs.

The following map highlights the states that have legal markets and levy taxes on recreational marijuana.

While the governor has not yet signed the bill (as of Friday), Alabama looks to be the latest state to pass a medical cannabis bill. It’s a good reminder that there’s much progress to be made for cannabis patients in the U.S.—even as a wave of adult-use legalization measures cruises across the country this year.

“Passing the Compassion Act will allow seriously ill patients to finally get the relief they deserve,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at MPP. “Alabama is one of only 14 states in the country that continues to criminalize the medical use of cannabis, and while this bill is more restrictive than is ideal, it is a dramatic improvement from the status quo and would improve the lives of thousands of Alabamians. We urge Gov. Ivey to sign it into law.”

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

Associate Editor Tony Lange reports on Alabama’s 20-year journey to getting a medical cannabis bill passed out of the state legislature. The current bill is heading to the governor’s desk. Read more 
As GrowGeneration zips through a series of acquisitions in the garden supply center world, we caught up with CEO Darren Lampert to learn about the strategy behind the transaction spree. Read more 
As adult-use cannabis sales are on pace to break $1 billion this year in Illinois, plans to roll out 110 new retail licenses are adding fuel to the hot, hot market. Read more 
Assistant Editor Andriana Ruscitto reports on the Texas House of Representatives approving three legislative proposals, which would expand the state's medical cannabis program, reduce penalties for concentrates and decriminalize possession. Read more 
Contributor Chris Kudialis brings us the latest from Las Vegas, where on-site consumptions lounges are coming soon. Read more 

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

Syracuse.com: “With recreational marijuana now legal in New York, Syracuse University is launching a new set of courses to prepare workers for careers in a new and somewhat complicated new field.” Read more 
Spectrum News 1: “The tribal council for the Cherokee in western North Carolina voted Thursday to legalize medical marijuana on tribal lands. The tribal land will be the first area in the state with legal possession of pot.” Read more 
Westword: “The tribal council for the Cherokee in western North Carolina voted Thursday to legalize medical marijuana on tribal lands. The tribal land will be the first area in the state with legal possession of pot.” Read more 
WXYZ: “The Holistic Industries' consumption lounge will be adjacent to their retail dispensary, Liberty Ann Arbor, which has already been operating on Ashley Street.” Read more 
Nevada Current: “As the Nevada Legislature debates a variety of cannabis-related measures, dissension among dispensary owners could impede efforts to take Nevada’s fledgling weed industry to the next level, says Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom.” Read more 

 

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Kansas took its first step toward legalizing medical cannabis on May 6, when the House of Representatives advanced House Substitute for Senate Bill 158 in a 79-42 vote.

The bill would permit patients with qualifying conditions to register to receive a medical cannabis card as long as they have a recommendation from a doctor whom they've been treated by for at least six months, with the exception of military veterans. The measure would also set up a licensing process for growers and dispensary owners, as well as permit the sale of medical cannabis tinctures, oils, patches or edibles, but not flower or additional smoking and vaping products, The Associated Press reported.

Before the bill entered the House, it received backlash, according to the article. Several law enforcement groups argued that there is not enough evidence to prove that medical cannabis can treat conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Parkinson's disease. 

But cannabis advocates proclaimed that it's challenging to get data on medical cannabis and its treatment due to legal status in the U.S., the article states.

During Thursday's debate, the majority of Democrats and some Republican lawmakers supported the bill; however, some Republican House members argued that legalizing medical cannabis would be the first step to adult-use legalization, while others classified cannabis as a "gateway" drug, the article states. 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, Kansas is one of few states that does not have an established medical or adult-use cannabis program. Some lawmakers in favor of the bill said the state shouldn’t wait for the federal government to act, as “Kansans are tired of waiting on Kansas being last or falling behind other states on major issues such as this,” said Republican Rep. Adam Thomas.

Medical cannabis legislation was first introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives two decades ago. Eight years ago, it was the laughingstock of the lower chamber. Now, a medical cannabis bill has supermajority support.

After a nearly 10-hour filibuster Tuesday, House lawmakers reconvened Thursday and considered several floor amendments before passing the Senate-originated bill, 68-34, which would allow registered patients diagnosed with qualifying conditions to access cannabis. The legislation returned to the Senate for final consideration Thursday night, when the upper chamber voted, 20-9, to concur with the House changes.

The legislation, Senate Bill 46, now heads to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk. In a statement from Ivey’s office Thursday night, press secretary Gina Maiola said the governor looks forward to thoroughly reviewing the bill and providing the diligence it deserves, but did not say whether she would sign it.

If Ivey provides the ink, Alabama will become the 37th medical cannabis state, joining the likes of nearby Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, according to reform organization Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

“Passing the compassion act will allow seriously ill patients to finally get the relief they deserve,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at MPP. “Alabama is one of only 14 states in the country that continues to criminalize the medical use of cannabis, and while this bill is more restrictive than is ideal, it is a dramatic improvement from the status quo and would improve the lives of thousands of Alabamians. We urge … Gov. Ivey to sign it into law.”

The Alabama Senate has passed medical cannabis bills three years in a row, but this is the first time the House has passed legislation. Last year, pandemic-related circumstances derailed the lower chamber’s possibility of a vote.

GrowGeneration Corp. recently announced its acquisition of Downriver Hydroponics, a Michigan-based indoor garden supply center. The headline news was the latest in a long string of garden supply center acquisitions that has seen GrowGen take a growing claim to the market segment.

It was the ninth acquisition for GrowGren this year alone, and an opportunity that the company took to raise its 2021 revenue guidance to $415-$430 million.

CEO Darren Lampert spoke with Cannabis Business Times about the company’s acquisition spree, noting that these transactions have been a pillar of the company’s growth. GrowGen has targeted “best-in-breed” supply centers that mesh with the company’s outlook and corporate culture.

He said this growth is a symptom of a maturing cannabis industry, even while a hefty portion of the business involves hemp, fruits and vegetables. A wave of legalization is sweeping across the U.S., and cultivation resource needs are increasing. Budgets are increasing, too.

“In order to properly represent these big, large grows around the country, you need stores that can handle it. The product mix is enormous. We carry 10,000 SKUs, usually at least 3,000 SKUs in our stores. You need distribution. The big growers are just too large—the multi-state operators, the single-state operators. So, we saw this evolution. We saw the sea change switch. And what GrowGen did was we started small.”

The company began with four stores in Pueblo, Colo.: 2,000 square feet apiece, $1 million in business. By 2018, GrowGen was pulling in $30 million in annual business, still a far cry from the latest 2021 guidance.

WINDSOR, Ontario, May 6, 2021 – PRESS RELEASE – All-Risks Insurance Brokers Ltd., a full-service insurance brokerage, and cannabis insurance broker Fady Kamel announce a partnership with Senses Cannabis Group to launch a market-leading retail cannabis store insurance product through Burns & Wilcox, a globally recognized leader in wholesale insurance brokerage and underwriting. Senses Cannabis Group powers the largest network of cannabis stores in Ontario by providing group savings, distribution of retail displays, as well as technology and marketing consultations.

Along with the many current benefits, Senses Cannabis Group members can now take advantage of the insurance expertise of Fady Kamel, from the Erin Mills Branch of All-Risks, who has helped insure large cannabis licensed producers, processors, consultants, brands and countless retailers. This partnership will support existing retailers in Ontario and Alberta, and allow new potential retailers in those provinces to transition into a fully functional operation with greater ease, all while receiving preferred insurance policy pricing.

All-Risks Insurance Brokers Ltd., along with Senses Cannabis Group, is dedicated to protecting retailers and helping them succeed with the launch of this much-needed integral solution to the cannabis retail space.

“We are excited to be partnering with Senses Cannabis Group to provide members with a tailored insurance product,” Kamel said. “The Senses retail network is the first of its kind in many ways, including free access for all members. Opening a cannabis store has many challenges and costs. To receive the highest level of service offerings free of charge, all while saving money, is unheard of in the cannabis industry. Insurance policies will be underwritten through Burns & Wilcox, a globally recognized insurance industry leader, and together with our underwriting expertise and great value-added services we look forward to continue leading the way in the cannabis industry.”

Visit www.sensescannabis.ca/join to become a member today, or retailcannabisinsurance.com/senses-members for more info.

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CINCINNATI, OH, May 4, 2021 — Apeks Supercritical, Delta Separations, Nexus Greenhouse Systems, Rough Brothers, Inc. (RBI), Tetra and ThermoEnergy Solutions (TES), all part of the greenhouse and custom growing and processing group of Gibraltar Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ: ROCK), today announced these brands have combined under a new brand, Prospiant. To provide a more seamless experience for customers, and better align organizational structures, equipment and system product lines, these Gibraltar heritage brands are unifying to provide complete ecosystems for controlled environment agriculture (CEA) and extraction technologies.

The Gibraltar growing and processing brands that are transitioning to Prospiant include the following:

Apeks Supercritical, industry-leading CO2 extraction technologies.Delta Separations, innovative ethanol and solventless extraction, recovery and distillation technologies.Nexus Greenhouse Systems, leading cannabis and commercial greenhouse solutions. Rough Brothers, Inc., climate-controlled structures and growing solutions for research, retail and commercial applications.Tetra, commercial indoor cultivation systems.ThermoEnergy Solutions, complete large-scale commercial greenhouse solutions, including design, engineering and installation of turnkey projects.RBI Structures Inc., Linx, National Greenhouse, Delta T Solutions, XS Smith and Golden Pacific Structures are also combining.

As one unified team, Prospiant is now the leading U.S.-based provider of turnkey CEA solutions for growing fruits and vegetables, as well as a leading supplier of custom greenhouses for research, education and retail. It is also the only provider of soil-to-oil cannabis ecosystems globally with technologies for the cultivation, extraction and refinement of cannabinoids.

“As Prospiant, a complete solutions provider in controlled environment agriculture technology, we are now in the position to better help businesses, research and educational institutions grow through more streamlined operations and consolidated industry expertise,” said Mark Dunson, group president of Prospiant. “By combining and leveraging our deep knowledge and extensive cross-industry expertise, our specialists can provide customers with a turnkey package, from plant to product, to mitigate risks and maximize return on investment.”

The company will build upon the same industry-leading innovative technologies and services its customers have come to rely on for growing and processing applications by leveraging combined strengths, technical expertise and a 185-year combined heritage of delivering best-in-class services across markets.

The new brand was launched May 4. To learn more, visit Prospiant.com

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The Alabama Senate has passed medical cannabis bills three years in a row, but the state’s House of Representatives continued to stall those efforts late Tuesday night.

Republican opponents filibustered the Senate-passed legislation during nearly 10 hours of debate on the floor of the lower chamber, before the House adjourned shortly before midnight without a vote, according to the Associated Press. The House is scheduled to reconvene at 8 a.m. May 6, when the bill is expected to return to the chamber’s floor.  

Alabama’s Senate Bill 46, which was amended and cleared by two House committees last month, would allow registered patients diagnosed with a qualifying condition to access cannabis, making it the 37th medical cannabis state if passed, according to Marijuana Policy Project.

The Senate’s effort to enact medical cannabis laws collided with COVID-19 last year when pandemic-related circumstance derailed the possibility of a vote in the House. The House has until May 30 to act this year—when the state’s legislature adjourns out of session.

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Tim Melson, S.B. 46 proposes implementing a medical program that would open the application process for potential patients by Sept. 1, 2022.

In addition, the legislation would create an Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which would determine the maximum daily dosages of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that caregivers could provide patients with each of more than a dozen qualifying conditions. Some of the conditions include: cancer, terminal illness, depression, epilepsy, anxiety or panic disorder, chronic pain, spasticity, autism, Tourette syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

NEW YORK, May 3, 2021 - PRESS RELEASE - Acreage Holdings Inc., a vertically integrated, multistate operator of cannabis licenses and assets in the U.S., announced its subsidiary, Universal Hemp LLC, reached an agreement with Medterra CBD, a cannabidiol (CBD) company. This partnership will allow Acreage Holdings to tap into Medterra’s innovation pipeline, high-quality CBD and significant e-commerce platform for immediate nationwide distribution. Five Farms CBD, a subsidiary of Medterra, will develop a full-spectrum CBD collection under The Botanist, an Acreage Holdings brand. This partnership makes this a first in the cannabis industry for a CBD and a publicly traded cannabis brand to collaborate. 

As adult-use cannabis sales are on pace to break $1 billion this year in Illinois, plans to roll out 110 new retail licenses are expected to be introduced this week.

The state banked a record $114,961,668 in cannabis sales last month, bringing its total to roughly $393.7 million for 2021, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s monthly sales figures.

But since Illinois started cashing in on the cannabis industry at the beginning of 2020, licensing disputes—for both retail and cultivation—have led lawmakers to try, and try again, to enact changes that would end the “monopoly” of the industry in the state, as Rep. La Shawn Ford called it.

An African American Democrat from Chicago, Ford introduced legislation Feb. 3 that would create up to 110 additional retail licenses, 35 of which would be reserved as social equity licenses for those affected most by prohibition. Plans for rolling out those new licenses are expected this week, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Those 110 new licenses are in addition to 75 original retail licenses that are currently pending, but were previously delayed and held up in legal disputes after regulators announced in September that only 21 social equity applicants would be included in a lottery to win those licenses.

The first 75 licenses were awarded in a lottery for businesses with perfect applications scores. The 110 new licenses would include two more lotteries—75 licenses specified for businesses scoring 85% or better on their applications, and 35 licenses intended for primarily Black and Latino entrepreneurs, according to the Chicago Tribune.  

BOULDER, Colo., May 04, 2021 – PRESS RELEASE – Surna Inc. (OTCQB: SRNA), a leader in controlled environment agriculture (CEA) systems engineering and technologies, is excited to announce the company’s updated organic growth strategy. This revised strategy expands the company’s products and services within the indoor cannabis cultivation market and also brings these offerings to the rapidly growing indoor food production environments.

“Today we are announcing substantial changes to our organic growth strategy, which can be summarized as new markets, new products and services, and new trade name,” Surna Chairman and CEO Tony McDonald said. “New markets is who we seek to serve, including the broader CEA market. New products and services is what we will bring to our customers, which will now include most of the technical infrastructure and services required in an indoor cultivation facility. And our new trade name brands us more accurately and makes us easier to find.

“We are confident these initiatives will allow us to better serve our customers, accelerate the growth we have experienced in the recent past and position us to continue our organic growth. We look forward to serving more customers in the future, as well as to achieving profitable growth of the company.”

The major components of the updated strategy include:

New Markets: Surna will continue to serve its cannabis cultivation customers while also bringing its products and services to the broader CEA market, including the rapidly growing vertical farming market. The company’s existing expertise and equipment offerings can be readily applied in these facilities, and Surna has previously served several such facilities. In the first quarter of 2021 the company entered into a contract with a non-cannabis CEA facility, and the company’s reputation and brand recognition is such that developers of these facilities reach out to Surna directly.

New Products and Services: Surna has historically provided best-in-class environmental control engineering and equipment to its customers. Since 2018 the company has expanded the range of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and dehumidification (HVACD) products it offers to meet a wider range of customer requirements, and this has been a successful initiative with 100% of its new projects including products developed since that time. Surna will now expand its service and product offerings to encompass many of the key AgTech components required in a cultivation facility, to include the continued expansion of its software-based control technology, SentryIQ. Surna will also continue to add recurring revenue through its preventive maintenance services. Some of these new products and services are provided now, and others will be added in the near future. The company believes that by expanding its offerings it will improve customer success by providing the most complete engineering of the key infrastructure technologies required for a successful operation. Surna’s position will be as an engineer helping the customer to evaluate technical alternatives and providing products from a curated set of technologies. Surna believes this positioning will contribute to the company’s customer acquisition success by bringing itself into the customer relationship at the earliest possible moment.

Last week was eventful for cannabis reform in Texas, as the House of Representatives approved three legislative proposals, which would expand the state's medical cannabis program, reduce penalties for concentrates and decriminalize possession.

The state's current medical cannabis program is limited to patients with the qualifying conditions: intractable epilepsy, terminal cancer, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism or an incurable neurodegenerative disease; however, the House approved House Bill 1535 in a 134-12 vote on April 28, which would expand the qualifying conditions in the program to include cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain, The Texas Tribune reported.

The bill would also permit the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to add additional qualifying conditions through administrative rulemaking, The Texas Tribune reported.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) recognizes Texas' current program as a “medical cannabidiol (CBD) program” rather than a proper medical cannabis program due to the program's emphasis on utilizing CBD over tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for medicinal use, according to The Texas Tribune.

But H.B. 1535 would also raise the THC limit in medical cannabis from 0.5% to 5% and make it possible for those in the program to access higher doses than what is currently available.

Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, said while increasing the THC limit in medical cannabis is "a step in the right direction," it still hinders doctors from prescribing proper patient doses.