Company tapped by DEA to grow marijuana for research files to list on Nasdaq

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A Florida company with “conditional approval” from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to cultivate marijuana for research purposes could become the first U.S.-based plant-touching business to trade on the Nasdaq market.

Bright Green Corp., headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, filed plans Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to register its shares on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol BGXX.

The company is building a $300 million manufacturing and cultivation facility in the small New Mexico town of Grants, about 80 miles west of Albuquerque.

In its SEC filing, Bright Green noted it has “received conditional approval based on already agreed terms from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (the ‘DEA’) to produce federally legal cannabis.”

Market Watch calculated the company has a valuation of about $630 million based on its private stock sales and other disclosures.

Bright Green’s investment adviser, EF Hutton, will determine the initial public market price, contingent upon regulatory approval of the registration filing.

Marijuana’s illegal status under federal law has prevented U.S.-based plant-touching companies from listing on major U.S. exchanges such as the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange.

By contrast, Canada-based producers such as Canopy Growth Corp. and Aurora Cannabis were allowed to list on the U.S. exchanges after the Canadian government legalized adult-use marijuana in 2018.

Canopy trades on the Nasdaq as CGC and Aurora as ACB.

Similarly, North American produce and cannabis company Village Farms International, which is headquartered in Florida, owns a Canadian cannabis subsidiary, Pure Sunfarms, based in British Columbia.

Village Farms shares trade on the Nasdaq exchange as VFF.

In its filing, Bright Green went out of its way to differentiate the company from state-legal marijuana businesses in the U.S., noting it expects to operate with the blessing of the federal government.

“Unlike state-licensed cannabis companies that engage in commercial sales to consumers, and whose businesses are legal under state law but not federal law, we will operate legally under all applicable laws and be authorized by the federal government to sell cannabis commercially for research and manufacturing purposes,” the company said in its SEC filing.

For decades, the University of Mississippi was the sole DEA-approved cannabis cultivator in the U.S.

During the final year of the Obama administration, the DEA said it would expand federal cultivation opportunities beyond the University of Mississippi and invited entities to apply for licenses to cultivate marijuana for research.

Nearly 30 companies, universities and other entities applied. But those applications languished during the Trump administration, which showed no interest in advancing the cannabis research efforts.

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The Biden administration restarted the program, and four more “Bulk Manufacturers” registrations were awarded in 2021.

Bright Green is positioned to be the latest recipient of a DEA Bulk Manufacturers registration after entering into a memorandum of agreement with the DEA in May 2021.

According to Tuesday’s securities filing, final DEA registration is anticipated in May of this year, contingent upon the completion of Bright Green’s facilities, and a successful inspection by the federal drug agency.

The DEA declined to comment on Bright Green’s status.

The federal government in recent years has also allowed U.S. researchers to import cannabis products from abroad, including licensed cannabis producer Tilray in British Columbia.

Jeff Smith can be reached at jeff.smith@mjbizdaily.com.

Omar Sacirbey can be reached at omar.sacirbey@mjbizdaily.com.