Cannabis Industry Daily News

Louisiana medical marijuana grower to sell CBD products

Ilera Holistic Healthcare, a medical marijuana grower in Louisiana, plans to sell CBD products nationwide.

A contractor for Baton Rouge-based Southern University, Ilera will also sell the over-the-counter CBD products at all but one medical marijuana dispensary in Louisiana.

“We’ll be the first university in the United States to do a national CBD launch,” Ilera CEO Chanda Macias told The Advocate.

Ilera will begin selling MMJ in Louisiana “very soon,” according to Macias.

The company is growing 2,300 plants in Baker, Louisiana. The first seeds were planted in July.

In 2018, Ilera acquired the majority of the company that Southern initially selected as its contractor after that firm made little progress.

Wellcana, a separate company contracted by Louisiana State University, started selling medical marijuana in the state in 2019 after paying $16 million to acquire the previous provider.

Only LSU and Southern are permitted to grow marijuana in Louisiana.

Wellcana is selling CBD and marijuana tinctures across Louisiana, but those products come from marijuana plants and have more than 0.3% THC.

– Associated Press

New Mexico adult-use cannabis bill moves forward

Recreational marijuana businesses would be legal in all municipalities and counties in New Mexico under a Democrat-backed bill that has been narrowly approved by a Senate committee.

The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 4-3 on the measure, which also would subsidize the state’s existing medical marijuana program.

If the bill becomes law, each recreational marijuana store also would need to offer medical cannabis to qualified customers.

In an attempt to combat New Mexico’s illicit marijuana market, the first draft of the bill from Democratic Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque would also override local governments that don’t welcome the industry.

The measure is supported by Ben Lewinger, executive director of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.

The authors of the legislation say the proposed bill responds to concerns about affordability and access to medical marijuana in states including Oregon that have authorized recreational marijuana.

If passed, New Mexico would be the first state to require medical cannabis sales at all marijuana stores, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Last year, a bipartisan legalization bill stalled in the Senate after being overwhelmingly approved by the House.

The new initiative is similar to recommendations made by a legalization policy task force assembled by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and led by Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis.

– Associated Press

Marijuana information firm Leafly lays off 54

Leafly, the online marijuana strain and dispensary guide, on Tuesday announced it had laid off 54 employees, or 18% of its workforce, becoming the latest MJ-related business to shed employees.

The layoffs cut across all departments, a spokeswoman for the Seattle-based company said.

Leafly made the layoffs to “more closely align our business operations with the market realities of the technology and cannabis sectors in which we operate,” Leafly CEO Tim Leslie said in a statement.

In recent months, hundreds of people in the marijuana industry have been let go, as companies struggle to survive and thrive in an era of no profits, high taxes and competition from the illicit market.

Despite the layoffs, Leslie said he is confident that this year Leafly will “deliver even more innovations,” to help marijuana retailers and others.

The layofffs at Leafly were first reported by GeekWire.

In 2017, Leafly laid off 15 employees, or about 13% of its workforce. Those cuts left Leafly with about 100 employees.

Cannabis-focused mutual fund, ETF to close

The Evolve Funds Group, a Canadian fund manager with more than 630 million Canadian dollars ($478 million) under management, on Tuesday said it will shutter a small, poorly performing cannabis mutual fund and an even smaller exchange-traded fund (ETF) that also invests solely in marijuana companies.

Evolve attributed the closing to the “volatile” nature of the marijuana space.

On or about March 30, the Toronto company will close the Evolve Marijuana Fund, which trades as SEED on the Toronto Stock Exchange, as well as the Evolve U.S. Marijuana ETF, which trades as USMJ on the Neo Exchange.

ETFs are similar to index mutual funds, but, unlike a mutual fund, their prices fluctuate throughout the day and they can be traded like stocks.

SEED, launched on Feb. 12, 2018, has only $4.25 million under management.

USMJ, launched in April 2019, has a mere $1.7 million in assets under management.

SEED lost 34% last year, compared with a 31.51% drop in the North American Marijuana Index, which tracks major cannabis stocks in the U.S. and Canada. Returns are not available for USMJ because it is less than a year old.

By comparison, the S&P 500 rose 30.4% in 2019.

Elliott Johnson, chief investment officer at Evolve, said the company’s outlook on the cannabis market has “changed significantly” over the past 12 months.

“Over-regulation in the Canadian market has stifled cannabis sales and dampened the entrepreneurial spirit that originally attracted so many investors,” Johnson wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily.

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Massachusetts urges revamp of scrutinized municipal marijuana pacts

Accords between Massachusetts municipalities and marijuana businesses, known as host community agreements (HCA), would be solely reviewed and regulated by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission under a redrafted bill.

The state’s Cannabis Policy Committee, which advanced the proposed legislation, said the bill would:

  • Allow a municipality to waive the requirement to have an HCA.
  • Not allow an HCA to require any financial obligation beyond the maximum 3% gross sales fee.
  • Clarify that the five-year term starts on the day the business opens its doors.

“The legal framework for the new marijuana market is supposed to strike a balance across multiple goals – competing out the illicit market, local and restorative economic development, public revenue generation and public health and safety among them. Unrestrained and expensive host community agreements that have become common over the past year have compromised multiple of those goals,” said state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, the Senate committee’s chair, according to the State House News Service.

“The bill the Cannabis Policy Committee is reporting out … seeks to put more explicit guard rails on the development of HCAs, to restore balance to the market and enable entrepreneurs who don’t have $1 million in starting capital to still have a chance at competing.”

HCAs were scrutinized by investigators in November after Massachusetts cannabis companies complained they were unfair and expensive.

California finds illegal cannabis vapes tainted with additives

Marijuana vape cartridges seized in unlicensed stores in Los Angeles contained potentially dangerous additives, including a thickening agent blamed for a national outbreak of deadly lung illnesses tied to vaping, California officials said Monday.

Officials also found that the illegal vapes confiscated in the December raids typically were not as potent as advertised and sometimes contained just a fraction of the THC claimed on the labels, according to state testing results.

“The prevalence of dirty and dangerous vape pens at unlicensed cannabis stores demonstrate how important it is for consumers to purchase cannabis goods from licensed retailers, which are required to sell products that meet state testing and labeling standards,” said Lori Ajax, who heads California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control.

The state conducted tests on the marijuana oil contained in a random sample of more than 10,000 illegal vape pens seized in the Los Angeles raids.

The tests found that 75% of the vapes contained undisclosed additives, including the thickening agent vitamin E acetate, which has been blamed by federal regulators for the majority of lung illnesses tied to the outbreak.

In some samples, oil in the cartridges was diluted by more than one-third by potentially dangerous and undisclosed additives.

– Associated Press

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the vaping crisis, click here.

 

TerrAscend ends $33.5M acquisition of Nevada marijuana properties

(This story has been corrected to reflect the accurate price of the terminated deal.)

Canadian cannabis company TerrAscend  is terminating  its proposed $33.5 million purchase of Gravitas Nevada.

The acquisition called for Toronto-based TerrAscend to pay $33.5 million in cash and 625 proportionate voting shares in the equity of TerrAscend equivalent to 625,000 common shares of the company.

With the deal’s collapse, TerrAscend paid $3 million to Gravitas as required under the purchase agreement.

TerrAscend is no longer liable for the remaining $30.5 million and 625,000 company shares.

For analysis and in-depth looks at the investment trends and deals driving the cannabis industry forward, sign up for our premium subscription service, Investor Intelligence.

Tribes in two states considering cannabis opportunities

An American Indian tribe in Oklahoma is exploring ways to become involved in the marijuana industry, while a South Dakota tribe will vote on whether to legalize medical and adult-use cannabis its reservation.

The Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is seeking recommendations from a seven-member committee by May 31 on marijuana and hemp opportunities for the tribe.

The group will make recommendations about how the tribe can get involved in growing, processing and selling marijuana and hemp and what role medical cannabis might play in the nation’s health services system, according to the Associated Press.

The Cherokee Nation is the largest tribe in the United States.

Separately, members of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota will vote March 10 on whether to legalize recreational and medical marijuana on the reservation, Rapid City TV station KNBN reported.

Oglala Sioux Tribal Councilwoman Nakina Mills of the Pine Ridge District told the station that the referendum is binding.

Missouri licenses 192 medical marijuana dispensaries

It took only two days for Missouri regulators to award all 192 medical cannabis store licenses in the state.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 that requires the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to license at least 192 dispensaries, 24 in each of Missouri’s eight congressional districts, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

Medical marijuana sales are expected to begin in the spring, according to the DHSS.

Marijuana Business Daily projects annual retail sales will reach approximately $300 million in a few years.

The DHSS started issuing dispensary permits on Thursday and published a complete list on Friday of licenses awarded and applications denied.

The agency could award more licenses beyond the 192 already issued, but officials want to see if the minimum number can meet demand.

“In early 2019, DHSS commissioned an independent study from the University of Missouri to determine how many licenses would be necessary to meet Missouri’s demand,” agency spokeswoman Lisa Cox said in a statement.

“The results showed it would be many years before the medical marijuana market would be likely to sustain even the minimum number of licenses mandated by the constitution.”

Seed-to-sale facility certifications will be disclosed Jan. 31.

Alaska licenses state-approved social cannabis consumption

Marijuana stores in Alaska will be among the first in the United States where state-sanctioned on-site consumption is permitted.

Alaska regulators approved licenses for the first retail stores where customers can smoke or consume marijuana products.

Some cities in other states have approved MJ consumption sites. For example, the City Council in Springfield, Illinois, recently approved a marijuana consumption establishment.

Alaska has the distinction of being the first state to approve social consumption sites, according to Chris Lindsey, director of government relations with the local chapter of Marijuana Policy Project.

The state’s Marijuana Control Board approved applications for on-site consumption venues in Fairbanks and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

Alaska’s rules for on-site consumption took effect in 2019, after years of discussion.

– Associated Press

California to require marijuana retailers to exhibit QR code

Citing the 2019 vaping crisis, California cannabis regulators on Thursday mandated that licensed marijuana retailers and distributors display a QR code in order to differentiate legal cannabis businesses from illicit ones.

The new regulation will go into effect after it’s approved by the state Office of Administrative Law, which will likely take at least two weeks.

“The move is designed to help consumers identify licensed cannabis retail stores, assist law enforcement and support the legal cannabis market where products such as vape cartridges are routinely tested to protect public health and safety,” the state Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) said in a statement.

The mandate stems from vape-related lung illnesses that led to at least 60 deaths nationwide and 2,600 hospitalizations last year.

Retailers will be required to display a unique QR code in a window visible to the public, with the code itself no smaller than 3.75 inches by 3.75 inches.

Distribution company employees, or delivery service drivers, must also carry a copy of the QR code with them when transporting cannabis products under the new regulation.

The BCC announced the QR code campaign in December, but at the time, it was a voluntary step for retailers to display the code so they could set themselves apart from the illegal market.

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the vaping crisis, click here.

9,000 vape cartridges recalled from Detroit medical cannabis store

Michigan regulators recalled 9,380 vaping cartridges containing vitamin E acetate sold by a licensed medical marijuana dispensary in Detroit.

The vape cartridges recalled by the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) came from Plan B Wellness.

In December, the MRA issued a statewide recall of cartridges with high levels of vitamin E acetate, which has been linked to lung illnesses.

The cartridges recalled Wednesday were manufactured before Plan B Wellness obtained its medical marijuana license, an MRA spokesperson told MLive.com.

The recall includes 1,360 cartridges that were sold and 8,020 that had been pulled from the shelves. The existing inventory is to be destroyed.

The MRA ordered Plan B Wellness to notify anyone who purchased the products to return them to the store for disposal.

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the vaping crisis, click here.