Cannabis Industry Daily News

Amazon expands on support for federal marijuana reform, workplace equity

By MJBizDaily Staff

E-commerce giant Amazon has stepped up its efforts to support federal marijuana reform and provide a more equitable workplace in terms of MJ policy.

In a blog post Tuesday, the company’s human resource chief noted two recent developments:

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  • Amazon’s endorsement of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act proposed by U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon.
  • The company’s reinstatement of employment eligibility for former employees or applicants who were terminated or not considered because of random or preemployment marijuana screenings.

The developments follow a June announcement that Amazon was actively lobbying for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021, the U.S. House version of MJ reform, and excluding cannabis from preemployment drug screening for most positions.

In Tuesday’s blog, Beth Galetti, Amazon’s senior vice president of human resources, wrote of three reasons for the changes:

  • It’s difficult to implement an equitable national marijuana testing program when an increasing number of states are legalizing.
  • National data indicates preemployment marijuana screening disproportionately affects people of color.
  • Eliminating preemployment testing enables the company to expand its applicant pool.

Galetti wrote that having equitable hiring practices for all candidates is a social responsibility and furthers Amazon’s goal to be a leader and one of the world’s top employers.

“We are enthused by the notable momentum in the country toward recognizing that today’s status quo is unfair and untenable,” Galetti concluded.

“We look forward to working with Congress and other supporters to secure necessary reform of the nation’s cannabis laws.”

Michigan’s Skymint secures $78 million in financing, acquires cannabis retailer

By MJBizDaily Staff

Vertically integrated Michigan marijuana operator Skymint landed $78 million in funding while also acquiring 3Fifteen Cannabis, a retailer in the state, for an undisclosed sum.

Privately held Skymint did not disclose the terms of the loan or the equity investment.

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According to a Tuesday news release, a $70 million senior secured term loan from Tropics LP, a SunStream Bancorp affiliate, and an $8 million equity investment from Merida Capital Holdings will give Skymint “a strong balance sheet to execute on accretive opportunities in and outside of Michigan.”

3Fifteen, a recreational and medical marijuana retailer, was described as “a portfolio company of Merida Capital with 12 dispensaries currently in operation throughout Michigan.”

Merida CEO Mitch Baruchowitz will join Skymint’s board of directors when the deal closes.

The acquisition gives Skymint a total of 27 Michigan retail locations, according to the release, with at least 18 more under development.

Skymint also has two indoor cultivation facilities, with a third in the works, and an outdoor cannabis farm.

In its release, the Ann Arbor-based cannabis operator cited record-breaking adult-use cannabis sales in Michigan in July.

That banner month was also cited in the announcement of another recent Michigan acquisition, TerrAscend’s $545 million deal to acquire Gage Growth.

Chicago to allow expansion of recreational marijuana stores

By MJBizDaily Staff

Chicago is easing zoning restrictions that will allow recreational marijuana stores to expand.

The City Council on Monday voted to lift the cap of seven marijuana zones in the municipality while limiting the number of retail stores, Chicago real estate news site The Real Deal reported.

The city, the largest in Illinois, has permitted 18 adult-use cannabis retailers so far; there are 110 statewide.

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The approved proposal will also shrink the downtown zone where marijuana retailers aren’t allowed to operate, though they’ll still be banned from opening on a strip between Michigan Avenue and State Street as well as south Michigan Avenue.

Marijuana retailers can now open without special approval from Chicago regulators.

Retailers will be permitted where manufacturing operations are allowed as long as they are 650 feet from a residence.

This also means cannabis retailers can bypass the zoning lottery to sell marijuana.

More than 90% of Maine municipalities opt out of recreational cannabis sales

By MJBizDaily Staff

Maine’s recreational cannabis market continues to grow, even though less than 10% of the towns and cities in the state are allowing adult-use sales.

According to the Bangor Daily News, only 47 of Maine’s roughly 500 towns and cities have chosen to allow recreational marijuana retail sales.

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Only 29% of the state’s residents live in those municipalities.

Even with that limited market, the state posted its strongest sales month in August, totaling $10.2 million among the 53 licensed adult-use retailers.

Joel Pepin, president of the Maine Cannabis Industry Association, told the Daily News that municipalities are afraid of the unknown and don’t see much incentive in allowing cannabis retail.

Also, tax money generated by the industry doesn’t necessarily stay local. The state takes all the excise and sales taxes from marijuana retailers, Pepin said.

NJ to miss deadline to start adult-use marijuana applications, report says

By MJBizDaily Staff

New Jersey regulators reportedly won’t make Saturday’s statutory deadline to begin accepting adult-use marijuana business license applications for the projected $1 billion market.

But they plan to publish a public notice that lists an application start date and the information an applicant will need to submit an application, NJ.com reported.

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Regulators intend to provide businesses a clear picture of what materials they will need to submit an application so they can prepare to do so before the licensing round is opened.

The online news outlet noted that such a process could provide a more equitable opportunity for smaller entrepreneurs who likely won’t have the application assistance that larger companies can afford.

“It doesn’t mean we’re not going to open up applications soon,” an unidentified commission source told NJ.com.

New Jersey met its statutory August deadline to adopt initial program rules, starting a 180-day clock to announce a program launch date.

It’s unclear whether a more deliberate application process might delay the launch of New Jersey’s recreational marijuana market.

MJBizDaily projects New Jersey’s adult-use market will generate annual sales of $850 million-$950 million by 2024.

Sales appear likely to start around the spring of 2022, unless medical marijuana operators are given a head start.

Supply could be a problem in transitioning to an adult-use market, experts have said.

New Jersey has issued only 12 vertical medical marijuana licenses. Eleven are in operation, and a total of 22 dispensaries are open statewide, according to the state health department’s MMJ website.

State lawmakers in 2019 approved an additional 24 MMJ licenses, but that licensing was blocked by litigation.

A court ruling earlier this year freed up the licensing round, but regulators reportedly are reviewing around 150 applications.

Canopy’s chief legal officer leaving cannabis firm in October

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Phil Shaer, the chief legal officer for Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth, is set to leave the company next month, according to a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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“On September 14, 2021, Mr. Phil Shaer notified Canopy Growth Corporation of his intention to resign as the company’s chief legal officer and corporate secretary. The effective date of Mr. Shaer’s resignation is October 1, 2021,” the filing states.

Shaer has been with Canopy since March 15, 2016.

No other information was provided in the filing, but a spokeswoman for the company thanked Shaer “for his valuable contributions to Canopy over the last six years and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

“Phil Shaer not only defined an industry leading legal function, but during his half a decade tenure at Canopy, played a key role in scaling the company from its early days to our current position of global leadership as a best-in-class, CPG modelled cannabis company,” the spokeswoman, Jennifer White, told MJBizDaily via email.

Canopy appointed James Wishart, vice president and associate general counsel, as interim chief legal officer as the company looks for a permanent replacement.

Shaer’s approximate two weeks’ notice was the minimum allowed under his employment agreement.

He submitted his notice the day of Canopy’s annual general meeting, on Sept. 14, when shareholders were asked to vote on four proposals.

In the first proposal, Canopy Growth’s shareholders elected all seven nominees to the board.

However, support for some of the nominees fell compared to the previous year.

Votes cast in favor of board member William Newlands declined to 91.6%, down from the previous year’s 96.8%.

Support for board members Robert Hanson and James Sabia dipped to 94.3% and 95.4%, respectively.

Another proposal, a nonbinding vote on compensation for Canopy Growth’s executives, was also approved.

Earlier this year, MJBizDaily reported that Canopy’s executives were awarded raises and bonuses after the cannabis giant reported a loss of 1.7 billion Canadian dollars ($1.3 billion) for the year.

Canopy shares trade as WEED on the Toronto Stock Exchange and CGC on the Nasdaq exchange.

Driven by Stem acquires Oregon marijuana business for $2.9 million

By MJBizDaily Staff

Marijuana multistate operator Driven by Stem acquired Oregon cannabis extraction company Artifact Extracts in a $2.925 million deal that includes two retail stores.

The all-stock translation closed Sept. 17 with Oregon regulatory approvals granted, Stem said in a Monday news release.

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Driven by Stem is the operating name of Florida-based Stem Holdings.

Stem cited growing sales of cannabis concentrates for its interest in doing the deal and said it plans to integrate Artifact’s concentrates lines into its existing brands.

The acquired stores are located in Salem and Eugene, which will both be rebranded to Stem’s TJ’s Gardens brand.

Stem plans to “immediately” launch its Budee delivery platform in Salem, “with service expansion to Eugene in October.”

The Florida-based company will also supply biomass to Artifact from its Oregon cultivation operations and gain new distribution outlets for Stem cannabis products.

CEO Adam Berk said in a statement that Stem “will benefit from the expertise and broad capabilities that the Artifact team will provide to our existing extraction team that has specialized in tinctures and edibles, as well as in retail operations.”

Stem, which closed a key acquisition of California-based Driven Deliveries in late 2020, said it now fully owns six dispensaries on the West Coast of the United States.

The company’s shares trade as STEM on the Canadian Securities Exchange and STMH on the over-the-counter markets.

Proposed changes to Michigan cannabis caregiver rules spur protest

By MJBizDaily Staff

A series of bills introduced this month in the Michigan Legislature – and supported by large marijuana businesses – was met with backlash from angry medical cannabis patients who want the caregiver system in particular to remain untouched.

The legislation is purportedly aimed at cracking down on the state’s illicit cannabis market.

The situation pits big industry players against grassroots activists and MMJ patients, with the former arguing more regulation is needed to ensure a stable market and the latter rejoining that the current program works fine as is, and that the proposals are nothing more than a grab for market share.

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According to MLive.com, the trio of bills introduced on Sept. 14 would:

  • Shrink the number of allowed patients per MMJ caregiver to one from five.
  • Reduce the overall number of marijuana plants each caregiver is allowed to cultivate, to a total of 24 plants, which includes a cap of 12 patients with one plant each and another 12 for personal caregiver use.
  • Decrease the amount of MMJ caregivers are allowed to have on hand at any point in time, to 5 ounces from 15.

The Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association is the highest-profile supporter of the bills.

Opponents, however, include Michigan Caregivers United, the Michigan chapter of NORML, at least some of the state’s legacy MMJ companies, hundreds of protesters that showed up at the state capitol to protest the bills and at least one Democratic state lawmaker from Detroit, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Marijuana company Hexo achieves carbon-neutral goal

By MJBizDaily Staff

(A version of this story first appeared at Hemp Industry Daily.)

Canadian cannabis producer Hexo Corp. has reached its target to become carbon neutral within three months, the company announced.

The publicly traded, Ottawa, Ontario-based company says it has met its goal to become carbon neutral by September.

Hexo purchased carbon offset credits from Offsetters, a Vancouver sustainability and carbon-management provider.

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To date, the company says it has offset nearly 26,000 metric tons of carbon (28,660 tons in the U.S.), including 19,610 metric tons in operational emissions and 6,355 metric tons of carbon generated by its 1,200 employees.

By next month, Hexo estimates it will have purchased credits to offset 71,000 kilograms (156,528 pounds) of plastic, which equates to more than 3.5 million plastic bottles.

The company estimates a per-employee cost of CA$1,000 to offset its employees’ emissions; however, it did not disclose how much it cost to offset operational emissions or plastic.

“I’m tremendously excited by it,” Sebastien St. Louis, co-founder and CEO of Hexo, told Hemp Industry Daily.

“I hope that other companies see this as a bit of a challenge and a bit of a wake-up call, and I hope we get others following suit. But I’m extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish at Hexo.”

The company has also closed its acquisitions of Ontario-based cannabis producers Redecan and 48North, for a combined $450 million, and has plans to carry its carbon neutrality targets into both of those businesses and into its U.S. businesses, according to a company statement.

Primarily a marijuana company that is expanding into hemp, Hexo launched a line of hemp-derived CBD beverages in Colorado earlier this year through Truss Beverages, a joint venture with Molson Coors.

“Now we’re carbon neutral, but … I’m also concentrated on actually continuing to make our footprint smaller, so as Hexo gets bigger, we have an ability to make more impact,” St. Louis said.

“We’re looking at green energy sources, like, obviously in Quebec we use hydroelectric power mostly, but now, in Ontario, we’re … starting to look at renewable sources of power for our next expansion. So how can that contribute to making us have a smaller footprint, even than we have today, while we continue to offset.”

St. Louis said the time is now to act on the planet’s climate crisis, and he’s hoping to use his platform to influence other companies in the cannabis space and beyond to join in the effort.

“I personally feel that not enough is being done on a global scale or anywhere to fix this problem, and it’s time for us to wake up as a society,” St. Louis said.

Political infighting, he said, is causing delays, and while individuals can make small impacts, it’s going to take commitment by corporations to make a difference.

“What I hope will happen is that we get other corporations in the cannabis space,” St. Louis said.

Hexo Corp.trades on the Nasdaq as HEXO and Toronto Stock Exchange as HEXO.

Laura Drotleff can be reached at laura.drotleff@hempindustrydaily.com

 

New York officials ‘shocked’ by cannabis MSO Vireo’s electrical needs

By MJBizDaily Staff

Marijuana multistate operator Vireo Health reportedly needs more electricity for its new New York cultivation and processing facility than the technology park can provide.

The Leader-Herald newspaper in Gloversville in upstate New York reported that Fulton County industrial development officials were “shocked” to learn from Vireo that the county-financed electrical transmission line into Tryon Technology Park isn’t sufficient for the MSO’s needs.

Minneapolis-based Vireo is constructing a 325,00-square-foot cultivation and processing facility in preparation for an expanding medical cannabis market and the state’s forthcoming recreational marijuana market. Vireo is one of 10 MMJ operators in the state.

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It’s unclear how the situation will be resolved. The report indicates that Fulton County Industrial Development Agency officials believe that based on Vireo’s request, an additional transmission line and substation will be needed at a cost that could exceed $4.5 million.

Vireo didn’t immediately respond to a MJBizDaily query for comment Friday.

The development agency’s executive director, James Mraz, was quoted as saying that the primary electrical line installed at the technology park cost $650,000, and was partly funded by a state grant.

He told the Leader-Herald that such a line has been adequate in the past at other county business parks, except in the case of a yogurt plant that required a transmission line upgrade.

“Vireo’s project is going to utilize a large amount of electricity, and it’s, in essence, more than what that standard line can provide,” Mraz told the newspaper. “When it was learned what the size of the (electrical) demand from Vireo was — which is the driving issue here, their demand beyond what the line can provide — it was shocking.”

Ohio to allow medical marijuana growers to expand operations

By MJBizDaily Staff

Ohio regulators will now allow medical marijuana growers to request an expansion of their cultivation operations, a move that could ease product shortages, boost sales and allow cultivators to better meet patient demand.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that permission to expand will be granted to growers who have maxed out their space and can prove they need more room to meet demand.

The growers also must be in good standing with regulators, including the Ohio Department of Commerce.

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Ohio has 20 cultivators who are licensed for up to 25,000 square feet of canopy and 15 cultivators who can grow up to 3,000 square feet.

The new rules would allow licensees to expand to 75,000 square feet and 9,000 square feet, respectively.

Regulators have not yet issued details about how the growers can request expansion.

In September, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy initiated plans to more than double the number of dispensaries, adding 73 to the current 58.

The state’s program is also contending with restrictive patient-purchase limits and low patient participation, but more supply could help lower costs for consumers and increase overall sales.

 

Acreage exits Oregon by selling cannabis stores for $6.5 million

By MJBizDaily Staff

Marijuana multistate operator Acreage Holdings agreed to sell four Oregon retail stores for $6.5 million, a transaction that completes the sale of the MSO’s facilities in the state as it continues to focus on core markets.

The buyer is Portland-based Chalice Brands, which will increase its retail footprint from 12 to 16 stores in Oregon.

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In a news release, New York-based Acreage noted its Oregon operations had been “negatively affecting the company’s bottom line and utilizing management resources.”

The terms of the sale agreement include a $250,000 cash payment at the time of the signing, and a 10-month, $6.25 million promissory note bearing an annual interest of 6% for the first five months and 10% for the remaining five months.

The stores are in Portland, Eugene and Springfield, and branded under Cannabliss.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Chalice to edge closer to our goal of achieving our targeted market share in the state of Oregon while entering the Eugene market … ,” Jeff Yapp, CEO of Portland-based Chalice, said in a news release.

Earlier this year, Acreage sold its vertical marijuana operation in Florida for $60 million and last year it sold its North Dakota medical marijuana assets and land in Massachusetts as part of a cost-cutting move.

“The sale of our Oregon operations represents another strategic step in our previously announced operating strategy,” Acreage CEO Peter Caldini said in the news release.

That strategy involves “driving profitability, strengthening our balance sheet, and accelerating our growth in our core markets.”

Acreage currently lists operations or management service contracts in 12 states, with core markets including Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The company posted a net loss of $3.3 million in the second quarter of 2021 on revenues of $44.2 million.

Acreage trades on the Canadian Securities Exchange as ACRG.U and on the U.S. over-the-counter market as ACRGF.