Cannabis Industry Daily News

Aurora Cannabis outdoor farm in British Columbia evacuated due to wildfire

(This story has been updated with information about Heritage Cannabis Holdings’ subsidiary in nearby Falkland being evacuated last week.)

Aurora Cannabis had to evacuate its outdoor marijuana farm in Westwold, British Columbia, because of wildfire activity in the area, MJBizDaily has learned.

Aurora’s employees are safe and the evacuation of the Aurora Valley site has had no business impact, the Edmonton, Alberta-based company said in an emailed statement.

“Our Valley operation is under an evacuation order, and we are taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees, as well as supporting those who have had to evacuate,” wrote a spokesperson for the company.

The Aurora Valley property is a 200-acre outdoor cannabis farm in the Westwold community of British Columbia, about 400 kilometers (248 miles) northeast of Vancouver.

The nearby White Rock Lake Wildfire has been described as “a catastrophic event” by Mark Healey, the incident commander.

Eighty-six fires are currently burning in the surrounding region, with 40 designated as “out-of-control” by the Kamloops Fire Centre.

The Aurora spokesperson said 13 employees at the site, along with their families, had to evacuate their homes.

“Everyone is safe and some have been able to return to their homes in the past few days, as the fire has been downgraded,” the spokesperson said via email.

“The safety and well-being of our employees is our top priority, and we have been in touch with them regularly to help support their needs. Our other priority is the protection of the site, which we continue to monitor.

“We appreciate the tireless efforts of the BC Wildfire Service, who are working around the clock to contain the fires.”

A former Aurora executive previously described the farm as “one of the largest, if not the largest, licensed areas for cannabis production not just in Canada but in the world.”

Earlier this year, Aurora’s senior vice president of science and innovation, Charles Pick, told MJBizDaily that the company planted 22 acres of the 200-acre site last year.

Aurora planted 40 acres of cannabis this year.

“Aurora Valley continues to be an important piece within the company’s cultivation network,” the spokesperson said.

“Our recent harvest was very successful and we hope to repeat that success in future.”

Aurora has been growing cannabis at the site since 2019, when approximately 55,000 cannabis plants involving six plant cultivars were first harvested.

Meanwhile, a Health Canada-regulated cannabis facility in nearby Falkland, British Columbia, was also recently evacuated.

A Voyage Cannabis Corp. facility had to be evacuated “for four days last week but then able to return,” Heritage Cannabis Holdings Corp. Chair Clint Sharples told MJBizDaily.

Voyage is a Heritage subsidiary.

“We were put on evacuation alert (Thursday), so we’re keeping an eye on things,” he added.

Voyage operates a 15,500 square foot processing facility in Falkland.

Sharples said the company temporarily moved some of its production to its location in Fort Erie, Ontario, to minimize any product delivery disruptions.

He said the Falkland employees are safe, and Voyage is “acting with an abundance of caution.”

Wildfires have threatened cultivation operations from California to British Columbia this year, with experts warning that 2021 might be worse than last year’s fires.

More information on nearby wildfires is available here.

Matt Lamers is MJBizDaily’s international editor, based near Toronto. He can be reached at matt.lamers@mjbizdaily.com.

Canadian marijuana firm Hexo to switch US stock listing from NYSE to Nasdaq

Ottawa, Ontario-based marijuana producer Hexo Corp., planning to part ways with the New York Stock Exchange, applied to transfer its U.S. share listing to the Nasdaq.

“Transferring our U.S. listing to Nasdaq allows us to generate shareholder value through greater cost savings on our path towards profitability, while joining our peers on a leading global exchange,” Hexo CEO Sebastien St. Louis said in a Friday news release.

Hexo expects the switch to take place after the markets close on Aug. 23, subject to Nasdaq approval.

The company’s U.S. shares will continue to trade under the ticker symbol HEXO.

In Canada, Hexo lists on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

In 2020, the NYSE warned Hexo that its shares did not meet the exchange’s listing standards after they fell below $1.

Hexo subsequently consolidated its shares and maintained the listing.

In May, Hexo announced plans to launch cannabis operations in the United States by way of a Colorado production facility owned by a U.S. subsidiary. That deal closed in June.

Hexo reported a net loss of nearly 21 million Canadian dollars ($16.5 million) for the quarter ended April 30.

Bribery trial: Husband of Trulieve CEO bragged about medical cannabis pull

The now-husband of Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers boasted about how a political connection helped the company obtain one of the first vertically integrated licenses to sell medical cannabis in Florida, according to a 2016 conversation with undercover FBI agents.

The secret recording was played Tuesday at the criminal trial of J.T. Burnette, who is charged with racketeering, extortion, fraud and making false statements, The Capitolist digital news outlet reported.

Burnette says he is innocent.

At the time of the 2016 conversation with the undercover agents, Burnette was Rivers’ boyfriend.

During the recorded conversation, Burnette talked about working with then-state Rep. Halsey Beshears in 2014 to put “little tweaks” into the MMJ licensing criteria that would prevent certain competitors from qualifying.

“Well, Halsey and I worked through it,” Burnette told the agents, according to The Capitolist. “I mean, it was one afternoon.”

Trulieve won one of the first five licenses, and today the company has 87 dispensaries in Florida and controls half the smokable marijuana market, according to state data.

The Florida-based multistate marijuana operator also is in the process of acquiring Arizona-based Harvest Health & Recreation in a deal initially valued at $2.1 billion.

Burnette was recorded as saying that neither he nor Rivers knew much about the medical cannabis business at the time, but they knew a license would be lucrative.

Trulieve didn’t immediately respond to an MJBizDaily request for comment.

During cross-examination, Burnette downplayed the significance of the 2016 conversation, saying he believed the FBI agents were real estate investors and would want to hear some boasting.

“The reality is I was kind of bragging about something that happened before my time,” Burnette said, The Capitolist reported.

Halsey Beshears’ brother, Thad, is a co-founder of Trulieve and sits on the company’s board.

Burnette testified that he and the Beshears siblings grew up in the same area and were good friends.

In addition to Burnette’s trial, Halsey Beshears also has been caught up in the federal investigation of Florida congressman Matt Gaetz.

The New York Times earlier this year reported that Halsey Beshears was on a party plane with Gaetz to the Bahamas that has become a focal point of an investigation into possible sex trafficking and a marijuana pay-to-play scheme.

In its audited annual financial report in March, Trulieve disclosed that it made property and equipment purchases totaling $96.7 million in 2020 from a company with Burnette as minority owner.

– Jeff Smith

Alaska’s move to double THC levels in marijuana edibles could boost sales

Alaska marijuana manufacturers and retailers soon can start selling edibles at twice the potency, a change that likely will increase sales for both sectors.

A new rule goes into effect Sept. 1 that will allow the sale of marijuana edibles containing up to 10 milligrams of THC and packages with up to 10 individual products, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The rule will allow Alaska to catch up with the rest of the industry since other established cannabis markets typically allow 10-milligram servings of THC.

The increase in THC amount will likely result in lower prices for consumers because manufacturers:

  • Can create larger, stronger products at close to the same price point.
  • Will spend less on packaging because smaller containers cost more.

And lower prices for consumers could translate to increased sales volume for both edibles makers and retailers.

Alaskans are legally allowed to purchase up to 5,600 milligrams of THC each day.

Illinois recreational cannabis store licensing stalled by judge’s order

Licensing for recreational cannabis retailers in Illinois remains stuck.

A judge ordered the state not to award any new adult-use retail licenses until a ruling is handed down on a lawsuit by the Wah Group challenging the application process, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The state issued 55 retail licenses in late July, but lotteries this month to award an additional 130 licenses are in limbo.

In addition, the order by Cook County Judge Moshe Jacobius prevents the state from issuing final licenses to the 55 winners, according to the Tribune.

The next court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 16, so it’s possible the matter could be resolved soon.

The state did award 70 adult-use licenses earlier this month to cultivation, processing and transporter businesses.

It’s not unusual for any marijuana licensing process to face legal challenges.

But Illinois recreational marijuana store licensing, which once was proclaimed as an industry blueprint for social equity, has been bogged down in litigation and do-overs for more than a year.

Additional lawsuits have been filed over the scoring of the applications.

Bill to legalize adult-use marijuana introduced in Wisconsin Legislature

A bill to legalize adult-use marijuana has been introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature.

According to Wausau TV station WAOW, the measure would tax marijuana at similar rates as alcohol and also allow for home cultivation by consumers.

State Sen. Melissa Agard, a Madison Democrat who introduced the bill, told reporters the move would bring in an additional $165 million a year or more in tax revenues for Wisconsin.

“It is time for Wisconsin to do what we need to do to realize that prohibition has failed our state and it is past time to get this done for our community,” Agard said.

Agard has run similar bills seven times in the past, according to WAOW, but Wisconsin has not yet legalized medical cannabis.

Both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature are controlled by Republicans, so it’s likely the bill will face an uphill battle.

However, Agard has an ally in Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, who proposed legalizing recreational cannabis in his first draft of a state budget in February.

Cannabis real estate firm NewLake buys MA properties for nearly $9 million

Cannabis real estate financier NewLake Capital Partners closed on yet another acquisition, this time spending almost $9 million on four properties in the north-central Massachusetts town of Fitchburg.

According to the Worcester Business Journal, Connecticut-based NewLake paid $8.8 million for the four properties, which comprised approximately 32,000 square feet apiece and were each appraised at roughly $2 million.

The company didn’t respond to inquiries from reporters about plans for the real estate.

Three of the properties were co-owned by Andover-based medical marijuana business Revolutionary Growers and Anwelt Heritage Condominiums, the Business Journal reported.

NewLake purchased $20.5 million worth of land near Phoenix in July and, a few months before that, invested in an industrial property in Massachusetts in a deal that eventually could be valued at $21.5 million.

NewLake reached agreements in both transactions to lease the property to The Mint, an Arizona-based multistate cannabis operator.

Missouri, Maine set monthly marijuana sales records

Two of the M states – Missouri and Maine – are rocking when it comes to marijuana sales.

Missouri medical marijuana sales exceeded $20 million a month for the first time in July – $21.03 million, to be exact.

The Missouri market launched last October with only a few operators, so it was slow to gain traction.

But cumulative sales reached $91.4 million as of the end of July, according to state data.

Here is a look at Missouri’s steep ascent.

Meanwhile, Maine’s adult-use marijuana market generated $9.4 million of sales in July, surpassing the previous month’s record by 45%, according to the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the state is living up to its Vacationland moniker, with tourists in part driving record sales.

Like Missouri’s MMJ market, Maine’s adult-use market also launched last October, and cumulative sales now are at $38.7 million.

Here is a look at Maine’s steep ascent.

– Jeff Smith

50% of NJ communities might ban adult-use cannabis firms, report says

Roughly half the cities and towns in New Jersey are likely to prohibit adult-use cannabis businesses for at least the foreseeable future, given their impending hard deadline of Aug. 21 to decide whether to opt in or opt out of the industry.

According to the Gothamist, localities that choose to ban the marijuana industry might “reverse course at any time” while those that choose to permit cannabis companies will be forced to accept their existence for at least five years before they’re allowed to change their minds.

Many local officials have told the state League of Municipalities that they’re being cautious because they don’t want to get in front of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which is still working to craft regulations for the nascent recreational marijuana industry.

The commission faces the same deadline as the communities do – Aug. 21 – to issue its first draft of industry rules.

According to the Gothamist, about 60 towns have already decided to allow adult-use cannabis companies to operate within their borders and are writing their own marijuana business rules.

The Newark City Council, for example, last week gave preliminary approval to an ordinance to govern local adult-use marijuana businesses.

Arkansas awards final two medical marijuana dispensary licenses

Arkansas regulators drew from the state’s reserve list to award medical marijuana dispensary licenses in Zones 6 and 8 in the southwestern part of the state.

According to the Arkansas Times, the reserve list from which Green Remedies Group and T&C Management were chosen is composed of expired applications.

Green Remedies will be licensed in Garland County (Zone 6) and T&C in the city of Texarkana (Zone 8).

Moving forward, the state plans to employ a lottery system to issue MMJ licenses, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

For now, the two new dispensaries licensed by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission fill the quota of 40 that the agency is allowed to issue under state law, according to the Democrat-Gazette.

Since the state’s first dispensary opened in May 2019, patients in Arkansas have purchased more than 54,009 pounds of medical marijuana, according to the commission.

Through July 23, licensed MMJ dispensaries totaled $365 million in sales, according to Little Rock TV station KARK.

MJBizCon 2021, Hall of Flowers team up for new buying experience

The oldest and largest trade show in the marijuana industry, MJBizCon, is partnering with B2B cannabis show Hall of Flowers to create a new networking and buying experience at the 2021 event in Las Vegas.

MJBizCon is scheduled for Oct. 19-22 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The Hall of Flowers at MJBizCon Experience will offer cannabis retailers from across the nation the latest products, accessories and technologies from some of the legal cannabis industry’s leading brands.

Hall of Flowers is a B2B trade event that facilitates commerce and builds community between premium licensed cannabis brands and retailers.

The partnership has been designed with in-person connection in mind, allowing retailers to make appointments to explore what cannabis brands can bring to their stores.

MJBiz CEO Chris Walsh called the Hall of Flowers at MJBizCon Experience “a groundbreaking collaboration between the two most prominent events of their kind.”

“We’re joining forces and leveraging the strengths of MJBizCon and Hall of Flowers to bring cannabis brands and retailers together in powerful new ways all under one roof,” he continued.

Hall of Flowers founder Dani Diamond added: “We are thrilled to be partnering with the largest cannabis industry show and bringing the retailers and brands into the larger cannabis community offering our base greater nationwide exposure.”

MJBizCon 2021, the 10th iteration of the show, will include on-demand digital sessions as an added component.

More information about the event, including registration details, keynote speakers and session topics, is available on the MJBizCon website.

California cannabis business sues 4Front for alleged unpaid fees

A cannabis company in California is alleging in state court that it is due more than $400,000 in connection with a sale three years ago.

Brothers for Life claims the sale agreement with Vancouver, British Columbia-based Cannex Capital Holdings in 2018 called for additional fees of at least $200,000 a year to be paid in 2019 and 2020, but the payments haven’t been made, Law360 reported.

Arizona-based 4Front Ventures acquired Cannex in 2019, so 4Front is named in the lawsuit filed Aug. 2 in California state Superior Court.

Brothers for Life claims that 4Front agreed to “accept any and all liabilities of Cannex with respect to the agreement.”

4Front didn’t immediately respond to an MJBizDaily request for comment.

According to the complaint, payments were to begin after the operation was issued a permit by the city of Commerce.

The city approved a development agreement in May 2019 that was in effect the final permit, Law360 reported, citing the complaint.