Jay Rosenthal on Compelling Storytelling in the Cannabis Industry

Jay Rosenthal, Business of Cannabis Co-Founder and President, joins Barrington Miller to discuss the importance of sharing compelling stories from the cannabis space (1:15), his thoughts on the issues surrounding current cannabis regulations and product offerings, and how these might evolve in the future (7:50), and the persistent Canadian interest in cannabis-infused beverages (21:40). Listen until the end to hear Jay’s thoughts about the ongoing “CBD craze,” and to learn what Business of Cannabis is doing to bring the next wave of cannabis innovators into the spotlight.

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1933 Industries prioritizes Silver State as new era dawns for cannabis

Brayden Sutton is a refreshing change of pace in the cannabis industry.

Sharp. Concise. Thoughtful. And yet, blunt – not in any way that is impolite, but in a way that very simply underscores his bunker of experience in the cannabis industry.

As the founder and Chairman of the Board of 1933 Industries (CSE:TGIF), Sutton is helping steer a small but mighty ship that is looking south – to the Silver State, primarily.

“Nevada is the place to be,” says Sutton. “It’s one of the most attractive cannabis markets in the US, which provides a solid backdrop for growth.”

Nevada is more than a stone’s throw from 1933’s headquarters in Chilliwack, British Columbia, but it is, undoubtedly, a state like no other. The company also has partnerships in California and Colorado, but it is Nevada where 1933 has been at the heart of growth in the cannabis business for years.

Dawn of a new era

As for the name? The “1933” in the company’s moniker is a nod to the year when the prohibition of alcohol ended in the US.

“It was the dawn of a new era,” says Sutton. Today, 1933 Industries aims to capitalize on opportunities that have come as a result of the end of cannabis prohibition in Canada and industry legalization in a collection of US states.

“The US has not even begun yet,” says Sutton. “I compare it to what Canada was like in 2012 so there’s an incredible opportunity there. It has years of accelerated growth ahead.”

“There’s no roadmap right now,” adds Sutton. “The risks are higher in the US than in Canada, but it brings much higher upside potential.”

A diversified mix of assets

1933 Industries certainly seems to have the asset portfolio to make the most of that potential. Licensed medical and adult-use cannabis cultivation and production assets; proprietary hemp-based, CBD-infused products; CBD extraction services and a specialized cannabis advisory firm.

The company has three subsidiaries: Alternative Medicine Association LC (AMA) and Infused MFG – both located in Nevada – and Spire Global Strategy, located in Vancouver.

AMA is a licensed medical and adult-use cannabis cultivation and production facility in Las Vegas that hosts its own line of products, while also manufacturing other companies’ brands. Some of these products include concentrates such as Cake Batter, Crumble and Sugar; a vape pen sold with distillate oil; and several flower strains.

“AMA holds the first cultivation license for cannabis in Las Vegas,” says Sutton. “It has over 100 products in 46 states across 700 retail stores.”

And that’s a number that’s poised to grow, thanks to 1933’s brand new 67,750 square foot cultivation facility in Las Vegas, which represents a 10-fold increase from what it previously held.

Nevada, the place to be

If Nevada is the state to be in, Las Vegas is the city.  With more than 42 million visitors each year, it is poised to become one of the world’s largest adult-use cannabis markets.

The new facility is a key piece of the puzzle, as it will ensure consistent supply of cannabis flower and input material, meaning increased capacity, production efficiencies and economies of scale, all of which the company believes will improve yields and provide higher margins.

The facility is segmented into five different zones, with 15 bloom rooms and four veg rooms. Once at full capacity, it’s anticipated it will produce 700-800 pounds of flower monthly.

But that’s not the only piece of the puzzle for 1933 Industries. Subsidiary Infused MFG is a Las Vegas-based manufacturer of hemp- and cannabidiol-based products with a number of proprietary product lines, which include the well-known Canna Hemp, Canna HempX, Canna Hemp Paws and Canna Fused. The consumer packaged goods division experienced over 8,000% growth during its first year and represents the fastest growing segment of the company’s business. Nationally recognized, the Canna Hemp brand resonates with customers seeking the benefits of CBD and hemp and are available in over 700 retail outlets across the US.

Building a hempire

Adjacent to its cultivation facility, 1933 Industries is progressing with plans to launch one of Nevada’s largest hemp extraction facilities, as it focuses its gaze on the booming cannabinoid, or CBD, industry.

The new processing facility will produce extracts for full spectrum oils, distillates and isolates. The lab will also have the flexibility to isolate cannabinoids that are emerging in popularity. 1933 Industries aims to have it up and fully running by the end of the year.

The company has invested heavily in research and development, particularly where it comes to the design of its customized equipment, in order to provide maximum capacity and efficiency.

“We want to utilize the isolates in the manufacturing of our own consumer branded goods and secure the supply of raw materials,” says Sutton, adding that the move will increase margins and benefit from a recurring revenue stream from sales to other manufacturers.

Another subsidiary is Spire Global Strategy, an advisory firm that provides diligence, security, and intelligence services to clients around the world and is headquartered in Vancouver. It gives the company exposure to Canada and addresses the lack of discussion around infiltration of organized crime, diversion of product, internal theft of product, products making it into stores when they should not be, and other issues.

A string of, let’s face it, cool deals

There is a certain coolness factor when it comes to 1933 Industries – from its Instagram page to some of the partnership deals it’s signed to the look and feel of its products.

1933 subsidiary Infused MFG partnered with legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk in April under a two-year licensing agreement with House of Hawk for the launch of several exclusive, co-branded hemp & CBD products. It’s part of a growing trend, aimed to bring awareness of the rise of CBD in the sports world.

The company also inked a two-year agreement with OG DNA Genetics to cultivate, manufacture, distribute and sell OG’s branded cannabis. In the cannabis world, think of OG DNA Genetics as the crème de la crème of the cannabis genetics world. Rooted in Los Angeles and founded in Amsterdam, over the last decade the company has built and curated a seasoned genetic library, with operating procedures for genetic selection, breeding, and cultivation.

Subsidiary AMA also recently inked a licensing deal with hip-hop artist and actor Kurupt to bring his Gotti’s Gold cannabis brand to the Nevada market, the second partnership of its kind. For those unfamiliar, Kurupt is a hip-hop legend and actor who played an instrumental role in the launch of the early careers of some of the most notable names in the genre: 2Pac, Warren G, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.

Bright future

But at the end of the day, on paper, numbers matter, and Sutton is the first to underscore that.

In an industry that can be quick to assign eyebrow-raising valuations to companies that have no earnings, no revenue and sometimes little more than a logo and an investment deck, 1933 Industries appears to be a lean machine poised for an exciting year and beyond as it moves towards profitability.

The next step?

“Block out the noise, build value and continue what we’re doing,” says Sutton. “We have an incredible head start.”

1933 Industries is using a tried and true model for a simple reason: it works. That model is to establish a foothold in several parts of the value chain and replicate it in other jurisdictions. The firm’s strength lies in its diversity of assets, which are focused on some of the most attractive niches of the cannabis industry.

“Many have the strategy to get into as many states as they can,” says Sutton. “But some states are superior to others. We’re not interested in a ‘let’s own the world’ strategy. We’re interested in a ‘best-on-balance’ strategy. At this point, Nevada is the place to be, so we’re going to go big there.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on June 17, 2019 and featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about 1933 Industries at https://www.1933industries.com/.

Dafina Lovelace and Kellie Sauls on Investing in What You Consume

Dafina Lovelace and Kellie Sauls, Co-Founders of the investment group Get Rich or Die Trying (G.R.O.D.T.), join Barrington Miller to discuss the origins and structure of their group (2:22), how looking at personal consumer habits can affect investment choices (9:00), and the societal shifts around the cannabis space that influenced their decision to enter that market (16:45). Listen until the end to hear Kellie and Dafina’s thoughts on increasing financial literacy for young women of colour, some strategies for saving, and an impromptu song!

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Paul Duffy on Evolving the Retail Experience Using Augmented Reality

Paul Duffy, President of NexTech AR Solutions Corp. (CSE:NTAR), joins Barrington Miller to discuss the practical applications of “ARitizing” products into the augmented reality space using the NexTech platform (1:01), the differences between augmented reality and virtual reality (4:44), and how augmented reality is fundamentally changing the way people shop (12:51). Listen until the end to learn about Paul’s personal experiences with augmented reality, what’s next for AR in entertainment, and his opinions on how AR may impact social interaction within the next five years.

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Interview with Canadian Securities Exchange CEO Richard Carleton: H1 2019 Review

When it comes to achieving milestones at the CSE, the Exchange for Entrepreneurs is on an extended winning streak. With capital raised by CSE-listed issuers, trading value, and number of listings (more than 500!) all reaching new heights, it’s already been a strong start to 2019. Scroll on for an exclusive, in-depth interview with CSE CEO Richard Carleton as he discusses the factors contributing to this sustained positive momentum, and provides a glimpse of what’s ahead for the next half of this record-breaking year.

The first half of 2019 saw the CSE continue to grow in terms of total capital raised by issuers, trading value and a new record for the number of companies listed. Can you start by giving us the story behind the strong performance? What is allowing the CSE to consistently grow so quickly compared to other exchanges?

It is a continuation of the trends we saw establish themselves in 2018. There remains strong interest in the cannabis sector, particularly for companies working on opportunities in the United States, and increasingly now in the Caribbean Basin, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. We’ve seen a considerable amount of funds raised in the sector and an increasing pace of mergers and acquisitions activity.

We’ve also seen renewed interest in the mining space.  I was looking at our year-to-date numbers the other day and to the end of June, an identical number of mining companies have joined the exchange this year as cannabis issuers. We have also welcomed a significant group of technology companies.

These are very positive trends: the diversification in the makeup of newly listed companies is healthy, and I think the rebound in the mining sector – particularly gold exploration – is something that people are going to be very interested in as the year progresses.

I recently saw comparisons showing the CSE leading other venture-focused exchanges in several categories, including average issuer market capitalization and average financing size. What’s driving these KPIs and is it sustainable?

Again, this is largely a cannabis story. If you look at our most active stocks, they tend to be from the cannabis sector. What it speaks to, in particular, is continued retail interest in the industry. It also speaks to the appeal of the issuer community we have been able to bring to the exchange. It’s a very diverse set of companies, ranging from those involved in cultivation in Canada to multistate operators in the US, and companies looking even further afield internationally.

We are also starting to see issuers with more than just cultivation.  Examples would be companies that are looking to make improvements in extraction, others in biotechnology, and yet others building brands in specific markets. These companies, in some cases, trade for $15 or $20 per share, and that positively impacts the value of trading.

Let’s run with that theme. Last year, Curaleaf’s IPO was the biggest the CSE had ever seen, at the equivalent of some CDN$520 million, and Harvest Health & Recreation announced a financing in April of this year equal to around CDN$650 million. Those are just a few examples of financings big enough to fuel sustained national or multinational growth. What are you hearing from issuers regarding who is coming into these deals, and their general experience raising large amounts of capital on the CSE?

What is interesting about these transactions – and you didn’t mention the largest of all, which is the short-form prospectus that Acreage filed with the Ontario Securities Commission recently to raise up to US$800 million – is that they really are global efforts.

We know that Canadian retail and institutions have been long-time supporters, which seems kind of funny to say for an industry that is, at best, five years old. But they continue to be a significant and core part of large financings. And we are increasingly seeing participation from the United States. Family offices, hedge funds, and high net worth individuals are backing these raises. Parsing the information after a financing closes, we also see interest from institutions and family offices in Europe and Asia. When we totaled it up last year, we saw 103 different jurisdictions around the world represented by investors in deals on the CSE. I think on a year-to-date basis it is about 83 jurisdictions represented. Basically, every part of the globe has participated in capital raises conducted through the facilities of the CSE.

Issuers have emphasized to me repeatedly that there are no concerns with the fact that their company is listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange. We are a recognized exchange around the world for a variety of tax and pension investment purposes, and because we have achieved that status our issuers find very little resistance to investment in their transactions because of their listing exchange.

The British Columbia Securities Commission is now one of your official regulators. Explain that development and what it means going forward in practical terms. Will it slow or change things in any way?

The British Columbia Securities Commission has been talking about taking on this role for as long as I have been with the Canadian Securities Exchange, and that’s about 12 years at this point. The reason is that a majority of the companies listed on the CSE are domiciled in British Columbia.

I think the commission moving now is a reflection of our relevance and continued growth in the number of listings. There are now over 250 BC companies that trade on the CSE. With so many connections to the province, I believe the commission concluded that it was in their interest to take an active role in the regulation of the exchange.

Our long-standing principal regulator is the Ontario Securities Commission; the BCSC will be working with the OSC to make sure there are not any duplicative activities. As a result, I am confident that the BCSC move will not impact the operation of the exchange in any way. We have worked very closely with the OSC and BCSC over the years and will continue to do so effectively.

I hear the CSE is planning to introduce a separate tier for senior companies. What is the thinking behind that?  What benefits will it offer companies that qualify for this tier?

We find ourselves in a situation unique in Canada. Under the National Instruments that set out how companies and exchanges are regulated, it’s really divided into two worlds: venture exchanges and non-venture exchanges. The rules for companies listed on a venture exchange have a lighter touch than for companies listed on a non-venture exchange, such as the Toronto Stock Exchange. We find ourselves in the fortunate situation of having listed companies that fall into both “venture” and “non-venture” buckets.

We are not proposing any change in the way our early stage companies are regulated. We now have a substantial number of companies that have significant market capitalizations, tangible assets, and revenue coming from a variety of jurisdictions. A regulatory framework designed to oversee the operations of a junior mining exploration company really is not up to the task of overseeing the operations of a US multistate operator in the cannabis industry with a multi-billion-dollar market cap and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue.

We’ve been dealing with this to date by imposing higher standards on these larger companies as they list. So, there has been no regulatory gap, but we are now in the process of introducing changes to our listing rules designed to make these higher standards official and transparent.

When the project is complete, following a process with our regulators and a public comment period, these companies will be separately identified for the information of investors. We expect that the securities of these senior issuers will be eligible for margin under IIROC rules. It will also give the exchange the ability to list special purpose acquisition corporations, which are becoming an increasingly popular vehicle for creating public companies in Canada. It will also enable us to initiate an ETF listing program, which several parties have been very interested in listing on us. It will help address concerns that institutional investors and professional investors in Canada and the US may have had about the opportunity for regulatory arbitrage between the CSE and other exchanges in Canada.

There is a lot of interest among finance industry professionals in the blockchain-based clearing and settlement system the CSE is developing. What can you tell us about your progress?

The first thing to note is that we retained Andrew Grovestine within the past three months. Andrew is an experienced brokerage industry executive and is going to lead our effort to create a settlement and clearing service in Canada based on distributed ledger technology.

Our vision here is not really to emphasize the clearing and settlement service, although it’s certainly a key component of how we believe the future is going to play out. What we are really looking to do is to provide a safe, regulated environment for the listing and trading of tokenized securities. We think this will be of real interest to companies and investors because using these tokenized securities substantially reduces costs for issuers wanting to pay dividends, royalty streams, or other entitlements a company might want to provide its shareholders. By doing it in this way we can cut the cost of capital for issuers and incent the creation of a whole range of new and interesting instruments, whether they are in the form of common equity or debt, or other types of security instruments that will be of interest to both retail and institutional investors.

One of the pieces of that puzzle is the clearing and settlement component, which will make trading more efficient by shortening the clearing and settlement cycle. It will also make the processing of entitlements to shareholders significantly more efficient. But, as I say, the real headline here is that we want to create the best structure for tokenized securities to trade in a regulated environment.

As far as where we are with the project, we are about to initiate third-party testing with the dealer community. We’ve assembled an advisory group of dealers who will help to guide us through the process and they are excited about the opportunities that this initiative could bring to the market.

The CSE has not raised new capital for many years and on the surface would seem to benefit from a stable ownership structure.  How does this help you to serve the market?

We’ve been blessed to have patient and supportive principal shareholders over my term as CEO. I’d begin with Urbana Corporation, which is Tom Caldwell’s investment fund. Mr. Caldwell, as you know, is Chairman of the Canadian Securities Exchange. Shortly after Mr. Caldwell led the recapitalization of the company he was joined by Ned Goodman, who served as Vice Chairman for a number of years.

I can’t tell you how much credibility the investments from Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Goodman brought to the organization. I think that the CSE team was always respected in the industry, but there were concerns as to whether we had the resources to stay in the game for the long haul. With the support from Mr. Caldwell and his team and Mr. Goodman’s investment, those concerns were permanently put to rest, and laid the groundwork for the growth we have enjoyed over the last several years.

Mr. Caldwell, in his presentations, talks about Urbana being “patient capital” and that has absolutely been true with us. We have been able to make investments in a variety of aspects of our business, including in trading technology and adding personnel to meet the increased pace of applications in response to the regulatory challenges this posed. We moved into our new premises in First Canadian Place at the end of January and are in the process of building a presentation centre there that will be used to host listed companies for a ceremony on their first day of trading, and also to recognize key milestones our issuers achieve.

While these investments may have been done at the expense of short-term profitability, we are again positioning the exchange to support even higher levels of growth in the future. Our shareholders have been very, very supportive.

It is definitely the spirit at the CSE to always be looking to do things better. What are you doing to keep momentum going in terms of growth and building the brand?

As people who follow our Instagram and Twitter accounts know, we have been racking up the frequent flyer miles over the past couple of years. There is a concerted effort by the team to get out there and tell the story of the Canadian Securities Exchange to influencers, be it lawyers, accountants or investment dealers and bankers. We’ve been doing a lot of work with the community to ensure they understand who we are and what our value proposition is. We also, of course, engage in direct sales work with individual companies that are looking to access the Canadian public capital markets.

That has been a big part of our success over the last few years, but the thing that I think truly sets us apart from most securities exchanges – not just in Canada but around the world – is that we are the only start-up exchange in recent memory that has really had an impact on the local capital market. People see that and see the success we’ve had and understand that it reflects the CSE team’s experience, knowledge and commitment to customer service.

The other thing I attribute it to is the fact that we are entrepreneurs ourselves. I have noted in past interviews how most of the team here has been through the lean times and worked with us through multiple fundraising efforts. We have done exactly the same thing that the entrepreneurs who come to us to list their companies do.  We’ve done the investor pitch decks, we’ve signed the NDAs, we’ve done the presentations, we’ve had the door slammed in our face.  That gives our team insight into the challenges that an entrepreneur faces as they try to raise money to achieve their business goals. Understanding where they are and knowing that we have been in their proverbial shoes builds an energy around the organization that people sense and really take a high degree of comfort in.

We’re doing all of the other things I mentioned, such as building a presentation centre for listing ceremonies. We built a podcast studio and are releasing podcasts at a furious rate through the various media we use to distribute them. Our initiatives via the Internet and social media are developing a real following.

It’s not any one thing, I think it’s a combination of all those things that gives people the sense that we are on the right track and that this organization is really going places.

Curaleaf Holdings: Vertical integration, national retail reach position this early cannabis entrant as industry leader

Joe Lusardi is a self-styled “reluctant pioneer” in cannabis.

At the helm of Curaleaf Holdings (CSE:CURA), the largest multistate operator in the United States, Chief Executive Officer Lusardi has overseen the company’s expansion into 15 states and driven blockbuster acquisitions, all while remaining at the forefront of advocacy work toward federal legalization.

But when he opened the first vertically integrated cannabis shop in Maine in 2010, the landscape was much less certain. “We were out on the risk curve, I’ll just say that,” he jokes during an interview with Public Entrepreneur in early May.

Things are much different in 2019. Cannabis is a multibillion-dollar industry and savvy early investors are seeing exponential returns. Canada has legalized cannabis at the federal level and, with two milestone bills being debated in the House of Representatives, signs point to the US eventually following suit. What’s more, public sentiment toward the plant and the substances derived from it is drifting positively.

“Every day the public sentiment around cannabis continues to improve,” says Lusardi. “It’s beyond a tipping point.”

In an industry where winners and losers are starting to emerge, Massachusetts-based Curaleaf clearly belongs in the former group. Over the last three years, Lusardi and his team have established not only the largest US cannabis company by market capitalization, but also a national brand. Now with two game-changing acquisitions under its belt, Curaleaf is a driving force in the cannabis space.

For Lusardi, the goal is to be the biggest cannabis brand in the country. Curaleaf-branded products are currently available in 47 states representing over 600 SKUs. Its product line is comprised of oils, flower, lotions, tinctures and edibles. Last year, the company launched Curaleaf Hemp, offering a range of premium, natural hemp-based products.

Execution Matters

Curaleaf has a vertically integrated model, meaning it controls the cultivation, manufacturing, processing, distribution and retailing of its products. That model can be challenging for a company no matter its size, but for Curaleaf it means control of product consistency throughout the value chain.

“Execution really matters,” says Lusardi. “We have to be a good grower, manufacturer, distributor and retailer, which all contribute to brand identity.”

If running a vertically integrated business is challenging, expanding it can be even more so. It should be no surprise that acquisitions are a cornerstone of Curaleaf’s growth strategy. The challenge for one of the biggest cannabis companies in North America is finding those opportunities that make the most strategic sense and creating incremental value for shareholders.

Funding the acquisitions is not a problem. In 2018, when Curaleaf went public on the Canadian Securities Exchange, the company raised US$400 million from investors around the world. Private equity firm Blackrock recently took an US$11 million stake in the company.

Revenues during 2018 were approximately US$88 million. The company has nearly doubled its share price since the beginning of the year, giving it added currency to grow the business.

Acquisition Trail

When Curaleaf set out to look for acquisitions, they knew that they needed to be in California, the largest market for cannabis in the US. The acquisition of Monterey County-based Eureka Investment Partners fit that requirement immediately. Although small in value – the total deal is worth just under US$31 million – the acquisition of Eureka’s 110,000 square foot greenhouse facility allowed for seamless integration with Curaleaf’s manufacturing facility in the state.

Calling the acquisition the “first step in a multistep California strategy,” Lusardi says the deal gives Curaleaf a platform to build more manufacturing and dispensaries on the West Coast.

The company plans to launch three dispensaries as part of its retail expansion strategy to eventually cover the state.

According to Lusardi, Curaleaf has a full acquisition pipeline and will continue to make deals that strengthen its position as a market leader.

The next acquisition came hot on the heels of Eureka and represented a sea change for the company. At the beginning of May, Curaleaf announced it had acquired Cura Partners, makers of the Select oil and CBD brands, in a CDN$1.3 billion deal.

Based in Oregon, Select is one of the most well-known cannabis wholesale brands in the US with its products on the shelves of around 900 retailers. For Curaleaf, the deal gives it a stronger foothold on the West Coast as a complement to the company’s dominance in the eastern part of the country.

Lusardi calls the acquisition a “perfect fit” for the cannabis leader. “We intend to meaningfully accelerate our topline growth trajectory with the addition of the Select Oil product range,” he stated in a press release about the deal. “In addition, we intend to create significant operational synergies from the integration of Select’s wholesale business with our vertically integrated cultivating, processing and retail platform.”

Bay Street analysts love the transaction, with Cormark Securities calling it a good fit with nice synergy potential. “We see particular potential in Curaleaf’s ability to introduce the Select brand on the East Coast, while the integration of Select’s wholesale and distribution platform with Curaleaf’s cultivation and processing capacity should drive material cost reductions in Western markets,” Cormark analysts Jesse Pytlak and Sam Fraser noted in a May 2 report.

Cormark also raised its price target to CDN$18 a share, from $15, calling Curaleaf a “must-own” US cannabis name.

Advocacy Leaders

With Curaleaf an established cannabis leader, Lusardi and his team are doubling down on the advocacy and policy work that is a pillar of the company’s ethos. On the policy front, Curaleaf is front and centre advocating for federal legalization of cannabis in the US. Lusardi notes that the majority of Americans are in favour of legalization, citing statistics showing that over 90% of the population supports medical cannabis use and nearly 66% supports recreational use.

“Elected leaders can’t avoid the will of the people,” says Lusardi. “It’s a question of when, not if, legalization will occur. Every elected official is trying to formulate a thoughtful position on cannabis because they’re hearing from their constituency that they want legal access to cannabis. The ‘when’ is not clear, but I think you’ll see the House of Representatives take significant initiative this year, which will put pressure on the Senate and the White House to move forward the cannabis agenda.”

A key feature of Curaleaf’s corporate strategy is creating opportunities for underrepresented communities to participate in the industry. “Minority groups need to have a seat at the table,” Lusardi says. “We want to make sure that the industry is as diverse as its customer base. It’s something that we think about a lot, and we plan to be a part of that solution.”  Curaleaf also launched an initiative this year called the Veterans Cannabis Project, dedicated to improving US military veterans’ quality of life through access to cannabis.

These initiatives are part of Curaleaf’s long-term strategy to build a trusted, recognizable brand that consumers can interact with legally. At the moment, the company is comfortable remaining US-focused. Lusardi is optimistic on federal legalization but is building the company and creating value for shareholders regardless of the outcome.

“The long-term value in this industry will rest in the brand value and the relationship with your customer,” he says. “We feel we have all the makings of a national brand and we’re going to work hard to nurture that relationship.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on June 19, 2019 and featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Curaleaf Holdings at https://www.curaleaf.com/.

Fabrice Taylor on the Value of Promotion and Messaging in the Public Markets

In his podcasting debut, Fabrice Taylor, Founder and Publisher of The President’s Club Investment Letter, joined James Black to discuss the origin of The President’s Club (2:56), the evolution of journalism and media (4:22), and some telltale signs that an investment may (or may not) be worth considering (12:28). Listen until the end to learn why he feels surprises are a good thing, the importance of having a strong network, and his recommendation on where to have lunch in Edmonton!

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Emma Andrews on Bringing a Cannabis Beverage Brand to Life

Emma Andrews, Chief Commercial Officer at BevCanna Enterprises Inc. (CSE:BEV), sat down with Grace Pedota to share her thoughts on the type of beverages we should expect when infused cannabis beverages go legal in Canada this October (2:13), how she applies her background as a nutritionist into the cannabis industry (6:26), her experience with cannabis as an endurance runner (8:14), and her perspective on plant-based food in the fast food industry (10:44). Listen until the end to hear her thoughts on cannabis consumption as an expecting mother, and her outlook for cannabis in health and wellness products over the next 20 to 30 years.

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Alex Freedman on the Critical Role of Social Equity in Cannabis

Alex Freedman from the LA Department of Cannabis Regulation joins Barrington Miller for the inaugural #HashtagFinance Skype interview. This educational discussion focuses on the topic of ‘social equity’, including a definition of the term as it relates to the cannabis sector (2:00), how social equity works to have a positive impact on those negatively impacted by the “War on Drugs” (4:50), and the differences and similarities between social equity programs in Northern and Southern California (11:35). Listen until the end to learn about the challenges and opportunities facing community reinvestment from successful investee companies, navigating the long-term impact of social equity, and the growing demand for social equity mandates from cannabis investors!

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SLANG Worldwide: Brands at core of efficient business model that naturally scales with cannabis industry growth

The power of a brand is an amazing thing. A good brand touches our heart, gets people to buy more, to pay more, and the best of them can even become everyday words that transcend the boundaries of the company that created them. SLANG Worldwide Inc. (CSE:SLNG) is well aware of this potential and that’s why brands are its thing…lots of brands. Some, such as O.penVAPE, District Edibles, and Firefly rank among the top-performing brands in the entire cannabis industry.

Public Entrepreneur spoke recently with Peter Miller, SLANG’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, to explore this fascinating side of the cannabis market. From developing strategies to suit specific jurisdictions to the wisdom of pursuing growth through acquisitions, Miller speaks with the experience of an executive who has been there from the beginning, yet in terms of the potential to take SLANG to new heights is perhaps only just getting started.

Give us a brief introduction to SLANG.  How did you and your partner build the company into such a force in the cannabis consumer packaged goods space?

SLANG Worldwide is a consumer packaged goods company that owns, licenses, and markets 11 cannabis brands serving the flower, concentrates, edibles, and beverage categories. Our portfolio is one of the highest selling of all time, as tracked by a third party, with over $250 million in sales at retail. SLANG is a multistate and multinational operator, with brands and products available in over 2,600 retail stores – one of the largest distribution footprints in the cannabis industry. Our brands are more widely distributed than any portfolio I’m aware of. We source biomass, extract it and manufacture it into finished goods with our brands and formulations, then wholesale and distribute to retail accounts. That focus has allowed us to scale quickly and grow to where SLANG is today.

My co-founder Billy Levy and I previously founded a vertically integrated limited-licenses cannabis business in Canada. We came from the tech world and didn’t have a lot of experience in cannabis, so we spent a lot of time visiting markets that were maturing. We got to watch cannabis retail go from unbranded jars of bud to more sophisticated form factors like edibles and vaporizers, which really excited us. Our licensed producer was sold to Canopy Growth and we thought about where we wanted to be, so we started making investments and formalizing partnerships in the US.

SLANG recently launched a CBD-focused health and wellness division. How does this fit within your strategy going forward? Is it better to acquire brands or build them up on your own?

SLANG’s goal is to offer cannabis products to a wide variety of consumers. CBD products have proven to be extremely compelling and popular to consumers, but just producing CBD products doesn’t necessarily guarantee success at the cash register. CBD products require a different set of skills and relationships than THC. We identified a powerful opportunity with Greenlane to distribute our products into retail environments that aren’t your core cannabis retail environments. Greenlane is the largest online and smoke shop distributor in the industry. It represents an exciting go-to-market strategy for us. SLANG will continue to round out the products that we offer within the health and wellness verticals, initially on the inhalable side, and in the near term moving to the edibles side as well.

A number of SLANG products are best sellers. How do you develop these brands into winners? What lessons can be learned from your experience?

No two markets are the same. Canada has strict rules on promotion and advertising, but brands aren’t built solely through promotion and advertising. Brands benefit most from being trusted by customers, and you establish that trust over time. SLANG products have been leading in the most competitive and oldest legal markets in the US. How do we do that? SLANG establishes trust with our retail customers by consistently delivering them exactly what we say we will, which makes them inclined to continue carrying our products on their shelves. You start developing a subconscious attachment between your brand and the consumer. That’s when you really form that close relationship.

SLANG’s head of sales likes to say that the best ability to create a brand is to make it as broadly available as possible. Making our products widely available and then ensuring that our customers are aware of that availability are the keys to developing these brands.

When it comes to the question of organic growth versus acquisitions, which approach do you prefer?

The US is really a series of markets within a market. Each state is at a different point in its market maturity, so you have to use a tailored approach. In the more mature states like Washington or Colorado, we can look at acquiring brands that are proven winners that have been operating at scale for years in competitive environments. In new markets, it’s difficult to say who’s going to win it all. The deal SLANG announced with Arbor Pacific in Washington and Oregon was a situation where we were picking winners.

When we looked at other exciting markets like Florida, which is a limited-license market, it wasn’t as simple as picking a winner, so we decided to grow organically through a partnership with Trulieve, the largest retailer in the state.

Trulieve is an example of how we go about buying into a market. Instead of acquiring a Florida operator, we partnered with one who would help us get our brands on the shelf in the near term.  SLANG can help drive more customers to their stores to buy our brands, but we could also help support and share our product knowledge with them. We’ve been extracting cannabis for many years and can help them avoid some of the pitfalls of starting an extraction unit. We saw that as the best way to address new markets that are limited license.

What do you think makes the most sense for shareholders in the current environment?

As this market continues moving toward a consumer packaged goods framework, investors will pay close attention to branded unit sales. It is the most apples-to-apples way to understand the competitive landscape. How are consumers voting with their dollars and whose brands are driving the most sales? Consumers spent $32 million on SLANG branded products in the quarter.

Another key metric for investors is branded servings, which measures the number of experiences consumers have with cannabis brands. Quantified by 5mg servings, 52 million SLANG branded servings were purchased by customers in Q1. By branded servings sold, SLANG is one of the largest cannabis companies in the world.

How can investors make sense of the frenetic pace of M&A activity that’s going on in the sector right now?

There’s always going to be the temptation of the new shiny object and the trend of the moment. I think investors need to look at the kinds of assets people are putting together and support a cohesive thesis and strategy, rather than just looking at revenue figures or exciting markets and thinking it will be better together. In fact, it’s rarely the case if you look at M&A across other industries historically. It’s easy to get distracted. I think it’s important to make sure that there’s a central mission or strategy around all the M&A.

What are a few upcoming catalysts for SLANG shareholders?

I’m incredibly encouraged by the macro tailwinds we see in our industry, generally, but as each state-level market matures, we’re seeing validation of the SLANG business model. From the manufacturing process through the marketing of finished goods, SLANG’s business is scalable, capital efficient, and its success is repeatable in new markets. In fact, our business model improves with more competition, meaning the more retailers that open their doors, the more points of sale for our brands. Our business model lends itself to growing with the industry and we’re doing everything possible to grow more quickly than the broader industry. All the catalysts we have a line of sight on right now provide net benefits to our business model and our strategy.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

SLANG’s business model is simple and focused on sourcing biomass. We’re extracting and formulating it into finished goods and distributing our brands to as many stores as possible. It’s the same business model that has allowed some of the biggest consumer package goods companies in the world to scale up operations. A level playing field, in terms of regulation and unit economics, will only highlight our approach and the value of our brand portfolio.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on June 19, 2019 and featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about SLANG Worldwide at https://www.slangww.com/.