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Cannabis Execs Pitch Investors In Toronto; iAnthus CFO Says Market Will Grow To Same Magnitude As Alcohol

Etan Vlessing

Investors heard from dozens of top cannabis executives April 17-18 at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Toronto. 

Lift & Co 

Lift & Co Corp (OTC: LFCOF) plans to leverage his company's leadership position as a trade marketing platform in Canada to fuel an international expansion, said Matei Olaru, the CEO of the data-driven cannabis media and technology company. 

Those plans include a move stateside — likely via a base to be established in California — as the U.S. market moves to eventual federal legalization of cannabis, and bigger players expand to survive and thrive.

"Cannabis is a consumer packaged goods category, and now that the legalized market is opening and there's a land grab, our market data insights will only increase in value," Olaru said. 

iAnthus Capital Holdings 

Julius Kalcevich, CFO of the New York-based multistate operator iAnthus Capital Holdings Inc (OTC: ITHUF), outlined the explosive potential for cannabis use in a legalizing U.S. market. 

Kalcevich predicts that cannabis use will come to match alcohol consumption levels in the U.S. in 10 years, with the market growing to $200 billion.

"Cannabis use right now in the U.S is around 11 percent [of the population]. What happens if it looks like alcohol usage?" 

Valens GroWorks

The cannabis industry is inevitably headed toward a reliance on oil-based products, said Everett Knight, executive vice president of strategy and investments at Valens Groworks Corp (OTC: VGWCF), a cannabis company focused on extraction, distillation and quality testing.

That shift puts Valens GroWorks in an industry sweet spot, Knight said. 

"No doctor wants you to smoke cannabis. We've seen everything is going to oil-based products, and the key is extraction," he said during his Cannabis Capital Conference presentation.

Valens offers one of the most diversified platforms for extraction, and the company is seeking to expand its Canadian footprint and go global, Knight said. 

Gen X BioSciences 

Younger cannabis consumers want pesticide- and carcinogen-free weed products, said Shea Alderete, CEO of Gen X Biosciences.

The Los Angeles-based cannatech company uses a proprietary "molecular perfection" extraction process to produce purer cannabis products. 

"The problem — though we see it as an opportunity — is a surge in demand for a clean product on the market shelf," Alderete said. 

"So regulated products have become very tight, and the solution is our pure and pesticide-free extraction process that can feed California demand." 

CB2 Insights 

CB2 Insights Inc CEO Prad Sakar talked up the value of medically validated cannabis data, a space in which he said CB2 aims to be market leader.

The company's strategy is to leverage real-world evidence it collects from medical cannabis patients via its proprietary software and clinic partners, Sakar said. 

CB2 aims eventually to fully serve pharmaceutical giants, regulatory bodies and government agencies with big data as they increasingly dominate a medical cannabis industry that's going mainstream, the CEO said. 

"CB2 will provide data and real-world evidence to big pharma and drug manufacturers to help bring products to market sooner or verify claims on new drug development," Sakar said. " ... This data will be super critical to the future of medical cannabis — to get it to the commercialization stage." 

MJ Freeway 

The cannabis industry is spending far too little on IT software and solutions to maintain momentum as it expands at a breakneck pace, said Jessica Billingsley, co-founder and CEO of MJ Freeway. The company supplies the cannabis industry with software for corporate and enterprise planning.

"There's a $300-million market opportunity just for software enterprise and solution products, and as the current leader in that space, we are uniquely poised to take advantage of that opportunity," the CEO said. 

As industry consolidation and growth gathers pace, leading cannabis players will inevitably invest more in software and tech solutions, Billingsley said. 

"That's where we come in," she said, adding that MJ Freeway intends to take its first-mover position beyond the U.S. market and go global, starting with Latin America and Europe.

"We're really the only cannabis technology company that's operating globally, with clients in 12 countries ... we're poised to grow as those markets grow." 

Vireo Health 

Kyle Kingsley told the Cannabis Capital Conference that his former work as an emergency medicine physician prepared him well to lead a company in the exploding weed business.

Kingsley is the CEO and founder of Vireo Health International (OTC: VREOF), a science- and health care-grounded cannabis company. 

"The cannabis chaos isn't that big of a deal," the CEO said. 

Vireo's industrial-scale approach to cannabis production and distribution has enabled the company to develop proprietary marijuana formulations and other ancillary intellectual property to drive growth opportunities from seed to sale, Kingsley said. 

"It's mind-blowing to me how much opportunity there is in IP, from industrial-scale processing to cannabis formulations for the next generation of products." 

Leading Vireo with medical and science expertise helps create and monetize "meaningful IP," the CEO said. 

"And we're going to maintain that focus on science and medicine, which will drive a lot of these opportunities." 

Related Links: 

National Brands, Blue Sky Startups Address Investors At Cannabis Capital Conference 

6 Cannabis Execs On The Strengths Of Their Businesses 

iAnthus Capital Holdings CFO Julius Kalcevich speaks at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference earlier this month in Toronto. Photo by Juil Yoon. 

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