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The Week In Cannabis: A Federal Legalization Bill, Earnings Reports And A Tax Hike In California

Javier Hasse

For the first time ever, a congressional committee in the U.S. has voted on a cannabis legalization bill. The law in question, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019, passed the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday in a 24-10 vote.

If approved by the House and Senate, the MORE Act would end the federal prohibition of cannabis with other provisions for social equity, record expungement and small business support. See the video below for the main highlights.

"It is significant that the first legalization bill passed by a congressional committee is not just a descheduling bill, but one that takes a thoughtful and reparative approach. The MORE ACT acknowledges the harms of the war on drugs and works to repair some of those harms for the individuals and communities that have been ravaged in its wake," said Charlotte Resing, a policy analyst working at the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, told Benzinga. 

“People in the United States use and sell marijuana at roughly the same rate regardless of their race, yet a black person is almost four times more likely than a white person to be arrested for marijuana possession nationwide. As we move forward with legalization across the country, we can look to this bill for the necessary criminal legal reform and racial justice considerations that are necessary for an equitable and just legalization package." 

Green Market Report CEO Debra Borchardt said investors should not get too distracted by the development. 

"This week's approval of the MORE Act by the House Judiciary Committee seemed to outshine the slew of earnings reports we received this week. While this is still just one step of many that have to happen for this legislation to become law, it is still momentous, as it’s the most comprehensive cannabis legislation to move forward to date," she said.

The earnings reports show that the cannabis industry is beginning to shake out solid performers from ones that based their strategies on high hopes that haven't played out as planned, Borchardt said. 

"Investors are getting a better idea of who is making the right decisions and who isn't."

The following are among the companies that reported earnings this week: 

  • Trulieve Cannabis Corp. (CSE: TRUL) (OTC: TCNNF)
  • Ayr Strategies Inc. (CSE: AYR.A) (OTC: AYRSF)
  • Curaleaf Holdings, Inc. (CSE: CURA) (OTC: CURLF)
  • Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. (CSE: HARV) (OTC: HRVSF)
  • Terrascend Corp (OTC: TRSSF)
  • Green Thumb Industries Inc. (CSE: GTII) (OTC: GTBIF)
  • iAnthus Capital Holdings, Inc. (CSE: IAN) (OTC: ITHUF)
  • TILT Holdings Inc. (CSE: TILT) (OTC: TLLTF)
  • Abacus Health Products Inc (OTC: ABAHF)
  • Harborside Inc (OTC: HSDEF) (CNSX: HBOR)

For our full coverage on cannabis, hemp and CBD earnings, check out our Benzinga Cannabis earnings portal.

If you want to get this news recap in your email inbox every week, please subscribe to https://tinyletter.com/javierhasse

In more policy news, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration announced that it will increase taxes on the regulated cannabis industry yet again. The markup rate for the marijuana excise tax will increase from 60% to 80% on New Year’s Day, the CDTFA said. Industry participants expressed concerns that this move will further suppress an already weak legal market and fuel the thriving illicit market.

Cannabis ETFs delivered big gains. Over the last five trading days:

  • The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF (OTC: HMLSF) (TSE: HMMJ) was up 5.61%.
  • The ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSE: MJ) gained 4.46%.
  • The AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF (NYSE: YOLO) was up 4.88%.
  • The Cannabis ETF (NYSE: THCX) rose 4.82%.
  • The Amplify Seymour Cannabis ETF (NYSE: CNBS) advanced 5.04%.
  • The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY) closed the period down 0.2%.

More News From The Week

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) announced it is removing vaping apps from its App Store in the wake of vaping-related illnesses and deaths reported by the CDC. 

“Apple’s blanket removal of all vaporization related apps from App Store will have a significant short-term impact on the industry. Especially as we see more technology innovators coming into the vaporization space with sophisticated products and services that require connectivity," Airgraft CEO Mladen Barbaric told Bezinga. 

“Ironically, all the vaping issues right now stem from analog devices and illicit liquids containing dangerous cutting agents and contaminants. By cutting off the iOS access, Apple are in effect penalizing digital innovation that brings accountability, transparency, security and control to cannabis vapor users."

The ban is likely to have a reverse effect like most prohibition efforts, forcing users to accept lower standards and accountability, Barbaric said — "effectively pushing people to the exact devices and substances that are the cause of illness."

Women-only cannabis investment firm Treehouse Global Ventures added Jessica Billingsley and Michelle Bodner to its Senior Advisory Board, which already includes Maria Rodale, Tahira Rehmatullah and Emily Paxhia, as well as TGV founders Lindy Snider, Gaynell Rogers and Lori Ferrara.

LeafWorks launched its LeafWorks Cultivar Registration program, which enables cannabis and hemp cultivators and breeders to establish a record of cultivar creation and/or ownership. It does so in collaboration with the Canndor Herbarium, a nonprofit third-party that catalogs and preserves physical specimens of registered cultivars. 

This is important as the industry transitions from prohibition to regulation and cannabis/hemp plant varietal patents, or PVPs, rise in frequency. The benefit of this program is that it lays the groundwork for legal protection in the future. It is also the first step in LeafWorks' Supply Chain Certification, which allows the registrant to reap the benefits of the LeafWorks-Certification Seal, driving brand equity through increased consumer confidence and transparency.

Rec’d: The Other Side of Legalization,” a brand-new weekly documentary podcast series about the developments and unintended consequences of legalization in the world’s largest marijuana market, California, launched tis week. The podcast is hosted by Christopher Trout and Reena Karia, co-founders of The Grass Agency. 

Veritas Farms Inc (OTC: VFRM) signed on as the official Health and Wellness Sponsor for Art Miami.

During the 30th anniversary edition of the fair, a selection of food and drinks infused with full-spectrum CBD oil will be offered at the Veritas Farms Plaza Café, where a specially curated exhibition of murals created and installed by Mr. Brainwash will also be on exhibit.

“Art Miami is the perfect event to introduce our CBD brand to the international audience of art collectors and enthusiasts who attend the event each year,” said Derek Thomas, Veritas Farms’ vice president of business development. “It will give those in attendance an opportunity to experience firsthand the many facets of our brand.”

Miami Art Week is an excellent opportunity to unite people of varying interests and cultures, said Pamela Cohen, Art Miami's vice president of marketing and sponsorships. 

“We’re excited to introduce Veritas Farms to our collectors and art enthusiasts.”

During the past few months, Fotonica has engaged with several leading cultivation facilities in North America in order to accurately test and prove the superiority of its Dynamic Led Lighting System, or DLED, over conventional lighting fixtures such as LED or bulb-based (MH/HPS) solutions.

The outcome of this initial testing phase showed that the results for Fotonica's EVA3 generated a 15% higher average yield than most fixtures while using 41.6-44.6% less intensity compared to other similar fixtures. The increase in potency and terpenes was dramatic, Fotonica said. 

The founders of the Incredibles brand at Denver-based Medically Correct announced a new CBD brand, TruPura CBD, that will include six product lines: chocolates, gummies, bath salts, tinctures, soft gels and salves. The THC-free products will feature certified American-grown hemp and sustainably sourced, organic ingredients.

“Our experience with infused-products over the last nine years has prepared us to create products consumers can trust,” said Bob Eschino, founder and president of TruPura. “Our process for triple third-party testing helps ensure the quality and consistency that is needed in the CBD industry.”

Realm of Caring, a 501(c)3 nonprofit profit providing support services, resources and research for cannabinoid users, selected Stratos — a Colorado-based cannabis and hemp-infused manufacturer of tablets, tinctures and topicals — as an approved product for patients and consumers. This is a distinction given to only 10 other brands worldwide.

Stratos has also joined Realm of Caring’s Observational Research Registry with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, which studies cannabis therapies in thousands of patients across the country. Stratos will be providing cannabis and hemp-derived CBD products to help with research studies pertaining to several different topics such as pain management, epilepsy, cancer and more. 

“It’s a true honor to support research on cannabis therapies and receive this prestigious recognition from Realm of Caring,” said Brenda Verghese, vice president of product development at Stratos.

“Our mission is to help people by providing high-quality cannabis and hemp-derived products. Through our work with Realm of Caring and this Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine research, the industry can continue to progress and further our mission to help people on their path to healing.”

HempFusion announced a CBD marketing campaign at over 50 major airports, with an exclusive campaign at the busiest airport in the world: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The activation in Atlanta will include a CBD vending machine that dispenses the companyu’s Stress product, along with ambassadors stationed to provide information and answer consumer questions.

The marketing campaign will go through Dec. 15, coinciding with some of the busiest travel dates of the year, and includes advertising at major international airports including John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, San Francisco, Toronto Pearson, Chicago O'Hare and Los Angeles.

“The holidays are a stressful time for everyone regardless of if you're traveling or not,” said Ashley Grace, HempFusion's chief marketing officer. “Our goal with our airport efforts is to bring awareness to people that there is a natural way to relax and enjoy the holidays.  Since our time with our families is often limited, we strive to increase the quality of holiday family time by supporting a healthy stress response.”

CBDCapitalGroup, a CBD nutraceuticals investment and scaling company, announced that it has acquired its second portfolio company, Mana Artisan Botanics, an artisanal hemp-infusions company based on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Zak Garcia, CCG's chief marketing officer, will step in as interim CEO at Mana Botanics. Garcia is positioned to lead the company through several business updates, including the expansion of the spa product line, a multipronged marketing strategy and a transition to cGMP production to meet the high demand for Mana Botanics’ products.

“I am excited to rollup my seed investment for Mana into CBDCapitalGroup. Under CCG’s guidance, Mana has a better opportunity to realize our original vision to deliver the purest CBD products to the widest audience possible. I also expect a higher upside potential, with my initial investment now hedged against their growing portfolio of CBD companies," said Andy Noorda, principal investor behind Mana Botanics.

Hemp Inc. (OTC: HEMP) announced the completion of two harvests and the drying of its high-cannabidiol A and B buds in Medford, Oregon to fulfill the growing demand for smokable hemp flower.

“We are in the middle of curing the colas but are looking forward to sharing these carefully processed buds with the public when we start producing the King of Hemp pre-rolls,” said Hemp Inc. CEO Bruce Perlowin.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued New York-based AXIM Biotechnologies Inc. (OTC: AXIM) a new Notice of Allowance for a patent on a suppository composition comprising cannabinoids.

The company’s suppository composition is formulated for easy absorption through the mucosal membrane, allowing for useful administration of cannabinoids in patients with nausea, vomiting other conditions related to swallowing or conditions where suppository administration is required.

"AXIM is excited to add this patent to our robust pipeline of eight patents and 13 pending patent applications and continue our presence in the $771.13-billion global pain market," said AXIM CEO John Huemoeller.

The Apothecary will host the grand opening of its flagship store at 1208 W. Gray St. in Houston, Texas on Dec. 3.

The event's ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will take place at 10:30 a.m. CST, will be done by the Houston East End Chamber of Commerce. The Apothecary will show off its in-house product line, including oils, tinctures, capsules, edibles, and beauty products, as well as its line of products for pets, The Apawthecary. 

In addition to its own products, the store will carry CBD products from companies such as Lazarus Naturals, Honest Paws, Brothers Apothecary and Dr. Kerklaan Therapeutics.

“The Apothecary was conceived because of our strong desire to change the stigma around CBD by creating a high-end boutique. My community needs a space that was warm and inviting; where people of all ages who are new to CBD products and those that are familiar with the many benefits it offers,” said CEO and founder Samantha Miller.

TILT Holdings Inc. (CSE: TILT) (OTC: TLLTF), announced that it has closed an additional private placement of $10.2 million of senior secured notes from a syndicate consisting of existing shareholders and new investors, bringing to total amount of the facility to $35.8 million, up from the previously announced maximum of $35 million. 

“We plan to use this additional funding to propel our growth into the new year and continue to invest in the operations of our core assets. The fact that the financing was oversubscribed only further speaks to the positive sentiment major investors are feeling towards what we’re accomplishing at TILT,"  said interim CEO Mark Scatterday.

Cannabis company Sunniva Inc. (CSE: SNN) (OTC: SNNVF) said Monday that President Kevin Wilkerson has resigned for personal reasons. Wilkerson also resigned from his position as president and CEO of the company’s subsidiary Sun CA Holdings, Inc. No replacement was announced.

Hexo Corp (TSX: HEXO) (NYSE: HEXO) said false information is circulating regarding the licensing at its Niagara, Ontario facility. 

In November 2018, prior to the company’s acquisition of Newstrike Brands Ltd, the UP cannabis cultivation facility was licensed by Health Canada, according to Hexo. The facility's Block B was included In the license application, and Hexo said it thought Block B was licensed.

Cannabis retailer MedMen Enterprises Inc. (CSE: MMEN) (OTCQX: MMNFF) announced a strategic plan to reach its target of positive EBITDA by the end of 2020 that includes the layoff of 190 employees.

Shield Compliance, a provider of cannabis banking services, announced a $5-million Series A funding round led by Copia Investments that helped the company’s post-money valuation reach $20 million.

Cannabis-focused investment company SOL Global Investments Corp. (CSE: SOL) (OTC: SOLCF) said that its portfolio company Heavenly Rx, Ltd. has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Therapix Biosciences Ltd (NASDAQ: TRPX) to chase a business combination.

Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE: ACB) announced that it promoted Dr. Shane Morris, its senior vice president of product development and regulatory affairs, to chief product officer. Aurora's senior vice president of business integrations André Jérôme has been promoted to chief integration officer.

Aurora also disclosed that it it has obtained notice from holders of the company’s CA$230 million ($173 million) 5% unsecured convertible debentures that around 94% of the holders want to convert their debentures. 

Canopy Growth Corp (NYSE: CGC) received an upgrade from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which said Canopy is poised to meet Street expectations.

And finally, adult-use marijuana retailers in Massachusetts have generated $393.7 million in sales in the first year since legalization, the state's Cannabis Control Commission said this week.

Top Stories Of The Week

Check out the top stories on Benzinga Cannabis this week:

  • 'Continual Support To The Customers That Makes Us Different': Platinum CEO On Cannabis Challenges, New Opportunities
  • What To Know About Nextleaf Solutions' Industrial-Scale Extraction Patents
  • New Cannabis Products: Loose Leaf Tea, Massage Service, Cleansing Oil And A Smart Pod System
  • Exclusive: Canopy Growth's CEO On The Cannabis Company's Stock Price, Growth Potential, Global Footprint
  • Cannabis Consumer Profiles, Popular Brands And More: Exclusive Insights From The Newest AI Data Platform For The Industry
  • Decriminalize California, Beckley Foundation Partner In Effort To Legalize Magic Mushrooms In The Golden State
  • Mainstream Payroll Providers Are Dropping Cannabis Businesses: Who's To Blame?
  • Are We Experiencing A Cannabis Bubble? Lessons From The Dotcom Days
  • Federal Prohibition Of Cannabis (Not Vitamin E Acetate) Is The Real Cause Of The Vaping Crisis
  • Tax Considerations For Cannabis Business And Investment
  • Cannabis Industry Reacts To Biden's 'Gateway Drug' Remark: 'Prohibition Is The Real Gateway'

Check out these and many other cannabis stories on Benzinga.com/cannabis

Events Calendar

Nov. 24-26: A healthy legal African cannabis market could become a main source of bulk medicinal cannabis and cannabis-derived products on a global scale. Hundreds of local and international industry stakeholders will convene in South Africa at CannaTech Cape Town to take a deep dive into the emerging industry throughout the continent.

Nov. 28: The CanEx Investment Summit will take place at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in downtown Toronto, providing a high-level look at the investment, operational and regulatory environment in the Caribbean and most specifically in Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The event will feature high-level government participation, with Hon. Audley Shaw, Jamaica's minister of agriculture and Hon. Saboto Caesar, minister of agriculture from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, confirmed to attend.

“This Summit will provide valuable and high-level insight into the markets and opportunities in the Caribbean. We will have a very knowledgeable and experienced set of individuals offering unique and compelling insights into how the market has evolved, where it sits at the moment and the growth prospects," CanEx founder Douglas Gordon said of the event. 

"The future looks very bright for the Caribbean in this industry and we are delighted to use this platform to allow greater insight and promote tighter collaboration, while highlighting some of the investment opportunities that presently exist." 

Dec. 5-6: CBD Expo WEST will bring the largest CBD event platform to San Diego, California to broadcast products with the community and share knowledge with the industry. The event features more than 150 exhibitors, along with a substantial lineup of speaker presentations, panel discussions, demos and workshops from experts in the research, production, globalization, distribution and sale of CBD products. The theme for CBD Expo WEST will focus on research and development and cannabinoid formulations.

Photo by Javier Hasse.

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