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The Week In Cannabis: Tobacco And Retail Stray In The Weeds, Congress Holds SAFE Banking Hearings, New ETFs, And More

Javier Hasse

Auxly Cannabis Group Inc. (TSX.V: XLY) (OTC: CBWTF) received a $123-million investment via a convertible debenture from tobacco behemoth Imperial Brands PLC (OTC: IMBBY), gaining access not only to a big chunk of capital, but also to Imperial Brands’ vaping technology and vapor innovation business, Nerudia.

Fire & Flower Holdings Corp (OTC: FFLWF) received an investment of almost CA$26 million ($19.7 million), retaining the right to acquire a controlling interest for a total investment of roughly CA$380 million.

“It was inevitable that mainstream corporations would want a piece of the cannabis pie,” Green Market Report CEO Debra Borchardt told Benzinga.

“It makes perfect sense for the cannabis companies to take the money, but one has to wonder at what cost? Will these corporations change the cannabis industry for the worse or will cannabis be able to maintain its character despite the dominance of traditional big business?"

Only time will tell, she said.

"My guess is that big cannabis will begin to look like any other industry five to 10 years from now.”

Two new cannabis ETFs debuted this week, the Cambria Cannabis ETF (CBOE: TOKE) and the Amplify Seymour Cannabis ETF (NYSE: CNBS).

The latter is managed by Tim Seymour, co-host of CNBC’s "Fast Money" and the founder and chief investment officer of Seymour Asset Management.

Finally, we saw shares of CannTrust Holdings Inc (NYSE: CTST) trade higher Friday after the cannabis producer confirmed senior leadership changes following a scandal revolving around unlicensed facilities of which management was allegedly aware.

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

On the policy front, news was dominated by the SAFE Baking hearings.

If passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, the SAFE — Secure and Fair Enforcement — Banking Act would prevent the federal government from applying sanctions to banks working with cannabis businesses.

The law would also grant protection to cannabis-ancillary ventures from being accused of money laundering and other related crimes.

Read all about it in this Benzinga Cannabis article featuring John Vardaman, the chief compliance officer for Simplifya and a former senior Justice Department official focused on banking; Bruce Barcott, deputy editor at Leafly and a longtime cannabis reporter; High Times CEO Kraig Fox; Matt Hawkins, the managing partner of Cresco Capital Partners; Scott Hammon, COO of MGO|ELLO; Surterra CEO and Chairman William “Beau” Wrigley Jr.; and other expert sources.

While eclipsed by the SAFE Banking hearing, we also saw news about the FDA hearing on hemp legalization.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler and Sen. Kamala Harris filed a comprehensive marijuana reform bill that would, among other things, federally decriminalize marijuana and aims to right some of the damage done by the War on Drugs.

Cannabis ETFs

Over the last five trading days:

• The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF (OTC: HMLSF) (TSE:HMMJ) lost 4.1%.

• The ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSE: MJ) tumbled 4.06%.

• The AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF (NYSE: YOLO) was down 6.08%.

• The Cannabis ETF (NYSE: THCX) lost 4.61%.

• The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY) closed the period up 1.63%.

In Other News

The MGO | ELLO Alliance launched ELLO Capital, a cannabis-focused investment bank based in the U.S.

The company will serve as a boutique investment and advisory firm working through every stage of the cannabis industry life cycle; it's one of the first of its kind and is intended to aid the burgeoning U.S. cannabis market.

Cannabis producer Organigram Inc. (NASDAQ: OGI) announced Friday that it has signed an advance payment and purchase agreement with 703454 N.B. Inc., which operates as 1812 Hemp.

GW Pharmaceuticals PLC- ADR (NASDAQ: GWPH) is inching closer to clearing another regulatory hurdle with respect to its cannabidiol drug Epidiolex, potentially opening up a market opportunity in Europe.

The European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, or CHMP, issued a positive opinion Friday on Epidiolex. The panel is recommending approval of Epidiolex for use as adjunctive therapy for seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome — and in Dravet syndrome in combination with clobazam —in patients 2 years and older.

Vertically integrated, multistate cannabis company Curaleaf Holdings Inc (OTC: CURLF) announced the opening of its 25th Florida dispensary on Wednesday.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration had issued an open "warning letter" stating the vertically integrated cannabis operator is making illegal or false claims on its website and social media accounts. On Friday morning, the company addressed issues the FDA raised in a letter related to its CBD product marketing.

Medical-grade cannabis producer WeedMD Inc. (OTC: WDDMF) said Tuesday it has launched a new subsidiary, CX Industries Inc.

Cannaisseur Brands launched a CBD Essentials Extra Strength Pain Cream.

The body cream is formulated to offer pain relief for sore muscles, aching joints and chronic skin conditions.

“We work with doctors to assist them in treating hundreds of patients with specific pain management issues,” said Aryn Sieber, the founder of Cannaisseur Brands.

“For some time, we have been offering cream with a higher level of terpene-rich CBD for clients with severe pain management challenges. We felt it was time to bring a more powerful pain relief product like this one to the general marketplace to assist individuals who suffer from severe pain and could benefit greatly.”

Leafwire, a global cannabis business network, closed its seed funding round of $1 million this week.

Edibles brand Azuca announced plans for international distribution via a partnership with Abercore, a sugar and sweetener supplier headquartered in the U.K.

Abercore will market and distribute Azuca’s hemp-derived CBD products, as well as its TiME Technology, to both retailers and food and beverage manufacturers throughout Europe.

“What we’re seeing right now is explosive growth in the CBD market both domestically and abroad. There has been a boom in demand for CBD in the states, and that level of desire is equally as high for CBD on the global scale, which makes this an opportune moment to expand Azuca’s reach internationally," Azuca president and CEO Kim Rael told Benzinga.

"Partnering with Abercore is an excellent way to educate consumers on the power TiMETM Technology, and we look forward to engaging with new audiences, manufacturers and potential retail and wholesale partners."

Cannabis marketing platform and technology company Leafbuyer Technologies, Inc. (OTC: LBUY) is expanding into Michigan’s medical and imminent adult-use markets.

Canadian cannabis producer Sundial Growers Inc. announced Tuesday that it is undertaking an initial public offering of its common shares in the U.S. and Canada.

PHILTER Labs, a vaporization technology company, announced it has raised $3 million in growth funding for its patented, five-step filtration process.

Ignite International, a subsidiary of Ignite International Brands Ltd. (OTC: IILBF), signed a joint venture agreement with Grupo Ensejal.

They will jointly operate a newly formed legal entity that “will encompass convenience, specialty retail, pharmacy and e-commerce retail channels in Mexico."

The joint venture is intended to draw on Ignite's marketing expertise and the brand recognition of the Ignite trademark, a goat skull logo, and founder Dan Bilzerian, who has a social media reach of 44 million followers, according to the company.

Top Strike Resources Corp. (CSE: VENI) entered into a strategic partnership with Vertical Companies, whereby it will loan the latter up to $4 million for inventory expansion and general working capital purposes. J. Smoke Wallin of Vertical Companies was appointed to the board of directors of Vencanna, the Top Strike subsidiary conducting the deal.

"We have come to know the Vencanna leadership well and are in complete alignment on where the industry is going and the key strategies to successfully execute on this shared industry vision," Wallin told Benzinga.

"As a result, our teams have been working together to figure out the right way for us to align our businesses. I look forward to assisting Vencanna in their mission to build their U.S. cannabis holdings as a director and strategic partner.”

Harvest Health & Recreation Inc (OTC: HRVSF), a vertically integrated cannabis company with one of the largest and deepest footprints in the U.S., said Monday that Michael L. Aguirre joined the company as assistant general counsel.

Aguirre will work closely with the leadership team to advise on corporate finance transactions and commercial contracts, as well as attend to general corporate governance matters, the company said.

Aguirre’s broad experience in corporate finance transactions, corporate law, governance and private equity will provide Harvest with additional resources dedicated to meeting its needs as it continues its planned expansion, the cannabis company said.

Prior to joining Harvest, Aguirre spent 14 years as an attorney at the international law firm Greenberg Traurig, where he represented public and private companies, various financial institutions and private lenders, private equity firms and portfolio companies.

"As we continue to build out our team of industry experts, we are excited to welcome Michael to Harvest," said Nicole Stanton, general counsel for Harvest.

“Michael’s depth of knowledge in corporate and financial matters will play an instrumental role as we aggressively expand into new markets to achieve our goal of providing more patients and consumers with access to our cannabis products.”

Cannabinoid extraction and purification company Neptune Wellness Solutions (NASDAQ: NEPT) has acquired Sugarleaf, a cannabis supplier in North Carolina, acquiring access to the U.S.

alice + olivia this week announced plans to enter the CBD space through a partnership with Kush Queen.

alice + olivia CEO and creative director Stacey Bendet and Olivia Alexander, the founder and CEO ofKush Queen, collaborated to create a collection that includes an initial lineup of topical products and bath products.

Gabriella’s Kitchen (CSE: GABY) (OTC: GABLF), a U.S.-focused consumer packaged goods company operating in the regulated cannabis sector in California as well as the mainstream grocery channel nationally, acquired a 25,000-square-foot facility to ramp up cannabis product development and production. The new facility is located less than a mile from GABY’s current Santa Rosa facility.

“GABY is on an aggressive growth path as we add dispensaries, actively pursue strategic partnerships with top third-party brands and look to make acquisitions that will expand our footprint in the massive California cannabis market and beyond,” said Margot Micallef, the company's founder and CEO.

“We need lots of room to grow and this transaction allows us to triple our manufacturing and co-packing capacity while ramping edibles production and establishing high value cultivation for our internal brands and third-party partner brands.”

TriGrow Systems, a cultivation solutions provider in the cannabis space, recently announced the launch of the TriGrow Capital division, which provides equipment financing options in order to solve some of the funding and growth challenges in the cannabis industry and enables companies to scale rapidly with more balance sheet flexibility.

Following that announcement, the company announced this week the addition of a term loan product through TriGrow Capital and its partner Agrinamics. This new $30-million financing facility will be deployed over the next 12 months

TriGrowCapital said it has already deployed $5.4 million.

The TriGrow division is working to solve the critical industry need of financing for capital expenditures, Chief Business Development Officer Richard Weinstein said.

“Cultivators of all sizes and across the globe are seeking options to finance their growth plans and we are endeavoring to meet their needs, offer the choices our customers deserve and be as helpful as we can to foster their success.”

Plus Products Inc. (CSE: PLUS) (OTCQB: PLPRF) launched the rebrand of its line of low-dose cannabis-infused edibles.The rebrand was guided by market structure research from Henry J. Rak Associates and designed by Partners and Spade, an agency that has worked alongside brands including Peloton and Warby Parker.

ICC International Cannabis Corp. (OTC: WLDCF) said Monday that together with Biotii Technologies Corp. it has signed a cannabinoid pharmaceutical advisory agreement with Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) and Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) advisor, Dr. Alexandros Makriyannis.

THERAPIX BIOSCI/S ADR (NASDAQ: TRPX) said Tuesday that it has signed a letter of intent for a merger with the Canadian cannabis company Destiny Biosciences.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy announced Monday the addition of a 27th member, former Premier of Western Australia Geoff Gallop.

Gallop decriminalized possession of small quantities of cannabis when in office back in 2004, and continues to be a promoter of people-centered drug policies. He is the first member from Australia to be admitted to the Global Commission, and the third in the region joining former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate José Ramos-Horta.

The Flowr Corporation (OTC: FLWPF) said Friday that it withdrew a CA$125 million ($95.3 million) public offering due to market conditions and is assessing the timing of its Nasdaq listing.

Cannabis brand Foria announced Monday it will expand to Mexico in August. Foria's Awaken-M is the first CBD product to obtain legal approval for importation into Mexico.

Online cannabis deal and dispensary database Leafbuyer Technologies (OTC: LBUY) announced Monday it entered into an agreement with an Texas-based media outlet, TheCHIVE.

SLANG Worldwide Inc. (OTC: SLGWF) (CSE: SLNG) said Monday it will reach Greece through a partnership with Global Cannabis Corp. GCC’s subsidiary GCC Pharma S.A. is one of the first companies to attain a medical cannabis installation license from the government of Greece.

Canopy Rivers Inc (OTC: CNPOF), the venture capital arm of Canopy Growth Corp, announced Monday that its PharmHouse Joint venture obtained a cultivation license from Health Canada.

Cartsdom, a brand made by a team of cannabis oil cartridge lovers, released its first product: the Cartsdom Roulette, a portable storage and protection case for cannabis oil carts.

“We’ve experienced the pain of oil cartridge users because we are heavy oil cart users. We made this case for ourselves in the very beginning and now we are offering it to all cart users to end the pain and suffering of wasted and broken cartridges.” said Cartsdom founder Monica Seyler.

Wellness brand Cultivate launched THC-free, full-spectrum hemp oil-infused products including a 500mg Soothing Balm, 300mg SoftGels, 500mg Tincture and 250mg Tincture.

“We launched Cultivate this week driven by the team’s need to create trustworthy and effective products,” said Traci Edwards, developer of Cultivate.

“I personally saw the process through from seed to sale, traveling to different Colorado farms to vet the cultivation, harvesting and processing of the ingredients to ensure we only sourced the highest-quality, compliant ingredients.”

Stratos CBD launched a salve, Soothe CBD, that incorporates six essential oils and a plant-based compound to increase dwell time on the skin.

The salve was designed by a team of ex-pharmaceutical formulation specialists to maximize the absorption of CBD molecules without a greasy finish.

“Our new Soothe CBD salve is a great high-quality topical that customers can trust,” said Kate Heckman, VP of banding and marketing for Stratos CBD.

“The human body has a high concentration of natural cannabinoid receptors in the skin, which makes Soothe CBD an ideal product for people to experience benefits of hemp-derived cannabinoids.”

Noah Kotlove and Spencer Joynt launched Veil, an odor elimination spray.

Working with a team of talented chemists, Kotlove and Joynt designed a formula that breaks down the molecules in order to eliminate, rather than obscure, cannabis smoke.

“Veil is an odor elimination spray made for today’s cannabis culture. The modern marijuana user is a far cry from the Cheech and Chong, 'Dude, Where's My Car?' stoner stereotype. Nonetheless, the smell of weed can still carry a stigma," Kotlove and Joynt said.

Low-dose THC beverage Cann is now being sold in Los Angeles via Eaze.

“We created Cann so that consumers could have an alternative to alcohol while still enjoying social settings and consuming less THC than the standard edible. With Cann, we're putting the control of the cannabis experience back in the hands of the consumer,” co-founder Jake Bullock told Benzinga.

More From Benzinga Cannabis

Here are some of the most interesting cannabis-related stories from this week.

The SAFE Banking Hearing: Congressional Committee Hears Testimony On Cannabis, Worker Safety, Legal Protection

• Study: How Cannabis Could Be Used To Curb Cannabis Addiction

• RegTalk: California And Industrial Hemp Challenge - Agricultural Commodity Or Cannabis

• Cannabis Experts: Smoking Lounges Sit At Intersection Of Market Demand, Legality

• What To Make Of Jay-Z's Caliva Partnership

• Study: The Future Of The Hemp Business

• Are Most Adult Cannabis Consumers Actually Medical Users?

• An Exclusive Look At Mieko Hester-Perez's Advice On Cannabis, Parenting

• Green Thumb Industries Relaunches 'Dogwalkers' Brand, With Community Giveback Initiatives – And Yes, A Lot Of Pup Love

• Every Major Legislative Win Related To Cannabis Is Included In The Marijuana Policy Project's 2019 Report

• Cannabis Decontamination: What Is It And Why Is It Important?

• After A 5,000-Year Tradition, China Taking A New Look At Hemp's Potential

• Your Transdermal Cannabis Patch Can Make For Effective Medicine

• The 3 Most Important Things To Know When Buying CBD

Check out these stories and many others at Benzinga.com/Cannabis

Events Calendar

Aug.1-2: CannaFarm Con will focus on the new and complex challenges that cannabis farmers face. The event assembles the entire specialty cannabis farming spectrum in one connected space that is focused on providing real solutions with proven success.

Attendees will connect firsthand with cutting-edge industry leaders and forward thinkers offering tangible ideas and practical applications for all areas of cannabis agriculture. The event will take place at Paradise Point Resort in San Diego, California.

Aug. 15: The Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference is coming to Detroit, Michigan! You know you can’t miss it. Go to https://www.benzingacannabisconference.com/ for more information.

Aug. 17-18: The 9th CannaGrow Expo will take place in Palm Springs, California, featuring more than 35 cultivation-focused educational sessions and an expo hall filled with cannabis-related technologies.

“One thing that differentiates CannaGrow Expo from other cannabis events is the exciting educational content focused on the foundations of the cannabis industry,” said Jessi Rae, the COO of CannaConnections, the producer of CannaGrow, DispensaryNext and the Science of Cannabis Summit.

Sept. 5-6: the Cannabis Science Conference is returning to Portland, Oregon.

“Amazon” John Easterling and special guest Olivia Newton-John will deliver a joint celebrity plenary address, “Plant Medicine - A Personal Healing Journey.”

This year’s conference covers a wide selection of topics, including genomics, informatics, medical cannabis, testing and hemp science. It brings together a diverse group of people including laboratory personnel, medical professionals, entrepreneurs, patients, plant experts and scientists.

Oct. 11-12: CBD Expo MOUNTAIN will bring the largest CBD event platform to Denver, Colorado 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 MOUNTAIN will focus on compliance and regulation and investments and business.

Oct.11-12: the first-ever Budtender Awards are coming to Las Vegas, sponsored by cannabis financial technology Canna Paid and cannabis educational program Clover Leaf University. The awards aim to pay homage to the nation’s top budtenders and the many facets of cannabis culture.

The two-day event offers panel discussions, a product and service expo, a closing night performance, awards show, and afterparty culminating in a performance by hip hop artist Cypress Hill.

Oct. 22- 23: The Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference is coming to Chicago, Illinois! You know you can’t miss it. Go to https://www.benzingacannabisconference.com/ for more information.

Oct. 23-24: Marijuana Venture Magazine’s Retail and Dispensary (RAD) Expo, a national trade show focused on the retail cannabis industry, will return to the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.

The RAD Expo will feature presentations from industry veterans on successful entrepreneurship and topics including merchandising, partnership management, interior store design and retail operations.

The 2019 show will focus heavily on CBD products and CBD brands with a presence in health grocery stores, luxury retailers, pet stores and other retail categories that carry hemp-derived products.

Nov. 15-16: CBD Expo EAST will bring the largest CBD event platform to Orlando, Florida 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 themes for CBD Expo EAST are globalization and spa + wellness.

Nov. 19-21: The Medcann World Forum 2019 will be held in the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta, Malta, which dates to the 16th century, when it was originally built as a hospital by the order of St. John.

The three days will focus on six main pillars: medical, business, research, legislation, regulation and fintech. The event will host Malta’s top policymakers, international regulatory experts and global business leaders.

Dec. 5-6: The CBD Expo WEST will bring the largest CBD event platform to San Diego, Calfornia with a focus on research and development and cannabinoid formulations.

Photo by Javier Hasse.

See more from Benzinga

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