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Investment Strategies for Entering the European Cannabis Market

By Niklas Kouparanis
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For U.S. venture capitalists (VCs), the burgeoning European cannabis market provides opportunities to break into the industry on the heels of adult-use legalization. Germany has set its sights on implementing a recreational market by 2024, and the country, along with several other European Union (EU) countries–Malta and Luxembourg–came together in September 2022 to draft a joint statement on why the EU needs a new approach to cannabis use for adult-use production, sale and consumption.

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Photo: Ian McWilliams

In October 2022, Germany took further steps to solidify its plans for legalization further when its Health Minister Karl Lauterbach presented a cornerstone paper on planned legislation to regulate the controlled distribution and consumption of cannabis among adults. Such actions have signaled to both the EU and the world at large that cannabis legalization in Germany is imminent, and the country is championing the new age of cannabis policy.

With the new German cannabis market soon to be on the horizon, both foreign and domestic VCs are considering how to best leverage investment opportunities into existing cannabis companies within the current medical-only market that will transcend into adult use. For U.S. investors, it’s important to do their due diligence to find the company that will transcend into the next progression of cannabis policy. In addition, European cannabis companies must do their own meticulous research when it comes to aligning with investors to meet both their financial and business goals.

How U.S. VCs Can Evaluate Investment-Worthy European Cannabis Companies

As with any investment, VCs benefit from researching the company and market they are planning to invest in. Regarding the company of interest, it’s important to examine which part of the cannabis market the company is serving: growers, retailers, ancillary products, service providers and biotechnology companies all exist as potential investment options within the space. An investor should look into a company’s annual revenue, evaluating whether it has increased, remained steady or decreased over time. Revenue growth is often provided on a company’s income statement.

In addition to making sure they have a thorough understanding of the business model and its value proposition, investors should also familiarize themselves with the company’s management team to make sure that they are knowledgeable and experienced in both running a company and the cannabis industry. For those interested in entering the German market, VCs should consider the businesses that are currently key players in the country’s medical cannabis industry and that plan to expand their services into the adult-use sector once legalization comes into play.

For example, Tilray, founded in 2014, was one of Canada’s first licensed medical producers. When Canada legalized adult-use cannabis several years later, in 2018, Tilray was one of the companies that successfully transitioned to expand its market share in Canada’s medical to the adult-use cannabis industry.

Another consideration for VCs is the reputation of the business and its leaders. Investors should seek out those who have become authorities within the industry and the movers and shakers who are providing key insights into the market. These business leaders should be front and center, discussing everything from current operations and compliance to cannabis policy and legislation to new endeavors and growing their businesses. With recreational cannabis legalization being a completely new endeavor for the EU, it is important for leaders within today’s European medical space to be visionaries for the next phase of cannabis legalization and be guides for creating regulations for this new market to be safe, sustainable and scalable.

In addition to executive teams, VCs should check if the business is meeting the current marketplace’s expectations and is ready to adapt and evolve as needed. This means that the company has access to a steady supply of high-quality cannabis at an affordable price and access to consumers (medical patients) and potential consumers. With adult-use legalization soon to be a reality in Germany, investors must consider which players in the medical-only market will be able to not only survive the transition but grow to become leaders in Germany’s new recreational market and within the EU as a whole. 

What Do European Companies Look For in Terms of U.S. VCs

Just as VCs must find the right fit for them in terms of investments, cannabis companies must also align with investors that help them meet their financial and business goals. For cannabis companies, many seek to align themselves with VCs experienced in consumer, technology, and healthcare investments. While there are benefits to working with a VC with a cannabis background, companies should not deter investors who do not meet those specific criteria, as the cannabis market is still a fairly new and ever-transforming industry. In light of this, it’s important that investors approach opportunities with an open mind for both the industry’s current state and its potential.

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The European Union

As with most investments, both VCs and companies should be prepared to agree to a term sheet, a document that outlines the relationship between the investor and the business. An ideal investor would need to be supportive, well-connected, and add value by providing relevant business knowledge. While some investors seek a more hands-on role, in most cases, the VC’s support will not be equal to the business’s micromanagement or control of its day-to-day operations. Generally, those responsibilities would remain with the company’s executive team.

As an investor, it’s important to be supportive of the business; be a cheerleader for the company when things go well, and lift up the business when challenges occur. In addition, offering a network of referrals and strategies to excel is key to being a good asset to the business. Also, having a diverse portfolio of companies with synergistic opportunities can be very beneficial to growing cannabis businesses.

A question many investors ask before entering the space is how much in assets they should have on hand to be considered an eligible investment size. Typically, this depends on the business and its financial needs. Small profitable cannabis businesses that want additional financing may be able to secure a bank loan, if possible, in their home countries or seek a seed investment-focused VC for some capital. Leaders in Germany’s current medical-only market are seeking investors, both from the U.S. and abroad, to partake in Series A/B funding, seeking financial partners that can help them reach a goal of $20-80M USD.

European cannabis companies are within a high-growth market, so U.S. VCs looking to enter through investment do not have to go through a private equity firm. An investor can approach companies through networking or direct outreach. It is also important to note that investors do not have to convert their assets from USD to EUR, as it is done automatically when making investments. For the first time in 20 years, the USD and EUR are about equal, so now is a great time for U.S. investors to consider making the leap into European cannabis.

Uber Eats, Circle K Dip Their Toes in Cannabis

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
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Last week, Uber Eats and Leafly announced a partnership to begin cannabis deliveries in Toronto. Adults in Toronto can now place orders from licensed cannabis dispensaries through the Uber Eats app, delivered to them by the cannabis retailer. This marks the first time cannabis deliveries are possible on major delivery platforms.

General Manager of Uber Eats Canada Lola Kassim says their investments in delivery growth in Canada are paying off with deals like this. “We are partnering with industry leaders like Leafly to help retailers offer safe, convenient options for people in Toronto to purchase legal cannabis for delivery to their homes, which will help combat the illegal market and help reduce impaired driving,” says Kassim. “Over the last few years, we have invested heavily in our delivery business and selection has expanded tremendously. Uber Eats has grown quickly to become a versatile platform usable by diverse businesses large and small.”

Currently, Uber Eats Canada is working with three dispensaries: Hidden Leaf Cannabis, Minerva Cannabis and Shivaa’s Rose. Marissa and Dale Taylor, owners of Hidden Leaf, say this deal allows their small business to expand their reach and grow their business across the city.

Meanwhile, much further south in Florida, Circle K and Green Thumb industries have reached a deal offer up their gas station convenience stores in Florida as retail space for cannabis dispensaries.

Circle K is a massive global convenience store chain with 600 locations in Florida. The partnership they signed will allow Green Thumb to set up shop in ten of those locations beginning next year.

However, Florida regulators have stepped in and told reporters that they have not approved the deal. “This project has not been approved by the State,” a Florida Health Department spokesperson told the Washington Examiner. “Florida has never approved a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center to operate out of a gas station.”

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Twelve Tips for Scaling Your Cannabis Business

By Eric Schlissel
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We know a thing or two about scaling a cannabis business. While we don’t own a plant-touching business ourselves, we have helped companies like Tokyo Smoke, Superette and Northern Helm to open dozens of dispensaries in less than 3 years as their IT company. Here are some of the things we’ve learned along the way.

Find reliable partners

You can’t do it all alone. Especially when you’re trying to grow fast in a new industry like cannabis. Find reliable external partners you can depend on in areas like construction, design, staffing, financing, legal, real estate, accounting, HR, IT and security. If you’re just starting, consider dividing the work between competing firms, then committing to the one that performs the best.

Maintain consistency

You don’t want to reinvent the wheel with every new location. Develop standardized processes, procedures and equipment as early as possible. This is critical for aspects of your business like efficiency, profit margins and brand awareness.

We work with our clients to develop a standard IT stack (all the same hardware, software and configurations). This makes setups quicker and cross-location management easier and can make you eligible for bulk purchasing discounts.

At the same time, if any of them don’t work out, switch them out as soon as possible. Don’t compound the error by sticking with what isn’t working.

Develop standardized processes, procedures and equipment as early as possible.

Also don’t be afraid to try new things here and there or make each location unique in more subtle ways. Our clients at Superette are a great example of keeping their brand consistent enough across their locations that you know it’s a Superette store just by looking at it; at the same time each store is just a little bit different so that each location is a unique experience.

Leverage multi-site tech

Most cannabis software is web-based and lets you manage multiple different locations in a single platform. Make sure to make good use of this and not use different software for different locations.

This goes for a lot of non-cannabis-specific software too, like Sage, Office 365, Google Workspaces and Solink (a platform that lets you manage all your surveillance systems in one dashboard, and integrates with your POS or ERP).

Use compliance and licensing software

Cannabis regulations can vary widely not only state by state but city by city. Keeping up with all these regulations can be difficult even if you already have a legal expert to rely on.

Compliance software like Simplifya, ProCanna and BuildMySOP let you quickly figure out what the regulations are in a given area, which can make it easier to find a good location, get set up and stay compliant. These applications, along with licensing trackers like Cannabiz Media, can also help you find where cannabis license opportunities are available and send you alerts whenever a state or city is accepting new applications.

Buy materials ahead

This is especially important now with the supply chain crisis still going on, but in general it’s a good idea to start gathering all the materials you need as soon as you’re certain about expanding. In IT in particular, pretty much everything including cash drawers, receipt printers, tablets, POS terminals, firewall appliances and laptops has been in pretty short supply. We’ve heard that it’s the same for just about all materials that go into setting up a new cannabis location whether it’s a dispensary, cultivation, distribution or manufacturing facility.

Lab technicians use the Hunter device during a test process. InstantLabs manufactures the Hunter system as well as test kits for food pathogens and species identification such as the catfish testing commercialization agreement outlined with the FDA.
In IT in particular, pretty much everything has been in short supply.

We’ve stayed on top of it and avoided delays by buying months ahead, purchasing a surplus of product and maintaining close communication with our vendors and distributors; we suggest you do the same for any products you’re purchasing internally.

If you’re buying online and the store says “in-stock,” you may want to contact the store/vendor to double-check that it’s accurate. Sometimes you buy it and you find out that “in-stock” means its parts are “in-stock” in a factory in Asia somewhere and your product is still months away from being manufactured, shipped and delivered to you.

Promote from within

When you’re growing is a good time to promote the all-stars already on your team, giving them a chance to expand their skills and take on greater responsibilities. We’ve seen this with some of our clients where they promote their star budtenders to shift leads or managers at their new stores, and store managers to district managers in new territories. It works out for everyone – the employee gets a raise and a step up the ladder, and you ensure you maintain your company’s culture and fill important positions with people you already know and trust (not to mention it’s often more cost-efficient to hire from within like this than to bring in someone new).

Hire from without when necessary

Sometimes promoting from within isn’t an option, like when you need someone with a particular skillset or level of experience.

Maybe your current COO has done a great job opening and operating 5 stores, but what about 50? If you want a sure thing, you’ll want to hire someone that’s already shown they can handle 50 or more stores, and most likely you’ll have to look outside the cannabis industry to find it.

You’re seeing this more and more in the cannabis industry – some are promoting from within, but many are also hiring experts from other companies and from outside the industry, including lots of people with strong retail, food manufacturing, merchandising, packaged goods and highly regulated goods (especially alcohol) backgrounds.

This can be more expensive than promoting from within and can potentially have a negative influence on company culture and morale, but on the other hand you’re getting valuable expertise that can help you take your cannabis business to the next level; and plus, you may even be able to hire these people at a relative bargain since there are many out there that are eager to work in such an exciting, new and high-growth industry.

Be ready for things to break down

Even if you’re fully prepared, you should still expect some kind of hiccup or hurdle with any new location rollout. It’s just the way it is on projects with an ambitious timeline and a lot of moving parts. The usual culprits are routine construction delays, cable companies and other utilities screwing up, storms, and having to adjust your schedule according to government inspectors on short notice. On some of our jobs in Canada, for example, we’ve run into a few blizzards and cameras and wires getting knocked out/frozen over; and on one occasion we were moderately inconvenienced setting up a store just up the street from the 2022 Ottawa trucker protests.

Don’t panic, don’t get frustrated. Your careful planning will at least ensure that most things go right, giving you the flexibility to react to the things that don’t.

Consider avoiding unlimited license markets

MedicineManTechGrow
Even if you’re fully prepared, you should still expect some kind of hiccup or hurdle with any new location rollout.

There’s a reason many MSOs avoid unlimited license markets like Oklahoma and Oregon. Limited license markets provide protection against competition. Unlimited license states are often free-for-alls and a race-to-the-bottom on pricing. They’re much tougher markets.

Have a vision

Rather than just wanting to grow and make a lot money, it can be helpful to have a unique, compelling and somewhat clear vision for your company, like Superette’s “making buying cannabis as fun as using it.” This helps you motivate your team, maintain your focus and cohesiveness as you add lots of new people, and differentiate yourself in a crowded market.

Consider franchising where it’s legal and makes sense

Our client Tokyo Smoke has opened over 80 locations in just over 3 years of operations. If that seems like too much growth for one company, you’re sort of right – some of Tokyo Smoke’s stores aren’t company-owned, they’re actually separately owned and managed franchises.

Now franchising a cannabis business isn’t legal everywhere at the moment, but where it is legal it’s a time-tested method of growing your brand and company footprint fast, and establishing dominant mindshare and market share that can’t easily be challenged or reversed.

Consider M&A

Sometimes M&A is the only option for breaking into a new market, like if the market is already oversaturated or not accepting new applications. Established cannabis businesses can start at $1-$10 million per location depending on the situation. Don’t quote us on it, but with some markets becoming saturated and sales declining in areas like Oregon and Canada, you may be able to get a good deal from someone that wants out of the business before things gets worse – assuming you’re bullish on a market rebound or think you can perform better in the market than the current owner.

Boston Beer Company Launches Cannabis Beverage Line

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
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The Boston Beer Company, Inc., known for brands like Sam Adams, Truly, Twisted Tea and Dogfish Head, has announced their entry into the cannabis market. According to the press release, the craft beer company is launching TeaPot, a new brand of cannabis infused-iced teas. Your cousin from Boston is getting into the cannabis game.

The line of canned, THC-infused beverages will hit stores in Canada this July. The cannabis beverages will be produced at Peak Processing Solutions in Windsor, Ontario and distributed by Entourage Health based in Toronto, Ontario.

The Good Day Iced Tea beverage

The first product of the brand is called Good Day Iced Tea and is strain-specific. It will be formulated with lemon black tea and infused with “Pedro’s Sweet Sativa,” a strain grown by Entourage Health in Ontario. More products will be announced in the next few months, the company says.

The press release emphasizes the size and growth of the cannabis beverage market, citing Headset retail data showing the Canadian beverage market is about double the size of its American counterpart and growing at an astounding 850% in the past two years. It’s no secret that the cannabis beverage sector is a rapidly growing market for cannabis brands. Canopy Growth has been targeting this portion of the market for years and Molson Coors launched a joint venture last year. A lot of other companies have been slowly getting more and more involved as of late.

The U.S. cannabis beverage market is certainly lagging behind our neighbors to the North, mostly stymied by slow state-by-state legalization, patchwork regulations and restrictive federal policies. Of the beverage giants and companies that have entered the space, most are doing so cautiously.

Dave Burwick, CEO of the Boston Beer Company, hinted at their desire to enter the U.S. market, but says they’ll focus on Canada in the meantime. “As we await further progress on U.S. regulations, we’ll continue to develop an exciting product pipeline in the federally regulated market of Canada,” says Burwick. “While beer is our middle name, we’ve also introduced successful hard teas, hard ciders, hard seltzers, and canned cocktails. We’re encouraged by the continued growth of the cannabis beverage category and we believe it’s one of the next innovation frontiers.”

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Canopy Growth Acquires Jetty Extracts

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
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Canopy Growth Corporation, one of the largest cannabis companies in the world, announced the acquisition of Jetty Extracts this week for $69 million. Jetty Extracts was founded in 2013 and is now a leading cannabis brand in California and a top 5 brand in the vape category. The two companies plan to expand Jetty’s offerings in California, Colorado, New York and across the broder to Canada, according to a press release.

Canadian-based Canopy Growth is a massive international company that has been expanding its presence well beyond Canadian borders. For years now. Their medical arm, Spectrum Therapeutics, is a leading brand in Canada and Germany.

Some of the Jetty Extracts product offerings

Back in 2018, Canopy solidified a partnership and took considerable investment from Constellation Brands on a long-term play to enter the cannabis beverage market. Then in 2019, they began their aggressive expansion into the U.S. through the multi-billion-dollar deal with Acreage Holdings who, at the time, was the largest U.S. cannabis company. In April of last year, they inked a deal with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits following the launch of their first CBD-infused beverage line sold in the United States, Quatreau.

Late last year Canopy Growth announced a deal to acquire Wana Brands, the number one cannabis edibles brand based on market share in North America. The latest acquisition of Jetty Extracts this week follows the same pattern of increasing their North American footprint in the cannabis market considerably.

David Klein, CEO of Canopy Growth, says the cross-border potential excites them. “”Canopy Growth is building a house of premium cannabis brands with a focus on the core growth categories that will power the market’s path forward, now including Jetty – a pioneer of solventless vapes,” says Klein. “There are significant opportunities for Jetty to scale at the state-level across the U.S. by leveraging Canopy’s U.S. ecosystem, and we’re actively working on plans to bring the brand to the Canadian recreational market.”

The Rise of a New Market… And a New Consumer

By Christiane Campbell
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The adult beverage industry, like any other category of consumer branded products, is driven by trends. If you’re old enough to remember Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers, you probably also remember Zima and Smirnoff Ice, and more recently “healthy” options like Skinny Girl and Michelob Ultra. The sensation that was craft beer saw many brands being acquired by Big Alcohol so that while the brands remain, ownership and production have changed significantly. Gin, tequila and vodka have had their moments in the sun and the current market is undeniably saturated with what is probably the largest current trend – hard seltzers. However, with the seltzer craze waning, many are wondering what’s next. And with the growing sober/California sober trends, some are betting it is cannabis-infused beverages.

Cannabis-infused beverages offer both an alternative method of consumption of cannabis and are also an attractive alternative to alcohol. Infused beverages are more appealing to the new demographic of casually curious cannabis consumers. i.e., consumers that may not be interested in smoking a joint or vaping, but are comfortable micro-dosing from a can or bottle, as they would a seltzer or beer. The same type of consumer may be moving away from alcohol consumption to eliminate hangovers or other negative health effects.

The emerging market and curious consumer group present an enormous opportunity right now for cannabis-infused beverage brands. Of course, with opportunity and growth come challenges. And while cannabis-infused beverages face a host of legal and regulatory challenges relative to sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, shipping, marketing, distribution and sale, one of the most critically important business assets to address at inception is the brand.

Lines are Blurring, Gaps are Being Bridged

The U.S. cannabis market is currently a geographic hamburger. Hear me out: Geographically, you have a relatively mature market out west and a relatively new and growing market along the east coast. These are the buns. You have a mixed bag in between, with some states coming online and allowing medical or adult use cannabis use and others that have not yet embraced any form of legalization. The landscape has lent itself to the development of regional brands, such that brands that are so similar they might otherwise confuse consumers, have been able to co-exist in different regions without issue, or because there is little to no trade channel or market overlap. Similarly, adult beverages and cannabis have historically been separate verticals, with an arguably low likelihood that a consumer would assume a particular cannabis product and adult beverage product emanate from the same source.

A drink additive, made by Splash Nano, that uses nano emulsion technology

However, lines are blurring and gaps are being bridged. Walls are breaking down. The increasing number of states coming online with legalized cannabis, and the proliferation of multi-state operators (MSOs), means that cannabis brands can grow to be more than siloed regional brands. This will inevitably lead to brands that previously co-existed bumping into one another and there’s bound to be some pushing and shoving. The advent of infused beverages likewise bridges the gap between cannabis products and alcoholic beverages. While the respective industries were not historically per se related, competing, or overlapping, now you’ve got infused beverages that bridge the gap between the two, and traditional alcohol brands (e.g., Boston Beer Company, Molson Coors, Lagunitas, Pabst.) entering the market (albeit under different brands). This makes a strong argument that cannabis and alcohol (or, more generally, adult beverages) are within each other’s logical zones of expansion, for purposes of a likelihood of confusion analysis.

The growing pains infused beverage brands will experience are analogous to those craft beers saw in the 2000 – 2010s. Many craft brewers had catchy, cheeky names and brands that contributed to their ability to engage consumers and develop a following, but failure to clear and protect the brands prior to launch detracted from the brands’ market values. Localized use prior to expansion also led to many brands bumping into one another and stepping on each other’s trademark toes. This was significant as the brands sought investment dollars or an exit strategy, making clear that the brand itself contributed heavily to valuation.

Mitigating Risks and Overcoming Challenges: Search and Protect 

The risks and challenges can be significantly mitigated and/or overcome with proper preliminary clearance searching and assessments, and by seeking and obtaining state or federal protection for the brand or brands, to the extent possible.

Quatreau CBD infused sparkling water

Of course, clearance searches and assessments come with their own challenges, as does federal protection. With respect to clearance searches, these typically look at U.S. federal and state trademark databases. These resources are not sufficient for purposes of clearing a proposed cannabis brand. Many brands are not recorded at the federal or state level and indeed may not even show up in a basic search engine. An appropriate search looks at social media resources like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and known cannabis resources like Leafly and Weedmaps. Additionally, the scope of the search should exceed cannabis products and services and at least look at alcohol and merchandise. Adoption and use of a brand for a cannabis-infused beverage is high risk if that brand is similar to a prior existing alcohol brand. A current example is Cointreau’s taking aim at Canopy’s adoption and use of QUATREAU for an infused beverage.

A U.S. federal trademark registration presents its own unique challenges, but is incredibly valuable and beneficial to a brand since it provides the owner with a nationwide presumption of ownership and validity in a trademark, and can also secure priority for the owner with a constructive first use in commerce date that is years before actual use of a mark begins. The U.S. Trademark Office categorically denies protection of brands that violate its “lawful use” rule, and will treat as per se unlawful any applied for mark that covers marijuana, or that covers foods, beverages or pharmaceuticals that contain CBD. With respect to brands that cover products containing THC, since it is federally scheduled, use of the brand would violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). With respect to brands that cover CBD or products containing CBD, these may be lawful pursuant to the Farm Bill and the U.S. Trademark Office’s subsequent allowance of marks that claim CBD “solely derived from hemp with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis,” however under the Food Drug Cosmetics Act (FDCA) it is currently federally unlawful to introduce CBD – even if it fits the definition above – into foods or beverages.

Even if cannabis is not specifically claimed in a trademark application, cannabis brands have a natural gravitation toward names and logos that can do some of their marketing for them, and announce to the world they cover cannabis. This increases the chances that a trademark application for the brand will get push-back from the U.S. Trademark Office, and if not at the initial review stage, then at the point in time when the brand must submit to the U.S. Trademark Office a sample of (lawful) use of the applied-for mark. While this all sounds like bad news for cannabis-infused beverages, all is not lost.

There are typically ancillary and federally lawful products and services cannabis companies offer under their brands that can be covered in a U.S. federal trademark application, and arguments to be made that registered protection of a brand for the ancillary items should be sufficient to enforce against third parties using the same or confusingly similar brands in their space. Some cannabis brands’ lawful ancillary products are actually product lines (e.g., beverages) offered under the same brand that contain no cannabis. Others may be more causally related, like online forums and blogs. The former is closer to the actual product, and the latter would be more beneficial to a brand that is inherently stronger and more distinctive. One note of caution: A trademark application and eventual registration that expressly disclaim cannabis (THC or CBD) may be difficult to enforce against a third party using the same or a similar mark on and in connection with cannabis. So, while there is a natural inclination to follow a U.S. Trademark Office request to disclaim coverage of cannabis, there may be enforcement consequences down the road.

The cannabis-infused beverage market is poised for explosive growth. The brands that survive – and succeed – will be those that position themselves for growth by clearing and buttoning up their brands as early as possible. The market leaders will be those that select strong and distinctive brands, with geographic and market space around them for growth and expansion; and those that protect and enforce their brands, to the extent possible, at the federal and/or state levels.

A Toast to Cannabis Beverages, a Growing Market Segment

By Michael Bronstein, Seth A. Goldberg
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Even if you dont know much about cannabis pop culture, people are probably familiar with the phrase, “puff, puff, pass.”But what if the future of cannabis is really more like sip, sip, sip? Thats what has everyone from the largest cannabis companies to the most mainstream beverage companies buzzing.

Soft drinks, beer, juice, tea, coffee and bottled waters are major categories of the beverage industry, valued at approximately $1.5 trillion globally and $150 billion in the U.S. Its no secret beverage companies have long eyed the next big growth opportunity in the cannabis market. Beverage makers, large and small, are now experimenting ‒ some even bringing to market ‒ cannabis-infused drinks in each of these categories.

Pepsi Co. created a hemp-infused energy drink; Canopy Growth introduced a top selling CBD drink, Quatreau, and the company is backed by beverage industry leader Constellation Brands. Meanwhile, Molson Coors revealed a cannabis-infused beverage line with Truss, and Boston Beer developed cannabis-infused beverages in Canada. Jones Soda recently announced its launch of a line of cannabis-infused sodas under the name Mary Jones. These are just a few of the major beverage industry names adding cannabis drinks to their product lines.

Thats not to mention the established cannabis beverage brands and market leaders such as BellRock Brands, Keef, Evergreen Herbal, CannaCraft and CANN, or infusion technologies companies like Vertosa and mainstream beverage packagers such as Zukerman Honickman.

Quatreau CBD infused sparkling water

When will you be able to go to a bar, restaurant, concert venue or lounge and drink your cannabis? Maybe sooner than you think.

Right now, several states are formulating plans to launch adult-use markets, with New York and New Jersey figuring prominently. And with more mature state markets contemplating venues such as lounges, many are pushing for expanded access to beverages. Internationally, Canadian regulators have taken notice of the segment and recently issued regulations on cannabis beverages.

Its the mainstreaming of cannabis.

Companies are betting big that consumers who choose not to consume cannabis because of perceived social stigmas or fear of getting too high” from highly concentrated THC products, or who simply dont want to smoke or vape a product, can find an alternative in cannabis beverages. Cannabis beverages offer consumers an option to microdose and are often more socially acceptable and user-friendly ways to consume cannabis.

It makes sense given larger trends. Consumers who are health-conscious are less likely to smoke anything, let alone cannabis, and are looking for alternatives in their lifestyle choices ‒ and for a relatable product experience that doesnt ruin the next day.

Think of it this way: Cannabis beverages are to high-THC cannabis products such as vapes, butter and shatter what beer and wine are to high-proof alcohol products such as tequila, vodka and gin. Consequently, just as the lower alcohol content of beer and wine makes those drinks more appealing to more people for more situations, cannabis drinks can reach a larger consumer base than traditional cannabis products.

However, for cannabis beverages to meet their growth potential, a number of things need to happen according to industry experts.

The Veryvell beverage product line

First is the harmonization of state requirements on labeling, testing and packaging and the regulatory acceptance of beverages as a form factor play a role. If regulations are not harmonized, it will impact the cannabis beverage companies’ ability to scale. Second, cannabis beverages need their own separate regulations. Too often, cannabis beverages are shoe-horned into edibles when they are different and distinct product offerings. Third, opportunities for on-site consumption are critical to mainstreaming cannabis beverages.

And, cannabis is still federally illegal. Therefore, many beverage giants are approaching and entering the industry cautiously. Alcohol companies have largely been quicker to jump into the fray than traditional, nonalcoholic beverage brands. It is illegal to combine alcohol and cannabis in the United States, however, so the cannabis-infused market consists of water-based drinks.

Due to national prohibition, beverage companies bringing cannabis into their portfolio are largely operating under state-by-state laws and a varied regulatory environment – catering to states with adult-use cannabis programs. This patchwork of regulation impacts business operations from advertising and marketing to packaging, labeling and even dosing instructions. For most companies, the cost of doing business increases in this operating environment as laws vary across state lines.

happie cannabis infused beverages

When federal prohibition ends, a policy priority for the industry and regulators will be to reconcile the regulatory environments and state-by-state differences. Were also likely to see the industry come together and advocate for responsible consumption, standard policies and best practices. Expect massive public service campaigns and industry and trade groups coming together to educate the public and policymakers on smart, responsible use of infused cannabis beverages.

Todays federal cannabis prohibition is also why some manufacturers are embracing CBD-only drinks. Sales of CBD drinks (federally legal as they are derived from hemp versus the psychoactive component of THC) are expected to hit $2.5 billion and are available in places where cannabis is not legal yet.

Meanwhile, THC-infused beverages will account for $1 billion in U.S. sales by 2025, according to Brightfield Group. While not a huge part of the pie in relation to the $24 billion cannabis industry, cannabis infused beverages are one of the fastest growing segments.

So dont be surprised if sometime soon you see a cannabis drink for sale. Companies are betting big and it might just be time to imbibe.

Meet Looming Federal Cannabis Regulatory Compliance Management with Automation & Confidence

By Steven Burton
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Federal regulation of the cannabis and hemp sectors is coming sooner rather than later — and this is mostly good news for cannabis businesses and consumers. But cannabis producers already struggling to meet complex and ever-changing local regulations (where they exist) will be facing a new set of challenges with another level of regulatory oversight and compliance.

Navigating multi-jurisdictional regulatory compliance management requirements is near-impossible with legacy manual systems. That’s why it’s time to leverage the right enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, so that you and your team can meet these compliance management complexities with confidence and ease. Whether you manufacture flower, edibles, beverages, supplements or other dispensary products, here’s what you need to know to stay agile and profitable as more changes loom.

Federal Legalization is Coming

To date, there are 18 states with adult use cannabis markets, 37 with medical cannabis programs, and an additional 13 that have some level of decriminalization. At the federal level, there have already been several attempts at cannabis law reform, with even more on the table in the coming year.

One of the most promising is the Republican-led States Reform Act, filed in November 2021. The central tenant of this proposed legislation is to remove cannabis and cannabinoids from listing as a Schedule 1 Drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

Importantly, if this law passes, it would allow individual states to pursue their own cannabis policies and remove the current risks companies face when going against current federal anti-cannabis scheduling.

The States Reform Act also proposes a three percent federal tax on all cannabis sales and that all cannabis sales fall under the ​​Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB’s) control. The States Reform Act would — finally — guide the regulation of hemp-derived products through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has also been working on another reform bill, specifically the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), which he plans to introduce in April 2022 to further emphasize the criminal justice aspects of legal reform in the context of the War on Drugs.

While the government’s track record on cannabis regulatory reform hasn’t been as progressive as many would like, at this point there is widespread public support and proposed bills from both sides of the aisle. As a result, the US may finally see some movement on cannabis law reform in the very near future.

How to Prepare for Federal Regulatory Compliance Management

With federal regulation looming, it’s time for licensed producers to elevate their internal systems. Whether you work with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), the regulatory protocols in an already complex marketplace are going to change.

This is especially paramount for those producing cannabis or hemp beverages, edibles and supplements. You will need comprehensive and efficient systems to facilitate this transition. An ERP should reduce compliance headaches and ensure your business is ready to scale when a national marketplace launches.

Automate Data Gathering

It is no longer cost effective to manage seed-to-sale traceability with manual data capture. With the thousands, if not tens of thousands, of data points required at most commercial facilities on a routine basis, data logging is by far the best way to start compliance automation.

Automated ERP systems, which capture essential information across your entire operation, ensure access to real-time data for forecasting, accounting, regulatory compliance reporting and traceability. That means using software that captures and logs intel from across your organization about quality control, inventory and traceability, all without arduous manual input.

The best and most successful ERP systems should be used by all employees to collect data, from sorters/pickers to fork lift drivers to supervisors to senior management. For this to happen easily, the solution must be accessible and user friendly for all employees. ERP systems that can be easily integrated with tablets and smartphones (as well as IoT devices) reduce the need for expensive terminals on the production floor and make data collection a straightforward part of daily operations.

Build Systems to Facilitate Growth from the Start

A rigid ERP system that can’t grow with you is not a smart long-term investment. An adaptable multi-platform system evolves with your company and constantly changing regulatory compliance requirements. A solution that provides access to the entire facility, instead of being limited to individual users, ensures that growing teams can easily contribute to data quality from the plant floor all the way up to the executive office for actionable insights.

Markets are opening up across the country and quite soon, many companies will be looking to expand their operations nationally. As a result, you’ll need systems that can scale, cover additional facilities, keep up with increased production, and even work across different jurisdictions.

Having instant access to detailed operational information delivers greater business oversight at the micro and macro levels – insight that is crucial for expansion, profitability, and cost-cutting measures. Companies with the right systems in place will effectively manage the resulting federal complexities to deliver on regulatory expectations and capture a competitive market share.

Leverage Regulatory Frameworks and Technology from the Food Industry

The Canadian example demonstrates clearly that the regulatory frameworks from the food and beverage industry are the most applicable to the cannabis sector – more so than for pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals or alcohol. This is most obvious in lucrative value-added markets like edibles and extracts, which are actually also food products.

Issues like dosage standardization, controlling common hazards, managing traceability chains and inventory, and introducing quality standards (including third party certifications like organic and SQF) are all crossovers from the food industry.

Just as the compliance automation wave has hit the food industry in recent years, manufacturers of infused products and extracts can then use the same technology to reduce safety and quality control costs as well as documentation and administrative costs. The lesson? Cannabis industry leaders don’t need to totally reinvent the wheel.

Cannabis Producers Need an ERP System Tailored to Their Needs

In Canada, cannabis manufacturers have learned all too well what a few little mistakes can do to reputation and profitability. MJBiz Daily reported in 2021 that the Canadian government had issued more than CDN $1.3 million (USD $1 million) in fines since legalization. That’s a lot of regulatory compliance issues. Considering there are nearly 500 compliance fields to fill out for monthly reporting, mistakes are difficult to avoid, especially if you rely on a manual system.

FDAlogoThe story is similar in the United States. State regulatory compliance management requirements are complex and arduous for individual companies and employees. When federal regulation does come, US-based producers will very likely face even more strenuous reporting requirements to multiple jurisdictions.

Cannabis companies will need a data-driven system in place to align with the FDA’s Cannabis-Derived Products Data Acceleration Plan. Finding food safety and traceability software that makes reporting easier, automatic, and less prone to human error is paramount to success. As you prepare for the looming federal legislation, look for an ERP system that covers all the bases, including one that:

  • Improves Market Agility: Expedites opening new facilities in new markets as they come online
  • Evolves with Regulatory Changes: Facilitates the transition from unregulated markets into federally regulated ones
  • Automates Reporting: Protects you from regulatory compliance management bumbles stemming from manual input and human error
  • Reduces Workload: Optimizes workflow and reduces labor costs associated with manual input
  • Is Comprehensive: Covers all bases, including food safety, quality control, traceability, production management, and even occupational health and safety

If you aren’t automating the capture of essential information across the entire operation, you won’t be prepared for the regulatory burdens likely to come with federal cannabis legislation. To stay compliant and on top of what will likely be an incredibly competitive marketplace, you are going to need real-time data — data that will provide precise seed-to-sale traceability, product recall capability, and reporting.

Digitizing safety, traceability and complex production management through one state-of-the-art ERP system allows cannabis companies to reap the rewards of data-driven, automation technology almost immediately without the significant capital expenditure on large-scale equipment or robotics. From there, navigating regulatory complexity becomes not only streamlined and operationalized, but an actual market advantage for future growth.

Cannin Commentary

Is Tilray Stock a Buy Post Fiscal Q2 Results?

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
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Canadian cannabis giant Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY) announced its fiscal second quarter of 2022 results last week. The company reported net revenue of $155 million in Q2 which was an increase of 20% year over year. Tilray attributed these gains to its expansion in verticals that include alcohol as well as hemp-based wellness.

Despite an uptick in sales, Tilray’s gross margin reduced by 7% to $32.8 million as the Canadian cannabis market continues to wrestle with oversupply issues resulting in lower-priced products. Alternatively, Tilray claimed its cost-reduction program is running ahead of schedule and it expects to save $100 million by 2023, up from its earlier forecast of savings of $80 million.

Tilray reported a net income of $6 million in Q2, compared to a year-ago loss of $89 million. The fiscal second quarter was also the 11th consecutive quarter where Tilray reported an adjusted EBITDA. This figure stood at $13.8 million in Q2.

Tilray stock rose by 15% in the two trading days following its Q2 results.

What impacted Tilray in Q2 of fiscal 2022?

Tilray explained its Q2 results were solid as it has successfully built a cannabis and lifestyle brand. Further, the company continues to benefit from its scale, global distribution capabilities as well as operational excellence allowing it to increase sales and maintain profitability despite macro-economic headwinds.

Last year, Tilray completed its merger with Aphria making the combined entity the largest cannabis producer in Canada in terms of market share and sales. Tilray maintained its leadership position in the country despite market saturation and rising competitive challenges.

The company enjoys strong brand recognition and is focused on ensuring an adept pricing environment. It also believes marketing adjustments will allow Tilray to aggressively capture market share going forward.

Germany is the largest medical cannabis market in Europe where Tilray has a 20% share. It’s well-positioned to capture the adult use cannabis market as well in Europe, if and when cannabis is legalized in this region.

Tilray, similar to most other producers aggressively acquired companies in the past. Its acquisition of the U.S.-based SweetWater Brewing and Manitoba Harvest provides it a foothold in the world’s largest cannabis market. These two companies have invested in product innovation to enhance awareness and distribution.

Further, SweetWater and Manitoba Harvest are profitable and provide Tilray an opportunity to launch THC-based products in the U.S. when pot is legalized at the federal level.

What next for TLRY stock?

During its earnings call, Tilray disclosed its new parent name called Tilray Brands. It reflects the company’s evolutions from a Canadian licensed producer to a global consumer packaged goods company with a leading portfolio of cannabis and lifestyle CPG brands.

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Tilray aims to post annual sales of $4 billion by 2024 which is quite optimistic given analysts expect revenue to grow to $980 million in fiscal 2022 and $1.2 billion in fiscal 2023. In order for Tilray to reach its lofty goals, it will have to acquire other licensed producers resulting in shareholder dilution.

Germany is expected to legalize marijuana at the federal level, making it the largest country to do so in terms of population. Tilray already has an EU GMP-certified facility operating in Germany which can increase production capacity to accommodate demand from the adult use segment.

Bottom Line: Is Tilray Stock a Buy Post Fiscal Q2 Results?

While Tilray’s stock gained pace, following its Q2 results, investors should understand that it was estimated to report revenue of $171 million in the quarter. Despite the cost synergies enjoyed by Tilray, the adult-use market in Canada is crowded as well as highly fragmented and should consolidate in the upcoming years which will allow companies to improve the bottom line.

Tilray stock is valued at a market cap of $3.2 billion which suggests its forward price to sales multiple is over 3x. Unlike most cannabis producers in the U.S. Tilray continues to post an adjusted loss making it a high-risk bet at current multiples.

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Aurora Cannabis Delivers Largest Shipment to Israel

By Cannabis Industry Journal Staff
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Aurora Cannabis Inc. sent out a press release today announcing that they have completed their largest shipment of cannabis to Israel yet. The Canadian company says the shipment of medical cannabis is worth roughly C$10 million, making it their largest shipment and possibly the largest cannabis import in Israel’s history.

aurora logoAurora is working on building their market presence in Israel as they continue to focus on international expansion. They claim that they are the leading Canadian licensed producer in global medical cannabis by revenue.

Miguel Martin, CEO of Aurora Cannabis Inc., says they are watching the world slowly begin to embrace cannabis just a bit more. “It’s an exciting time for the global cannabis industry, as we’re seeing growing acceptance and thoughtful regulation of both medical and adult-use cannabis across Europe and in key markets like Israel,” says Martin. “With strong local relationships, as well as support from our patients and consumers, we look forward to continuing to expand our international business to complement our total cannabis portfolio.”

Aurora also announced a joint venture in The Netherlands back in November of 2021, joining their regulated adult-use pilot program. The shipment of medical cannabis to Israel was delivered in December and will be posted in their second quarter revenue of 2022.