What GTI and Trulieve told Wall Street

Marijuana
An employee holds a display of dried marijuana at the Fire and Flower store as the first legal cannabis stores open in the province of Ontario, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Welcome to Insider Cannabis, our weekly newsletter where we’re bringing you an inside look at the deals, trends, and personalities driving the multibillion-dollar global cannabis boom.

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If you follow cannabis news closely, this week was a good reminder of the strange world we live in where marijuana use is completely legal and normalized in some states and a criminal act in others.

Late-night host Conan O’Brien lit up a joint with cannabis evangelist and comedian Seth Rogen on live TV, for O’Brien’s second-to-last ever TBS show. O’Brien said he’s not a regular marijuana user, but joked that he needed to do something with all his newfound free time.

Elsewhere in the late-night world, Jimmy Kimmel helped “Freddie the Stoner,” an Indiana man who was interviewed by the show while waiting in line at a dispensary opening in Michigan, land his dream job writing product reviews for Emjay, a Los Angeles-based cannabis delivery startup.

Lots of Americans of all political stripes watch Kimmel and O’Brien. You might think that late-night hosts being so brazen about using marijuana on live television is a clear sign that the era of marijuana prohibition is over. You’d be wrong.

LA Lakers guard Alex Caruso was arrested in Texas for having a grinder with a small amount of marijuana on him at the airport. He was released, but not before his mugshot was shared with the world. He’ll be fine, and I’m sure he has the money and resources to cover bail and fight whatever charges crop up, but he’s an example of what’s still happening to thousands of people across the country.

And on a semi-related note, two former consultants to Eaze were sentenced to prison for disguising credit card payments on the marijuana delivery service’s platform. At the hearing, US District Judge Jed Rakoff criticized the sentencing guidelines which called for life in prison for one, and 24 years for the other, Reuters reports.

The consultants broke the law. But life in prison for what amounts to fraud is quite a harsh sentence – the defendant ultimately got two-and-a-half years.

What else?

The Ontario Securities Commission gave out “quasi-criminal” charges to CannTrust‘s former CEO, Peter Aceto, as well as another executive and a board member for growing unlicensed cannabis.

And I got a fun scoop on what the CEOs of US cannabis companies Trulieve and Green Thumb Industries told an audience of some of the world’s most powerful investors at last week’s Robin Hood Investors Conference. You can read that here.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Pablo Zuanic said in a note this week the US cannabis sector has been suffering from a ‘Schumer overhang’ while the industry waits for the Senate Majority Leader’s legalization bill.

Let’s get to it.

– Jeremy Berke (@jfberke) & Yeji (@jesse_yeji)

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Here’s what we wrote about this week:

Psychedelics giant Atai is targeting a $2.3 billion valuation in its IPO. We pored over its 446-page filing to find 7 key takeaways.

The largest private psychedelics company in the world made its long-anticipated public debut last Friday. We dug through Atai’s public filings to narrow down the main takeaways investors should know about the company.

4 top cannabis-tech startups share how they’re gearing up to win a slice of New York’s $7 billion marijuana market

Tech companies that work in cannabis are preparing for New York’s adult-use marijuana market. Insider spoke to four cannabis-tech companies – Fyllo, Dutchie, LeafLink, and SpringBig – and all said they’re hiring aggressively to meet the demand of the New York market.

Capitol Hill staffers say they use marijuana freely even though it’s still illegal for federal workers

Using marijuana is a fireable offense in President Joe Biden’s White House, but many power players who work a couple of miles away on Capitol Hill can and do get away with it.

Most congressional staffers never get asked about their cannabis use, so they can light up or take edibles without too much concern about losing their jobs.

Meme stock shareholders are causing issues by not voting on things like exec pay and M&A deals. Here’s how startups are trying to improve the process.

Companies with large retail-investor bases face difficulties reaching a quorum in shareholder votes. “It’s hard to get those shareholders to show up and vote,” Tilray CEO Irwin Simon told Insider.

The CEOs of two of the biggest US cannabis companies break down the future of the industry to an exclusive audience of Wall Street’s most powerful investors

Green Thumb Industries and Trulieve CEOs spoke at the exclusive Robin Hood Investors Conference last week. The talk was closed to the press, but Insider learned the executives discussed the generational opportunity of investing in cannabis and made predictions about the industry.

Israel cannabis
An employee holds a leaf of a medical cannabis plant at Pharmocann, an Israeli medical cannabis company in northern Israel June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Executive moves

  • Amy Larson is joining TILT as the VP of operations and communications next week. She was previously a VP at Simplifya.
  • Psychedelics company Awakn announced on Thursday that David Nutt, director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit at Imperial College London, has joined as chief research officer.
  • In more psychedelic people moves, Novamind has appointed Dr. Paul Thielking as chief science officer.

Deals, launches, and IPOs

  • Hydroponics company Hydrofarm Holdings will acquire Aurora Innovations, an Oregon hydroponics company, for $161 million in cash and $26 million in Hydrofarm stock.
  • Precision Extraction Solutions and Cascade Sciences are merging to form Sinclair Scientific. The merger will create what the company says is the largest cannabis and hemp extraction company, with combined annual revenue of over $100 million.
  • PharmaCann announced on Friday that it had completed a senior secured note offering. The net proceeds are worth around $79.9 million.
  • Awakn Life Sciences went public on the NEO Exchange on Wednesday under the symbol “AWKN” through a reverse takeover.

Policy moves

Marijuana Cannabis
In this March 25, 2018 file photo, a convention visitor examines a marijuana sample at the New England Cannabis Convention in Boston. AP Photo/Steven Senne, File

Research and data

  • Adolescent marijuana and alcohol use remained steady during the pandemic, despite decreases in both substance’s availability, according to a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Dr. Nora Volkow. The study also showed that past-month nicotine vaping among high schoolers decreased during the pandemic. The authors say the study shows that reducing teen use of substances cannot be achieved solely by limiting supply.
  • A new study published in the journal Sleep found that Zelira Therapeutics cannabinoid drug, Zenivol, is effective for treating insomnia and showed few adverse effects.
  • Alabama could add $600 million to its GDP in its first three years of medical cannabis sales, according to a report from cannabis software firm Akerna. Alabama legalized medical cannabis in May.
  • Cannabis information site Leafly published a report ranking states with legal cannabis on their social equity programs. California and Colorado topped the list, while Montana and South Dakota came in last. The report states that only 1 in 50 cannabis companies is black-owned, compared to the US average of 1 in 20 for other industries.
  • A new report from the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR) looked at the challenges of establishing a framework for small, minority-owned businesses in the cannabis industry.
  • Cannabis use may be associated with suicidal ideation in young adults, according to a National Institutes of Health analysis of survey data from 280,000 young adults between the ages of 18-35.

What we’re reading

Amazon ditched cannabis testing, and more employers will likely follow (CNN Business)

CannTrust’s former CEO and two directors charged with fraud over unlicensed pot growing scandal (Financial Post)

Opinion: Cannabis is the great social experiment that wasn’t (CTV News)

Maine’s mom and pop weed scene sweats corporate ‘gentrification’ (Politico)

The Future Of Psychedelic Medicine Might Skip The Trip (Forbes)

How Conn. Learned From Its Neighbors On Pot Legalization (Law 360)

Political ‘infighting’ could mean more delay for New York’s legal marijuana business (New York Upstate)

I ate a 4-course meal at a weed pizza parlor and got stoned to the bone (Insider)

Eric Adams on weed, Beyonce, and the housing-sleuth haters (Vanity Fair)

Cannabis firms Tilt, Ayr pay nearly $300,000 each in MA settlements (MJ Biz Daily)