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Happy Friday readers,

It was a hot week for cannabis deals, as the industry’s turnaround seems to be in full swing after a positive crop of earnings (for the most part).

First, Weedmaps is going public — commanding a whopping $1.5 billion valuation — through a deal with Silver Spike Acquisition Corp. Silver Spike’s stock popped 49% on the news, even though Weedmaps is no stranger to controversy.

The valuation and the stock pop are a clear indication that investors are bullish on cannabis tech, warts and all.

Yeji and I have a timely look at the risks and rewards of the influx of capital into cannabis SPACs, which you can read here. The clock is ticking on the approximately $1.5 billion sitting on the sidelines, and the pool of suitable targets are quickly getting snapped up by the competition. If you have any tips, get in touch with us.

And New York City-based cannabis tech platform LeafLink closed a $40 million Series C, led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, along with existing investors Thrive Capital and Lerer Hippeau, among others.

LeafLink CEO Ryan Smith told me on Thursday that they’ll look to double the size of the team, hiring for roles in product engineering and other senior-level tech roles.

“We’re really focused on leveling up and scaling out our full executive team to match the growth and opportunities that are in front of the whole company,” he said.

And last, our advertising and media team is looking for input from PR professionals to help shape Business Insider’s coverage of the PR industry over the next year. Please take our (anonymous) survey here and tell us what we should be writing about in 2021.

-Jeremy (@jfberke) and Yeji (@jesse_yeji)

Here’s what we wrote about this week:

The CEO of $1.5 billion marijuana review site Weedmaps shares the 3 reasons he thinks he can beat Google and Amazon, even if cannabis is legalized in the US

The CEO of Weedmaps, which commanded a $1.5 billion valuation in a deal to go public, laid out three reasons he’s not scared of Google or Amazon, in an interview with Jeremy.

“When you look at Google or Amazon, there’s traditionally three areas, I can give you specific examples, that have kind of been kryptonite for them,” CEO Chris Beals said.

Investors have poured almost $3 billion into cannabis SPACs, but experts say their cash could be stuck in limbo as deadlines loom

Investors have poured nearly $3 billion into blank-check companies, or SPACs, designed to take advantage of deals in the cannabis industry since the start of 2019.

SPACs provide an alternative pathway for companies to go public. It’s a method that’s attractive in cannabis as many investors got burned when the industry underwent a sharp correction in the middle of last year. SPACs have a limited timeframe to close deals, and there’s lots of competition to capture a small pool of suitable targets.

The clock is ticking on many of these SPACs, according to data BI obtained, meaning that they need to either find targets quickly — or fold.

Executive Moves

  • Harvest Health and Recreation announced on Tuesday that its COO Ron Goodson would be retiring, effective December 31, 2020. The company says it has no immediate plans to fill the position.
  • Canada-based cannabis extraction company MediPharm Labs announced a slew of executive changes yesterday, including shake ups to its CEO and CFO roles.
  • Canopy Growth’s beverage head, Andrew Rapsey, is departing the company after less than a year. The company is also shutting five facilities, laying off around 220 people.
  • Kelsey Ramsden is taking over as president and CEO of psychedelics company Mind Cure.
  • Cannabis marketing firm Grasslands announced that Jesse Burns would be joining the company as Chief Marketing Officer.

Deals, launches, and IPOs

  • Weedmaps is going public through a merger with Silver Spike Acquisition Corp., a SPAC. The deal will value Weedmaps at $1.5 billion.
  • Cannabis hydroponics company Hydrofarm Holdings IPO’d on Thursday, with JPMorgan serving as a book-runner.
  • Cannabis tech platform Leaflink closed a $40 million Series C funding round, led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. Existing investors Lerer Hippeau and Thrive Capital also participated in the round, among others.
  • Wellness consumer goods company Next Frontier Brands announced the acquisition of cannabis extraction and remediation company Treehouse Biotech on Tuesday.
  • Ancillary cannabis company GrowGeneration announced a $125 million follow-on raise.
  • Jay-Z launched Monogram, a cannabis brand, with a line of pre-rolled joints and blunts. The Jay-Z brand is under newly-formed The Parent Company.
  • Nicole Kidman will work with CURE Pharmaceutical to develop and promote a line of cannabis products.
  • Canopy Growth loaned $20 million to hemp company Arise Bioscience, a subsidiary of TerrAscend Corp.
  • US cannabis company Verano Holdings is planning to go public this month with a valuation of $3 billion, BNN Bloomberg reports. The company will go public through a reverse takeover of Majesta Minerals Inc, a shell company listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange.
  • Publicly traded psychedelic company Cybin acquired Adelia Therapeutics, a company developing ketamine analog drugs.
  • Psychedelics company MindMed Medicine closed a C$34.5 million financing.

Policy moves

  • The House of Representatives passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act on Wednesday with bipartisan support. The bill would make cannabis research more accessible in states where the plant is legalized.
  • Oregon Governor Kate Brown has signaled a kick-off to the state’s newly passed regulated psilocybin therapy program (Measure 109) by accepting applications for board members who will be tasked with overseeing the program. Read about the program, and psychedelic companies’ reactions to the new market, here.
  • The Congressional Budget Office said in a new report that the MORE Act to decriminalize cannabis would generate $13.7 billion in net revenue for the US Treasury over the next decade. The report also said the bill, if passed, would reduce federal prison spending by $1 billion.

Research

  • Research published in the journal Nature found that a non-hallucinogenic compound of ibogaine can help treat addiction and depression without the side effects most commonly found in hallucinogens.
  • A new report from Pew found that while legalizing marijuana can generate extra tax revenue for states facing shortfalls, it can be difficult to forecast and relatively unstable compared to other sources due to the lack of historical data.

Earnings roundup

  • Cannabis retailer MedMen reported FY21 Q1 revenue of $35.6 million on a net loss of $30.2 million.

Chart of the week

Many SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies, are quickly approaching their deadlines to close acquisition deals, according to data compiled by advisory firm Viridian Capital Advisors and provided to us.

SPACs gained immense popularity in cannabis over the past year, as investors sought new ways to invest in the industry. But now that time is running out, experts are watching closely to see if these “blank check” companies will successfully make good on their promises to investors.

Time is running out for cannabis SPACs.



Sawyer Click/Business Insider


What we’re reading

Editorial: Yes, the Feds Should Decriminalize Marijuana (National Review)

‘Epic failure’ of Illinois’ legal weed backers in Springfield to keep promises on diversity (Chicago Sun-Times)

House votes to expand marijuana research (Politico)

Get with the program. Legalize weed. (The Washington Post)

He was arrested for marijuana 17 years ago. Now it’s legal. So why is he still guilty of a crime? (Vox)

Organigram admits role in Moncton legionnaires’ disease outbreak (CBC)

The shortest road to legal weed runs through Georgia (Bloomberg Businessweek)