Online Marijuana Sales a Burgeoning Market in North America

The North American e-Commerce market for marijuana products is gaining momentum as Canada legalized the sale of recreational marijuana across the country in October 2018 and more states in the U.S. legalize the sale of both medical and recreational marijuana. However, a number of obstacles will impede online sales of cannabis products at least for the next few years.

Impediments to Online Sales

Sending marijuana through the mail is illegal in the United States, even for medical purposes. The prohibition applies to the United States Postal Service as well as FedEx and UPS.

In contrast, medical marijuana has been sold online in Canada and delivered by Canada Post since 2013. Late last year the Canadian government legalized the purchase of up to 30 grams of recreational marijuana. Most of these sales are occurring online, as retail stores have been slow to open. The provinces must enact their own rules so there may be differences in regulations among them.

In addition to the flower that is usually smoked, recreational marijuana includes edibles and CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound found in the hemp plant. CBD oil and cream are used as a treatment for many medical conditions, and CBD sales are widespread in the United States.

CBD is now being added to beauty products and THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that causes the feeling of being high, is being added to beverages. CBD beer is also on the market.

While the sale of CBD and edibles has not been legalized in Canada, about a dozen Canadian websites are openly selling these goods. The Canadian government is supposed to consider legalization later this year.

Shipping marijuana from Canada to the United States is illegal, regardless of whether a state has legalized medical or recreational marijuana purchases. Some Canadian sites have opened American subsidiaries that operate in states that have legalized marijuana sales. It is likely that they want to get in on the CBD and edibles market.

Global Market

According to Arcview Market Research and its partner BDS Analytics, total worldwide spending on legal marijuana will reach $57 billion by 2027. The largest market will be North America, growing from $9.2 billion in 2017 to $47.3 billion in 2027. The recreational market will be the largest segment in North America, contributing 67 percent of the amount, with medical cannabis making up the remainder.

In contrast, in Europe medical cannabis will dominate and it will become the largest medical marijuana market in the world.

U.S. Market

The District of Columbia and 10 states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington — have adopted laws legalizing marijuana for recreational and medical use. Twenty-one states have legalized medical marijuana only.

Nevertheless, at the federal level it is still a crime to possess, buy, or sell marijuana. Marijuana cannot be transported across state lines, even if the states in question have medical or recreational marijuana programs. However, states that have programs provide sellers certain legal protections.

Federal law prohibits FDIC-insured institutions from making loans to or accepting deposits from a marijuana company. Marijuana businesses typically have to work with private, state-chartered banks. One such bank — GRN Funds, located in Bellevue Washington — handles over $500 million in deposits from CBD companies on the West Coast. Canadian marijuana firms enjoy a competitive advantage because they have access to the international banking system and can legally transfer funds into banks in the United States in states where marijuana programs exist.

Ecommerce Sites

Since the marijuana flower cannot be shipped through the mail in the U.S., online sales consist mostly of CBD products. Several American websites do not sell online but instead either link to medical marijuana or marketing and advertising opportunities for dispensaries.

Following are a few American and Canadian sites that offer services and products.

  • Green Growth Brands in Columbus, Ohio, is a publicly traded company. It hosts a variety of brands on its site, and the CBD products can be ordered online and shipped to 35 states.
  • Leafly provides links to dispensaries around the country and serves as a marketing and advertising resource for brands that wish to introduce their products to customers.
  • CBD for Life is an American company that sells online a variety of CBD products including lotions, bath products, tinctures, and shampoos.
  • The Mega Marijuana Store appears to flout U.S. law. With a store in Vermont, it sells and ships marijuana flower and seeds as well as edibles and CBD products. Its website boasts that it offers, “…guaranteed stealth delivery to anywhere in the world at no extra cost.”
  • Quick Greens is a Canadian company that sells both edibles and marijuana flowers online.

Software Platforms

Several software platforms have sprung up to serve dispensaries and their customers. Among them are:

  • Weed Hero is an Oregon-based company that offers both free software that allows customers to place orders directly from a dispensary website. Some dispensaries offer delivery while others require customer pickup.
  • Green Marimba is a Boulder, Colorado-based company that hosts dispensary websites that include automated compliance reporting and tools for managing vendors, inventory, and customer relationships.
  • Shopify entered the marijuana market when recreational marijuana became legal in Canada. Some Canadian provinces have chosen Shopify to run their ecommerce websites. Shopify has also signed up marijuana companies.

Bank Rejects Candidate’s Money Because of Medical Marijuana

TALLAHASSEE — Wells Fargo shut down the campaign account of a candidate seeking a seat on the Florida Cabinet because she took contributions from lobbyists representing the medical marijuana industry, according to records provided by Democrat Nikki Fried on Monday.

Fried, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer, has made advocacy for medical marijuana a cornerstone of her campaign for agriculture commissioner. Fried once lobbied for medical-marijuana operators and helped shape the state’s laws and regulations regarding cannabis use, sales and distribution.

Fried opened a campaign account with Wells Fargo in June, shortly after qualifying for the Cabinet race.

But within weeks, officials with the financial giant began questioning Fried and her campaign staff because of her “political platform” and her links to the marijuana industry.

“As part of the onboarding of the client it was uncovered some information regarding the customers (sic) political platform and that they are advocating for expanded patient access to medical marijuana,” Antoinette Infante, Wells Fargo senior relationship manager, vice-president, wrote on July 11 in an email to Fried’s campaign treasurer, Gloria Maggiolo.

“Can you confirm the types of transactions expected for this customer & if any of the transactions will include funds received from lobbyists from the medical marijuana industry in any capacity?” Infante asked.

Maggiolo told the bank that contributions “will be, and have been, received from lobbyists for the medical marijuana industry, as well as from executives, employees and corporations” in the industry, adding that Fried no longer lobbied for marijuana operators.

On Aug. 3, Wells Fargo gave Fried’s campaign 30 days to shut down the account.

“This is much bigger than my campaign. I am happy to tell Wells Fargo ‘good riddance,’ and finding a bank to take my campaign contributions without making a value judgment on my platform was not difficult to find. However, when this happens to a medical marijuana business, as it does every day all over the country, it has a much more devastating impact,” Fried told reporters Monday at a press conference in the Capitol.

The shutdown of Fried’s campaign account is a new development in a battle pitting financial institutions like Wells Fargo against medical marijuana operators, ancillary businesses and associations focused on a substance that’s authorized in some form in about 30 states but remains illegal under federal law.

“I’ve never seen a candidate targeted specifically because of their support for the marijuana industry. It is an egregious issue of free speech, and it’s one that shouldn’t be tolerated,” Michael Bronstein, founder of the American Trade Association of Cannabis and Hemp, told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview Monday.

While it’s not unusual for banks to distance themselves from marijuana industry operators, Fried’s account “wasn’t even judged on what type of money was coming in,” Bronstein said.

“It was the political views of the candidate that were being shut down. This is a backdoor to silencing political speech,” he said.

Wells Fargo spokesman Michael H. Gray said the bank could not comment directly on a customer’s account but indicated that the California-based bank was complying with “strict regulatory and risk guidelines” governing the banking industry.

“It is Wells Fargo’s policy not to knowingly bank or provide services to marijuana businesses or for activities related to those businesses, based on federal laws under which the sale and use of marijuana is illegal even if state laws differ,” Gray said in a statement emailed Monday to The News Service of Florida. “We continually review our banking relationships to ensure we adhere to strict regulatory and risk guidelines.”

Problems with banking have plagued Florida marijuana operators since lawmakers first authorized non-euphoric cannabis in 2014, and the banking woes have escalated since voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana in 2016.

Lobbyist Ron Watson formerly served as the executive director of the Florida Society of Cannabis Physicians. Watson told the News Service his group recently decided to disband after losing its banking service four months ago. The doctors’ group was unable to find another financial institution to handle its business, Watson said.

“The focus on the banking industry has been taken to an absurdity here,” Watson said, referring to Fried. “We have a statewide candidate running for office that had her bank account shut down because she spoke about medical cannabis and then took money from lobbyists? That’s ridiculous. This has to be fixed. Washington has to fix this.”

Watson, Fried and Bornstein are among those calling on Congress to approve a bipartisan measure, known as the STATES act, that would give states like Florida more power to regulate marijuana and would loosen banking restrictions that currently hamstring legal marijuana operations.

“Outdated federal laws allow for this sort of discrimination. Politicians refuse to act, and big banks like Wells Fargo do everything they can to block progress,” Fried said Monday.

Fried’s dilemma is “representative of anybody who is either directly or indirectly involved in the medical cannabis industry both in Florida and all over the country,” lobbyist Jeff Sharkey, who represents various medical marijuana interests, said in an interview.

Sharkey, whose clients include the Medical Marijuana Business Association, said the banking issue affects accountants, lawyers, associations and others tied to the industry.

“It’s a widespread problem,” Sharkey said.

But one of Sharkey’s other clients might be an answer for those, such as Fried, searching for a bank eager to embrace marijuana-linked money.

GRN Funds, based in Belleview, Wash., complies with federal guidelines and is now providing services to medical marijuana operators and others affiliated with the cannabis industry in Florida, Sharkey said. The company handles hundreds of accounts outside of Florida.

“This is needed now more than ever since banks like Wells Fargo are unwilling to serve the industry,” Sharkey said.


Saying ‘YES’ to Marijuana Money, New Bank comes to Florida

Where the big banks say no, Justin Costello is saying ‘yes.’

Foreseeing “a multibillion-dollar industry here,” the head of Seattle-based GRN Funds says his firm has come to Florida to offer banking services to the state’s medical marijuana providers.

It already handles about $500 million in deposits for clients in the cannabis industry on the West Coast.

Costello, its chairman and CEO, was in Tallahassee last week to meet with state financial regulators “strictly as a courtesy.” (His firm is not regulated by the state, he says.)

Accompanying him on that visit was Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, “facilitating an introduction to state policymakers,” as Sharkey put it.

“We just wanted to let them know what’s happening,” said Sharkey, who also operates the Capitol Alliance Group. “We thought it important that they understand the right way to do this … There are millions of dollars in cash going around out there.”

Costello says he already has nine marijuana banking clients signed up in Florida, whom he couldn’t name because of confidentiality regulations.

Medical marijuana providers around the country have been vexed by how to handle their money.

The big banks won’t do business with them; as The New York Times explained earlier this year, “selling marijuana violates federal law; handling the proceeds of any marijuana transaction is considered to be money laundering.”

Put another way, “while banks would love to tap into the growing market, concerns remain about how to reconcile such activities given that the possession and sale of marijuana remains illegal under federal” law, write attorneys Craig D. Miller and Anita L. Boomstein with the Manatt Phelps & Phillips law firm.

That’s led marijuana vendors keeping thousands, even millions, of dollars in cash in self-storage warehouses. Costello would like to take marijuana out of the cash-in-a-duffel-bag business model.

He worked with Chris Johnson, CEO of Integrated Compliance Solutions of Las Vegas, which specializes in “cannabis regulatory compliance software.”

The trick is being able to track every transaction, big and small, to avoid any perception of laundering. Providers, for instance, have to show sales are only to those with a Florida medical marijuana patient ID card.

“It’s all about transparency,” Johnson said. “We take every single thing that’s sold in the retail store and ensure what gets deposited in the bank is traced back, seed to bank, legally to the entity.”

The Office of Medical Marijuana Use, which regulates the drug in Florida, is required to have its own statewide “seed to sale” tracking system but has not yet selected a vendor.

“It’s funny: A lot of cannabis people lived a cowboy life and don’t trust the system,” Costello said. “You have to engage with them until it becomes a close business relationship.”


Seattle-based GRN Funds to Provide Cannabis Banking Solutions in Florida

It looks as if Florida’s medical marijuana businesses may soon have a new banking option.

Seattle-based GRN Funds is planning to provide banking services starting Aug. 16 to the Sunshine State’s medical marijuana treatment centers and ancillary marijuana businesses that successfully complete its application process, the investment bank’s CEO, Justin Costello, told Marijuana Business Daily.

“We see the Florida market as a great opportunity. We see it as the second- or third-largest cannabis or hemp market in the U.S. in the next three to five years.” Costello said.

Costello noted the investment bank will provide services to cannabis-based business clients – including noninterest-based checking accounts, debit card processing and lines of credit for qualified accounts.

Florida’s licensing model, which allows for vertically integrated MMJ operators, means GRN Funds will be managing larger accounts in the state, Costello said.

As of July 23, 11 medical marijuana businesses or ancillary marijuana businesses in Florida had submitted applications to GRN Funds, which has approximately 425 clients in Alaska, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state, according to Costello.


New Bank Wants to Offer Services to Florida Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers

https://youtu.be/9HfNhEuT4Sg

Pensacola, Fla. ((WEAR-TV) — Medical Marijuana is a cash cow.

One Florida license recently sold for $55 million dollars.

However, many in the business haven’t had a place to bank since First Green Bank, the only bank willing to handle their money, dropped all of it clients last December.

“This is a real public safety issue with all this cash, not just in Florida, all over the country, swirling around. People can't pay their taxes, they're paying everything, payroll in cash,” said Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association.

Because medical marijuana remains illegal under Federal law, most banks won’t do business with dispensaries

In the absence of First Green Bank, Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers have turned to alternative ways of doing business.

The most common is a closed-loop system where patients use cash to load cards that are then used to purchase products.

“Without any options, MMTC's are trying their best to make it a safe and secure transaction point of sale,” said Sharkey.

MMTC’s are supposed to report all transactions with the federal government, but without backing from a bank, it’s nearly impossible to do so.

Now a new company has its eyes on Florida’s budding industry.

Seattle-based GRN Funds is looking to fill the vacancy the First Green Bank left open.

“We're providing traditional banking services. It's a little bit different than what's going on currently with the closed-loop systems,” GRN Funds CEO Justin Costello.

GRN Funds operates in five states.

The company serves more than 300 accounts.

Costello says it would operate much like First Green Bank did, helping legitimize the industry.

“We're trying to get the professional services around the industry to help the industry to assimilate into regular business,” said Costello.

GRN Funds says it plans to begin offering its services to Florida MMTC’s in the near future.


How to sell your marijuana business: Q&A with GRN Funds CEO Justin Costello

Valuating a cannabis business requires coming up with creative comparisons to established industries, such as tulips and wine.

That’s the space Justin Costello operates in. The CEO of Seattle-based GRN Funds, he brings years of experience making deals in the investment banking sector and said he has completed 80-plus cannabis deals.

He currently is brokering a $60 million-$70 million sale in which he’s packaging 12 marijuana companies in Washington state.

Costello recently spoke with Marijuana Business Daily about how he valuates cannabis businesses, which companies are easier to sell and deal structures to avoid.

With the price tag of $60 million-$70 million for the 12 Washington stores, can you walk me through how you compared those cannabis businesses to comparable mainstream businesses?

I looked at other industries, and I also looked at other sales that I’ve done and determined what those went for.

I use a combination between the industrial tulip industry and some fundamentals in the wine industry. I’ve developed what I think is as close to an industrial metric as possible in combining a few of those industries.

A pharmacy or drugstore is another metric you can use. And you have the hops industry as well.

Hops is kind of a cousin of the cannabis plant. It has institutional or commercial grade applications that deal with growing as well as processing and packaging.

I found that the tulip industry uses varying growing mediums. They use aeroponics, they use hydroponics, they use soil-less mediums like a pro-mix – so there’s a variety of that – and then they also constitute artificial light through double-ended bulbs like a Gavita light in a controlled manner with PPM, CO2 and other aspects of controlled cultivation. So it’s very close in regards to how the cultivation side of indoor marijuana would work.

So, kind of a hybrid model. But I used traditional metrics.

I just took their revenues per parity and put it into the book value. Is it book times 4, or book times 5? I used a traditional sales metric for that. And we valuated everything and conferred everything with the state and checked all of the details and cross-referenced the details for that with their bank accounts.

So the revenues were real. It wasn’t a unicorn, pie-in-the-sky, penny stock deal. These companies have $25 million to $30 million in revenues a year.

I looked at EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Deduction and Amortization), but I don’t ever use that in an interview case because there are variances on that.

This Washington deal has a bunch of assets on it in the form of licenses as well as real estate. So we had to get third-party assessments for all of that as well. This is a large deal, including a lot of different things, so that was taken into consideration.

What revenue multiples are you using?

I used the times 3.6, typically. This was a little different because of the real estate. I’m not going to give you the exact revenue multiple I gave because that would indignify my negotiations with a potential buyer.

There’s 12 licenses that are included with this, including two Seattle licenses, which are very valuable, and two different pieces of real estate involved as well.

In your experience, are some businesses in certain niches – such as ancillary companies or infused-product companies, for example – easier to sell than others?

I think it’s dependent on the buyer. If the buyer wants to be on the end of the supply chain and deal with all the regulation – and be at the forefront of making money – then, yeah, the ancillary companies.

I see a lot of vape companies coming out, I see a lot of software coming out. And we’ll see how it sticks to the industry.

Traditionally it takes longer than a couple of years for those ancillary companies to start making money and become solidified.

If you look at American history, you have the silver industry, the gold industry, the timber industry, the people selling the widgets – it takes them a while to make money, but those are the ones who end up becoming companies.

The ol’ sell-the-picks-to-the-miners rather than mine-the-gold-yourself.

Exactly. I think retail’s a different story because it’s a really simple financial model. (For instance) Walgreen’s is coming in, it bought out a major regional player in Seattle and they used similar multiples and looked at the same types of things.

So it’s a pretty traditional acquisition compared to a drugstore or a pharmacy, minus some of the other aspects of the sale – which is the controllability, the traceability and, ultimately, the license. The licenses have value.

Aside from the penny stock or reverse mergers, are there any specific deal structures that you might avoid?

No. They’re all different. You’re going to get a lot of people that want to do a sizable down payment, then a payoff. The problem is you’re involved with a controlled license. So there’s only so much you can do in this industry.

Washington state will allow you to buy into a license. That’s just business. But pushing out a transaction two, three years, they might not approve that.

You got to go to your regulator and say, “Do you believe this transaction will work with codes and laws?” That’s a simple question you can ask, and as regulators, that’s their job to let you know where you’re at with that.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Bart Schaneman can be reached at barts@mjbizdaily.com


Washington State Broker Aims to Sell Bundle of 12 Marijuana Retailers for Up to $70M

A dozen marijuana retail businesses in Washington state are employing an unusual strategy on the mergers and acquisitions front: package their assets together for a combination sale.

In a move that’s being described as “unprecedented,” Seattle-based investment bank GRN Funds is asking $60 million-$70 million for the 12 retail cannabis firms.

The ambitious plan has spurred questions about whether such a strategy can work, particularly after two Washington state cannabis entrepreneurs recently failed to sell their businesses together in a similar – albeit much smaller – fashion.

The plan also faces some hurdles tied to Washington state’s cannabis regulations, a lack of available cash from potential buyers and less-than-optimal deal structures.

GRN Funds CEO Justin Costello – who’s brokering the sale and claims he has spearheaded 80-plus cannabis deals – said the businesses are located throughout Washington state but most are in the Seattle area.

He wouldn’t reveal the retailers’ names because of a nondisclosure agreement.

There’s no secret as to why the retailers are on the market, however.

“They’re just looking to exit out of the industry and enjoy their lives,” Costello said. “That’s the American dream, right? Build something big and sell it or do an acquisition deal and make tens of millions of dollars.”

GRN Funds launched the deal at the beginning of August with a timeline of 60 days from the outset to source the right type of bidders.

To arrive at the $60 million-$70 million valuation, Costello brought in a third party to audit the businesses’ books, then applied industry metrics to reach that dollar amount.

So far, Costello said he’s received multiple offers, though they’re below asking price.

There are a lot of “tire kickers” in the cannabis industry, Costello has learned.

Uncharted waters

Paul Seaborn – assistant professor of the Business of Marijuana class at the University of Denver – said the sale is “unusual and unprecedented” for the cannabis industry. It’s rare, if not unheard of, to see a sale set up as GRN Funds’ is, he said.

Among the questions Seaborn has about the sale: Are the stores in competition with each other? Are there synergies between them? Is the sum actually greater than the parts?

With the cannabis industry as nascent and fluid as it is, the packaging could simply be seen as a strategy to attract the attention of potential buyers.

However, Costello said it wasn’t his goal to gain attention by bringing together 12 firms.

“Something of this size, we knew it would have headlines,” he added, “but we also knew the deal would support itself.”

‘Unicorns and magic’

The two prominent Washington cannabis business owners who attempted to sell out earlier this year can back up Costello’s claim about tire kickers.

Uncle Ike’s and Main Street Marijuana – both based in Seattle – paired up in January to sell their retail outlets for $50 million but didn’t find suitable buyers.

“Nobody has any real money,” was the takeaway for Ian Eisenberg, owner of Uncle Ike’s.

Ramsey Hamide, owner of Main Street Marijuana, said he and Eisenberg were contacted by roughly 20 different companies in the United States and Canada, but no offers interested them.

“If they were cash, they were too low,” Eisenberg added. “And if the price was right, it was always equity in some kind of startup stock, reverse merger, unicorn, magical thing – which I’m not interested in.”

Other roadblocks

Two key Washington state requirements also come into play:

  • Under the residency requirement, prospective marijuana business owners must prove they’ve lived in the state six months before they apply for a license.
  • The state allows each license holder to own only up to five retail shops.

Costello anticipates having to structure any sale around a group of consolidated buyers. For example, one group would buy five of the businesses, another group would purchase five and a third group would acquire two.

“I think as buyers dig into it – especially out-of-state buyers – it’s a pretty complex thing to complete a transaction,” Main Street Marijuana’s Hamide said.

“We wanted a clean, all-cash sale, and that would require somebody with a lot of money that’s a resident of Washington that really had an interest in cannabis. But we weren’t able to find that person.”

Were Main Street Marijuana and Uncle Ike’s simply priced too high? Hamide doesn’t think so.

“We already thought we were selling at a very, very low valuation by the standards of any other industry,” he said.

Another potential hindrance for a combined sale like the one GRN Funds is brokering could be the Trump administration and its anti-cannabis attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

“There’s not a lot of real capital that wants to invest in pot right now,” Eisenberg said. “Especially with the change in administrations. If I was some super-rich, private equity guy, I don’t know if I would want to run the risk of going to jail over making a few extra bucks.”

Different tack

So what is GRN Funds doing differently in its sale?

Costello said he hasn’t been approached with penny stock deals or reverse-merger proposals because the 12 companies went through 2½ months of due diligence – including underwriting and third-party audits – before launching the sale, first reported by RespectMyRegion.com.

So far he’s had about 150 “serious people” inquire, he said. Costello’s had interest from around the United States as well as Canada and Asia, including inquiries from Singapore and Hong Kong.

He seems most encouraged by working with Washington state-based private hedge funds and equity companies.

“Those are the real people that are your targets,” Costello said.

Before the launch, his firm targeted what he considered applicable buyers.

“We were very surgical about who we approached and how we approached them first before launching them into the open market,” Costello added.

A sale this size could have a major impact on the industry, he said.

“People will see that we’re a big industry and we’re here to stay,” Costello added. “We’re real and it’s possible that businesses in this industry will get in the tens of millions of dollars.”

Bart Schaneman can be reached at barts@mjbizdaily.com


Multiple Seattle Cannabis Companies Offer Largest Cannabis Deal in History

Over (10) 502 licensed retail cannabis business have entered into an arrangement to sell their retail shops on the open market here the State of Washington.

Justin Costello the CEO of Seattle, WA area Investment Bank; GRN Funds, LLC is the deal’s designer and architect. Mr. Costello who has over 80 cannabis related deals in completion has stated “It’s the largest deal ever offered in cannabis on the open market. There have been a few IPO deals up in Canada that were large but this is different it offers 10 working companies. Never before in the history of the cannabis industry has a deal like this been offered with this type of infrastructure, profitability, and revenues”.

GRN Funds is offering the deal as a private bid, “you will need to inquire and be qualified as a bidder” Costello stated. It has taken over 3 months for GRN Funds and Costello to put the deal together and have it offered in to meet compliance standards within the Washington State Liquor Control Board regulations. “This has been very challenging deal to design with many complexities revolving around license and regulatory laws. In the state of Washington you can only own so many retail licenses at one time” Costello stated.

Media inquiries may be directed to Justin Costello at (425) 830-1192 or media@grnfunds.com

This article was published by CFN Enterprises Inc. (OTCQB: CNFN), owner and operator of CFN Media, the industry’s leading agency and digital financial media network dedicated to the burgeoning CBD and legal cannabis industries. Call +1 (833) 420-CNFN for more information.


$75M Can Buy You 10 Marijuana Retail Stores in WA State

This will go down in cannabis history. We are looking at the largest deal ever, 10 Washington cannabis retail outlets have decided to collectively sell their business to the highest bidder. GRN Funds is heading up the sale that will attract major attention from large scale investment groups looking to become the new kings of cannabis.

The anticipated price tag for the acquisition will be in the 60 to 75 million dollar range for these marijuana dispensaries. The cannabis retail outlets are spaced around the state but the majority are centered around the Seattle metro area. Justin Costello, CEO at GRN Funds, is excited to head up this historic cannabis sale. As the industry continues to skyrocket, big-money players are running to the cash-rich industry. He told us “Cannabis is a very unique thing going on in America right now. You see a lot of hedge fund managers, portfolio managers, and private equity companies look at cannabis as an opportunity to add to their portfolio. It’s a really new industry so you don’t see a lot of industry-specific funds associated with it.”

Costello has been around the industry since the Washington State medical days. He originally came to Seattle to check on a $100,000 Medical Marijuana investment for two weeks and never left. Eventually owning 12 cultivation locations, Costello chose to enter the finance side of the cannabis industry when it moved to recreational. “When the industry went to 502 I knew that the industry would need a finance person, I knew it’d need a deal maker.” Already familiar working as a hedge fund manager responsible for identifying emerging markets, Costello gravitated to the speed of deal flow within the cannabis industry. Previous to cannabis, Justin Costello put his finance graduate degree to work internationally in Shanghai, Dubai, and Amsterdam. Finding success both abroad and domestically, the finance guru has always enjoyed “non-traditional” industries.

“THERE IS A RESET GOING ON IN THE INDUSTRY RIGHT NOW. A LOT OF BUSINESSES THAT AREN’T DOING GOOD BUSINESS ARE BEING PUSHED OUT OF THE INDUSTRY…ONE THING YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO BE COGNIZANT IN WASHINGTON IS, YOU HAVE TO PLAY BY THE RULES. I LIKE THAT, THERE IS A LOT OF STRUCTURE TO IT. IT’S NOT LIKE THE WILD WEST. GUYS WITH MBA’S DON’T REALLY HAVE AN EASY TIME DOING BUSINESS WITH CRIMINALS.”

The buyer(s) will need to be an investment group as the state of Washington only allows one individual to hold five retail licenses. Because of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, the buyers will also need to be suitable in the eyes of legislation.

As the industry continues to grow, there is a surrounding excitement around cannabis. More and more states are going legal and investors are bringing finances to “green” states. This sale is truly a milestone for the business within this field. “There is a lot of action going on in our industry right now. Some good, some bad. One thing I can guarantee is when I wake up in the morning, no day is ever the same for me,” Costello said.

Outside of raising capital for cannabis companies, acquiring new companies and brokering the largest transaction in cannabis history, Costello has also launched Canna-Exchange alongside ex-Amazon engineers. The company is bridging the communication gap between processors, producers, and retail outlets while bringing the industry into the technical level needed in 2017. Costello told us that cannabis has moved backwards in terms of the sales side. Without a lack of proper back end tools, so much of the process is centered around phone calls. Retail inventory managers can’t complete purchase orders handling on 6 phone calls an hour. The platform also aims to bridge the communication gap between producers and processors to move unsold inventory.

Through success and history, Justin Costello remains humble and excited for whats to come next. This deal means a great amount to the cannabis industry and the man behind it has seen this size of play coming since he first entered the industry.

“I’ve done a lot of license deals, a lot of purchases, a lot of capital raises and finance. This is obviously the largest deal period, so no one has done a deal in cannabis, at this level. I am very humbled and very blessed that these owners of these retail shops have entrusted the sale of their life’s dream to me.”