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There are seven businesses worth watching as they attempt to capitalize on the numerous business opportunities in the global marijuana market for entrepreneurs and companies with ambition. And check mjbizdaily.com/intl often for new updates.
Looking for where else the action is taking place in the global cannabis market? Here is our list of seven countries to keep an eye on as they roll out new regulations or update old ones.
Line of Business: Cultivation of medical cannabis
Headquarters: Veendam, the Netherlands
Why to Watch: Bedrocan produces standardized medical cannabis flower of pharmaceutical quality based on European Union guidelines for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). The company has been growing in the Netherlands for more than two decades, and its only customer is the government agency that has a monopoly on distribution: the Dutch Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC).
The OMC oversees the quality of Bedrocan products—currently five different strains for commercial purposes—and distributes cannabis for the domestic market as well as for export.
In 2018, the OMC exported 2,050 kilograms (4,519 pounds) of medical cannabis flower for pharmacy dispensing—most of that went to Germany—and distributed 550 kilograms to domestic pharmacies. Bedrocan was responsible for the production of all 2,600 kilograms and is currently the OMC’s sole supplier. By comparison, Canada exported a total of 1,465 kilograms of medical cannabis flower in 2018, including the combined exports of all Canadian licensed producers. This means that while Bedrocan doesn’t export (the OMC does it), its cannabis flower was the most exported in 2018, exceeding all Canadian producers combined.
According to a recent agreement between the German and Dutch governments, exports from the Netherlands to Germany will increase during 2019, reaching a total of 2,500 kilograms. This suggests total exports of Bedrocan products in 2019 are likely to surpass 3,000 kilograms.
In an industry where most of the promising companies still have limited or no track record, Bedrocan is the first EU-GMP certified company to prove it can produce the standardized flower patients need on a large scale.
Line of Business: Develops medical cannabis and CBD subsidiary businesses involved in production, testing and compliance, research and development including pharmacology, and commercialization of products
Why to Watch: The United Kingdom legalized medical cannabis for patients with a physician’s prescription last November. London is a global financial capital, and the London-based Sativa Group is trying to exploit this landscape to become a major player in the cannabis industry. Sativa joined London’s NEX Exchange in March 2018 and, since then, has taken a strategy similar to those employed by U.S. multistate players such as Ascend Wellness and iAnthus Holdings, which raise capital and then spend it to develop and own cannabis assets. Can this strategy work overseas?
To prime its future, Sativa has so far invested in two Canadian companies, Rapid Dose Therapeutics and Veritas Pharma, which specialize in dosing technology and seed breeding. The company also began importing CBD oil from Swiss and Portuguese partners earlier this year, and in June, it opened the first of three CBD retail outlets. Customers can buy and consume CBD-infused coffees, teas and other beverages at the stores or purchase products to take home. Sativa is also a 60% owner of Sativa Germany GmbH, which is tasked with winning German MMJ wholesale, import and export licenses. Should Sativa’s CBD plays in the United Kingdom and Germany win licenses, Sativa could grow to become one of Europe’s biggest players.
Bophelo Bioscience and Wellness
Line of Business: Cultivation, processing, distribution and export
Headquarters: Tsa Kholo, Lesotho
Why to Watch: The first African country to legalize cannabis, Lesotho and a few local cannabis producers have garnered interest from big North American marijuana companies such as Canopy Growth and Supreme Cannabis. Among the more interesting local companies is Bophelo Bioscience and Wellness, led by Louisa Mojela, one of the most successful businesswomen in Africa. Bophelo recently was acquired by Halo Labs, a Toronto extraction and infused product company that lists on Canada’s NEO exchange. Halo operates in California, Nevada and Oregon. In June, Halo appointed Mojela as chair of its board of directors.
Mojela is a veteran financial and operational veteran with the chops to make Bophelo a powerful force in global cannabis. She has led capital raises and held directorships at numerous companies, including South African Airways and Ericsson. Mojela also was a project leader for the Development Bank of Southern Africa, project officer with the Lesotho National Development Corp. and manager of emerging markets for the Standard Merchant Bank.
Bophelo’s license allows it to cultivate 5 hectares (about 12.5 acres). Once cultivation and extraction facilities are in operation, Bophelo expects annual production of about 4.6 million grams (10,141 pounds) of cannabis concentrate, which it will export to other African countries and Europe.
With a successful local such as Mojela at the helm and backing from Halo Labs, Bophelo could have tiny Lesotho punching above its weight in the cannabis industry.
Line of Business: Cultivation, processing and exports
Headquarters: St. Ann, Jamaica
Why to Watch: Jacana was founded by Alexandra Chong, a Jamaican serial entrepreneur best known for establishing Lulu, a mobile dating intelligence app with more than 6 million users. Chong sold Lulu in 2016.
Since raising $20 million earlier this year, Chong has methodically built the business. Jacana now has roughly 60 employees, including former MJardin and USA Hemp horticulturalist Marco Malatrasi as head of cultivation, plus sales teams in London and Toronto. The company’s board includes Microsoft’s former chief marketing officer and senior vice president, Mich Mathews-Spradlin, and Robert Leechman, a former executive board member at The Coca-Cola Co. Jacana has cultivation and export licenses as well as a 100-acre farm and an 8,000-square-foot processing facility that are both operational
With all its ducks lined up and access to capital—something other Jamaican medical cannabis companies lack—Jacana could become one of Jamaica’s most successful cannabis companies.
Line of Business: Cultivation, processing/manufacturing and retail
Headquarters: Smiths Falls, Ontario
Why to Watch: Following the ouster of co-founder, co-CEO and public face of the company Bruce Linton, Canopy will be a must-watch company.
For starters, the move could portend an executive-hiring-and-firing trend among big North American cannabis companies that have surrendered shares and board seats to big players from alcohol, tobacco and other industries in exchange for capital.
In Canopy’s case, it was alcohol producer Constellation Brands, which acquired 40% of the company and holds four of seven board seats, that pushed for the change. Company boards packed with mainstream stakeholders such as Constellation will be far less tolerant of losses—Canopy racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in losses under Linton—so longtime cannabis C-suiters should take note.
How Canopy fares under new leader Mark Zekulin, a co-founder and co-CEO along with Linton, also will shed light into whether the recent losses were because of Linton, or deeper issues with the company and/or the industry.
Canopy’s performance also could have global impact, since it has a presence in several cannabis markets around the world. Canopy’s Spectrum Therapeutics subsidiary is in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Lesotho, Peru, Poland and the United Kingdom.
Some of Canopy’s other foreign operations:
- Spain, where it has a partnership with Spanish pharma company Alcaliber S.A.
- Jamaica, where Tweed JA has a joint venture with Grow House, a licensed Jamaica grower and manufacturer.
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Line of Business: Cultivation, processing and manufacturing
Headquarters: Herzliya, Israel
Why to Watch: Israel has long been a country with cannabis promise, but that potential has often gone unfulfilled—at least in a business sense. There are dozens of Israeli cannabis companies involved in the cultivation, research and development and ancillary fields, but few have risen above their peers to gain the industry’s attention.
One company that is poised to stand out is Canndoc Pharma, which has been in the Israeli cannabis industry since 2008. The company has been making moves to exploit changes in the Israeli and global cannabis landscape.
Last September, Canndoc recruited former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to chair its board. Barak announced in June that he would stay on as chair despite forming a new political party to run in Israel’s elections this month.
That’s a vote of confidence from a high-profile board member. After the Israeli government announced in January that it would allow cannabis exports, Barak told Reuters that the company, which already had produced more than 1 metric ton of cannabis that was ready for sale, would expand to 10 countries over the next two years and produce 100 metric tons of cannabis by mid-2020. Those are big promises, however, even for a politician.
Khiron Life Sciences
Line of Business: Cultivation, manufacturing/processing and retail
Headquarters: Bogota and Toronto
Why to Watch: Over the past year, Khiron has positioned itself as one of the foremost cannabis companies in Latin America, expanding into new markets and inking partnerships that give it technological know-how and brand recognition. What the company does in the next 12 months should reveal whether it will be a major global player as well as how much Latin America’s cannabis markets have (or haven’t) developed.
Since listing on Canada’s TSX Venture Exchange in May 2018, Khiron has gone on an acquisition and expansion spree, acquiring Chilean cultivator DayaCann and Uruguayan cannabis company Netta International. The company also launched a CBD cosmetics brand, Kuida, that is sold in Colombia, Mexico and Peru. In April, the company made its first European move, buying Italian hemp company Canapalife.
The company has also brought on top-tier talent, such as the former heads of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Mexico and Central America as well as its Boston office. The former DEA executive will lead Khiron’s security and compliance department. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox, meanwhile, joined the company’s board.
But Khiron’s most important move to watch is its joint venture with Dixie Brands, a Colorado infused product company. Dixie should be able to sell roughly 100 of its products through Khiron once Latin American markets are in full swing. Depending on how it goes, that deal could serve as a blueprint for U.S. cannabis businesses with global ambitions.
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