Anne-Marie Fischer, Author at Green Market Report

Anne-Marie FischerAnne-Marie FischerNovember 12, 2019
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10min5180

“If cannabis has been significant, psilocybin will have much more of a therapeutic impact,” said Toronto-based cannabis-turned-psychedelics entrepreneur Ronan Levy, when Green Market Report caught up with him to talk about the future of research on psychedelics. 

Field Trip Ventures, the world’s first integrated company in legal psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, announced last month that it has developed a strategic partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Mona, Jamaica to create the world’s first legal research and cultivation facility dedicated to psilocybin-producing mushrooms. 

One of five co-founders, Ronan Levy, who has found significant success in the cannabis industry, predicts that what will be uncovered about psychedelics at the UWI research facility will be a “paradigm shift in the treatment of mental health.”

What’s Going Down in Jamaica

The partnership will involve Field Trip Natural Products Limited (Field Trip’s Jamaican subsidiary) constructing, funding, and operating a state-of-the-art research and cultivation facility on UWI’s Mona campus. UWI will lease to Field Trip Ventures the land for building the facility, while Field Trip Ventures will provide leading biology, mycology and chemistry researchers to assist Field Trip’s research and cultivation efforts.

Jamaica is an ideal location in which to study the effects of psychedelics, specifically psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”). In Jamaica, psilocybin has never been made illegal, and it remains legal to sell, possess, transport and cultivate. “The legal status of psilocybin in Jamaica enables broader clinical research,” says Levy. Most important is the ability to “get approvals to work with organic psilocybin”. 

Most of the research on psilocybin until now, Levy notes, has been limited to synthetic molecules due to the legal status of psilocybin across the world. Working with organic molecules derived from psilocybin in Jamaica will allow research to be uncovered on how psilocybin, and its precursor molecule psilocin, actually affect humans, especially in light of recent movements towards decriminalization and legalization of psilocybin in Colorado and California. 

The government in Jamaica is supportive of this partnership, as the Minister of Health, Christopher Tufton, is a vocal advocate for this research, and puts the mental health of the people of his country as his primary objective. 

A Best in Class Partnership

UWI has long been known within academic communities as a forward-thinking research and education center. The focus of the UWI Facility will be broad-ranging, from genetics, breeding and cultivation work on the 180+ plus species of psilocybin-producing mushrooms, to developing methods and analysis for extractions and formulations, to identification of novel molecules for drug development purposes. Research at the Facility will be led by Rupika Delgoda, Professor of Biochemical Pharmacology & Pharmacognosy and Director of the Natural Products Institute at UWI, who holds a doctorate from Oxford University (UK) in Pharmacology. “It was an immediate synergy,” said Levy, noting that the partnership brought together “a well-equipped team of scientists” to provide a turnkey solution to legal psychedelics research through the research facility.

Levy notes that the facility will also focus on other molecules with therapeutic interest and values for psychedelics assisted psychotherapy, with best in class practices to enhance the psychotherapy process, and in essence to “suspend the ego”, as Levy describes it. The facility will start looking at ketamine as well while also integrating practices like meditation and breathwork into the psychotherapy sessions. 

A Look at the Growing Psychedelics Movement

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard that more people are beginning to turn to psychedelics, and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, to manage mental health. Psychedelic assisted psychotherapy, or PAP, involves the professionally supervised use of ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin, LSD and ibogaine as part of psychotherapy programs. Clinical results so far are showing safety and efficacy, even for “treatment-resistant” conditions, which is why firms like Field Trip Ventures, and Orthogonal Thinker, who we covered earlier this season, are working so hard to spring the psychedelics movement forward. 

Earlier this fall it was announced that John’s Hopkin’s opened the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Researchers intend to focus on how psychedelics affect behavior, mood, cognition, brain function, and biological markers of health. Upcoming studies will determine the effectiveness of psilocybin as a new therapy for opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (formerly known as chronic Lyme disease), anorexia nervosa and alcohol use in people with major depression. 

Field Trip intends to build on the existing and current work that is happening within the psychedelics and psilocybin movement. “Although psilocybin, as a molecule, has been well-studied, there is great opportunity to create impact by developing a better understanding of the fungi that produce psilocybin and other tryptamines.  This is why we are so pleased to be partnering with UWI, a leading global academic institution, in building this facility in Jamaica,” said Mujeeb Jafferi, Field Trip’s President.

Standing on the Shoulders of Cannabis

Working in cannabis, and building a number of successful companies and partnerships, is what Ronan Levy sees as his biggest strength of what he and many of his partners bring to the Field Trip and psychedelics table. 

“I wanted to ensure that I was able to provide a thoughtful and prudent approach to cannabis medicine,” said Levy of his first successful companies Canadian Cannabis Clinics and CanvasRX (co-founded with Field Trip co-founders Joseph del Moral, Hannan Fleiman, and Dr. Ryan Yermus), which have served over 100,000 Canadians in the medical cannabis system. After CanvasRX was sold to Aurora Cannabis Inc (NYSE: ACB) in 2016, Levy served as Senior Vice President, Business and Corporate Affairs for Aurora. Holding a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Commerce degree, Levy saw a natural next step in getting back to entrepreneurship with the psychedelics movement starting to take off. 

Much like the cannabis industry’s maturity, Levy sees the same maturity happening within psychedelics in the way that we’ve been able to classify components of the cannabis plant. Because of what the cannabis industry has done for understanding psychoactive compounds, psychedelics have an excellent benchmark to start off, with Levy noting now “the caliber is higher than cannabis was five years ago.”

Levy is taking his experience in what he refers to as “stigmatized medicine” into this paradigm shift that could have a significant impact on health care in the future.

Because the status of psilocybin still remains illegal across the world, it’s difficult to determine the potential market worth of legal psychedelics. Psychedelic Science Review noted that “any drug with the potential to address a $48 billion cost to employers due to treatment-resistant depression and $249 billion alcohol-associated cost to society, also has the potential to make a momentous impact in the marketplace.”

“We’re getting excitement from conventional pharmaceuticals and Big Pharma,” says Levy.

Green Market Report continues to keep a keen eye on the developing psychedelics industry and looks forward to covering important movements in this promising movement. 

 


Anne-Marie FischerAnne-Marie FischerOctober 15, 2019
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11min20681

When David Nikzad first moved to Hawaii in the early 2000s as a proud and confident member of the cannabis industry, he met a shaman who changed his trajectory forever. “Go back to the land,” said the shaman, “We are all children of the land.”

And that is exactly what David Nikzad did.

Using the land of the Hawaiian Islands as his plant-medicine laboratory, Nikzad went on a journey of discovery by spending time with plant-healers, shamans, plant growers, and people in Hawaii who had been using the medicines of the earth through hundreds of years of tradition. “On the Hawaiian Islands, people make ‘brews’ from the almost 2000 botanicals that can be found in the region,” he describes. 

During this journey of discovery, Nikzad found psilocybin, beginning on the path that would eventually lead to him becoming founder of Orthogonal Thinker, a biotech holdings company that now has a goal to bring psilocybin to the world, one microdose at a time.

The Growing Interests in Psilocybin 

Psilocybin can be found in over 100 mushroom species, but is most commonly found in Psilocybe cubensis, or what has become widely known as “magic mushrooms”. When psilocybin is ingested, it’s broken down to produce psilocin, which is responsible for the psychoactive effects. Psilocin is also the precursor molecule of psilocybin. 

The psychedelics movement is moving forward, albeit slowly, with emergent research supporting the therapeutic properties of psilocybin and psilocin, especially among treatment-resistant depression and other mental health issues. 

At present, it is illegal to sell products with psilocybin or psilocin, but just this past year, Denver, Colorado, and Oakland, California decriminalized the possession of products containing these compounds. “I believe that people will have access to these medicines by 2020,” says Nikzad, “There are emergent initiatives going on behind the scenes. This is a global movement.”

The Story Behind Orthogonal Thinker

“I grew up being told I had every mental disorder possible,” said Nikzad when Green Market Report asked him to describe his journey into Orthogonal Thinker. “About 11 years ago, I found myself somewhat depressed with the business world and I began understanding that everything about making money was wrong. Through that process, we started working on a personal fund that was focused on investing in a frequency of energy, which always came down to the founder.”

When he made the move to Hawaii and began meeting with shamans and what he calls “master formulators” of plant medicines, this is when he discovered psilocybin. With his personal investment fund that he’d developed with his business partner, he focused on “incubating plant-medicine companies that used whole-plant products to heal people”. 

“In our 10-year journey, we’ve discerned and identified a ‘nano-super compound’, psilocybin. This is something that can be taken in a microdose, and through Orthological Thinker, we created a product where the effects are not overwhelming, and that is clean. It’s a product that everyone can take.”

Taking a Giant Leap Forward 

Orthogonal Thinker announced last month that it raised $2.5 million in capital. This funding completes approximately $4 million in seed capital raised to date, with more funding coming in.

Orthogonal will use this financing to support the distribution and development of new products across its family of companies, including subsidiaries EI.ventures and Maui Raw. EI.ventures is a formulations company that holds the intellectual property rights for plant-based psychoactive compounds. Maui Raw is a clean-food CPG company committed to delivering non-GMO raw food products. Over the last 10 years, Orthogonal has acquired and developed products supporting new food, technology, and scientific advancements in plant medicine to elevate and empower humanity. 

The choice of partnerships demonstrates that Nikzad is just as empowered by non-psychoactive plant-based compounds for their nutritional properties, as he is the psychoactive ones for their effects. “Nutritional alkaloids need to effortlessly get into our daily diet,” he says. Orthogonal Thinker’s co-founder Michelle Valentin is a food scientist with a background in clean-label foods, taking the approach of food being medicine. 

“Our products are 99% clean label,” says Nikzad, “We look at everything as a delivery system.” Valentin believes that gut health is at the core of food science, with the gut bacteria rebooting in our systems every 9 hours. The products, which are delivered in water-soluble pouches, have been formulated with gut bacteria to promote this process. 

Brining ohana to the Vision 

Orthogonal Thinker’s goal is to make plant-based products that “aid in mental thought and intellectual expansion” accessible to everyone, with a business model that supports providing a three-milligram microdose of the product Psilly for $1. This model is based on the Hawaiian word ohana which to Nikzad means family and friends and never leaving anyone behind. 

“We know this product is very inexpensive to make the way we make it,” says Nikzad, “We understand that with clinical trials and production at a medical-grade, we would still make money, and people would have access.” 

This selfless quality is what makes Orthogonal Thinker stand out. The company is dedicated to open-source IP sharing to ensure that the benefits of psilocin are widespread. “We are in the process of patenting everything we are working on to distribute everything we have to the world,” says Nikzad, “We partner with the best of the best to share IP and information.” Nikzad notes that he has received vast interest from other countries in his work. 

The team that Nikzad has built is critical not only to the financing of the project but also to advancing the movement of psychedelics across the U.S. and the world. “There is an overflow of people who want to work with us. It’s been very humbling,” says Nikzad of the group of investors that includes cryptocurrency investors, venture capitalists, pro athletes, and even one Olympic athlete.  “All our investors have a story too,” he adds.

“Our team is made up of people who have been in the FDA space for 30 years, doctors, chemists, lawyers, and people who once had ‘human jobs’ and are now living their dharma, their purpose in life,” Nikzad adds that it’s important to him that everyone who invests in or works for Orthogonal Thinker has a relationship with plant-medicine and their products. 

“A New Standard of Pharma”

When Green Market Report asked Nikzad whether the cannabis movement has set the stage for the success of the psychedelics movement, he said, “In some regards, cannabis has been a gateway, but has taught us what not to do, and where to shift. We focus on compliance and medical efficacy.”

Nikzad describes what Orthogonal Thinker is doing as the “new standard of pharma”, seeing a future where physicians will be confident in prescribing products like Psilly to their patients. “These are beautiful medicines that are plant-based,” he says, “These are not synthetic products or ‘designer drugs’ this is all about plant medicine nutraceuticals where you’re getting the benefits of whole plant alkaloids.” 

A daily microdoser himself, Nikzad believes wholeheartedly in the benefits of psilocin for health and wellbeing, “This product is in my bloodstream and it makes me operate from a place of empathy, with an open heart and mind.”: a lot more of what the world could use these days. 

 


Anne-Marie FischerAnne-Marie FischerOctober 2, 2019
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6min8430

As the platform that processes 21% of all wholesale orders of cannabis products in the U.S., LeafLink had gotten a birds-eye view of the preferences and spending habits of cannabis retailers, allowing them to compile insightful data into one source. 

The United States of Cannabis is a new data source developed by LeafLink, which is the largest online marketplace for wholesale cannabis in the country. Using the information about the wholesale orders placed by 3,800+ retailers in 12 states, The United States of Cannabis presents comprehensive information about who’s buying what in the legal cannabis states. 

Suzannah Rubinstein, Director of Marketing for LeafLink calls their concept and platform “the industry standard of connecting wholesale orders”, where the platform serves as a connection between retailers and manufacturers for regulated cannabis products. “We process $1.4 billion in orders placed annually through the marketplace,” states Rubinstein.

This intel, achieved through tracking wholesale orders state-by-state, has allowed LeafLink to gain insights about who’s buying what, and why, in 12 legal cannabis states, as presented in the interactive cannabis map entitled The United States of Cannabis.

Most Favorite Products

Here are some of the best selling products according to the platform with some surprises:

  • California – Dosist Bliss Vape Pen
  • Colorado – Wana Sour Gummies
  • Washington – Happy Apple Beverage
  • Oregon – Winberry Farms – Tropical Trainwreck cartridge
  • Nevada – District Edibles – Tropical Punch
  • Michigan – Platinum Vape – Alien OG
  • Pennsylvania – Vireo Health – Red Cartridge
  • Arizona – Timeless Vapes – Lemon Faderade
  • Alaska – Red Run Cannabis Company – Hashade

Here are some overall insights that The United States of Cannabis reveals:

  • There are 18 product types on the LeafLink marketplace, but three main categories account for 67% of total sales in the country: Flower, Cartridges, and Edibles, yet these product categories differ distinctly state-by-state;
  • Every market that was tracked by LeafLink has a distinct cannabis identity, that can be viewed state-by-state;
  • In newly legalized cannabis states, there is less product and brand diversity; newer states’ packaging and marketing are more “medical” in look and feel, while states with a long-established legal market are more diverse in products available, and in branding.

“Our data shows that in states with more maturity, there is greater product diversification,” says Rubinstein, “Where there’s product diversification, it means that people are experimenting with different methods of consumption.”

The United States of Cannabis allows users to examine state-by-state marketplaces, to see what product types, and what products reign supreme. Here are a few examples of legal states and what LeafLink uncovered:

  • In Colorado, the longest-established legal cannabis market, the top 3 product categories are cartridges, concentrates, and disposable vapes, with pre-rolls rising up as the fastest-growing category;
  • In Pennsylvania, one of the newer medical cannabis states, the top 3 product categories are cartridges, edibles, and flower, with flower being the fastest growing product category in the state;
  • In Alaska, the top product categories are cartridges, concentrates, and vapes, with concentrates being the fastest growing product category;
  • In Michigan, a new recreational cannabis state, the top product categories are cartridges, flowers, and edibles, with cartridges being the fastest growing product category for that state;

In addition to top product categories and fastest-growing product categories, the United States of Cannabis contains information on the biggest brands, product superlatives, most unique products, and even the state flower and producer.

LeafLink’s wholesale marketplace is unique in that each state has a closed marketplace. Retailers access only the products and brands that are available in their state, across 24 different markets. “This allows in-state communities to be built,” says Rubenstein, “Brands are able to promote products in-state directly to retailers,” she says, which helps quite a bit when marketing and advertising regulations are so tight in every state.

Emerging brands can use each state’s distinct cannabis identity to find niche markets and new opportunities to create products in product categories they know people of different states are interested in. 

More about the LeafLink platform can be found at https://leaflink.com/

 


Anne-Marie FischerAnne-Marie FischerAugust 27, 2019
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8min6350

What could have been a threat to alcohol and the beverage industry, has now turned into one of the beverage’s biggest opportunities since hops met barley.

Both the cannabis and beverage industries saw dollar signs when Constellation Brands added a $4 billion investment to its already ample investment into Canopy Growth. The beverage biggie, that owns Corona, certainly turned heads as cannabis brands, and leading beverage companies began inking deals to ensure their brands showed up in drink coolers across the country. 

Headset recently came out with an extensive report examining the rapidly developing cannabis-infused beverages industry, stating that although beverages don’t make up the majority of cannabis product sales, they are “a category within cannabis that’s worth watching.” 

The Growth of Infused Beverages

While market share has experienced an incremental increase, the overall market for infused beverages has doubled, moving from $1.5 million to $3 million in 2019. 

Infused beverages sales are concentrated in Washington, Colorado, and Nevada. California will be next to enter the beverages race when Lagunita’s HiFi Hops hits the shelves. Most recently, in Q2 2019, Washington led in beverage sales ($4.2 million), followed by Colorado’s $3.9 million. 

What Are People Drinking?

Infused sodas are reigning supreme in the beverages category, gaining 3.9% of the overall beverages market share. Surprisingly, warm drinks like teas, coffee, and hot cocoas lost market share, as did Iced Tea, Lemonade and Fruit Drinks. Infused sodas accounted for 70% of Washington’s beverage sales in 2019, while in Colorado and Nevada, 18% and 26% of respective sales were represented by soda. 

“Mocktails” also made gains over the last year, but the impact is not yet significant enough to believe that cannabis will become an alcohol replacement drink, although Nevada can attribute 12% of beverage sales to cannabis mocktails, which is aligned with Vegas’ reputation as a party town.

Headset even went as deep to look at the flavors that people were preferring. In Washington, lemon, lime, orange, and apple flavors make up 52% of the infused soda market, with the rest of the flavors being made up of distinct fruit flavors like huckleberry, hibiscus, and honeydew, just to name a few. In Colorado, the majority of the soda consumers prefer a flavorless beverage (this is also because drops, mixes, elixirs, and syrups sell the most in this state); in California, they love the taste of cold tea; and in Nevada, Fruit Punch tickles the most palates. 

Headset attempted to compare the prices people are willing to pay for beverages across states, but couldn’t find any correlation. For example, Tea, Coffee, and Hot Cocoa are amongst the highest priced items in Nevada, but of the lowest-priced items in Washington. Headset speculates that there is a different brand landscape in each state that attributes to these nuances in what people are willing to pay.

Getting “Buzzed Over Stoned”

In 2017, 100mg THC infused products made up most of the market share at 90.9%; in 2019, it’s dropped 67.1% and has been replaced by microdosed formats in the 0-5mg range. This leads Headset to conclude that “consumers are more interested in getting buzzed than stoned.” If people are indeed using cannabis-infused beverages for alcohol-replacement, they are likely consuming multiple beverages in one sitting, as they do beer or wine. Despite speculation, Headset projects that there is “a lot of room for low dose beverages”.

The Who and Why of Infused Beverages

Perhaps surprising, the Silent Generation is the largest consumer of infused beverages in Colorado, while in Nevada, enjoyment of these beverages is more evenly distributed across age groups. It makes more sense when you remember that in Colorado, drops, mixes, elixirs and syrups are of the leading product categories, which makes it easy for people of the Silent Generation to easily dose cannabis in a cup of tea.

POS data collected by Headset suggests that cannabis-infused beverages are an impulse buy or an add-on item. People buying beverages are usually purchasing pre-rolls or edibles and throw in beverages as a last thought. Beverages are most commonly bought alongside edibles, suggesting that beverages are more appealing to those who do not prefer to smoke or combust their cannabis.

CBD is Having Its Moment

CBD infused beverages are currently holding at 25% of the infused beverages market share, according to Headset. With the passage of the U.S. Farm Bill of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products could be a threat to THC-infused beverages that can now be sold in coffee shops and retail stores.

Crack Open a Cold One

The cannabis-infused beverages market isn’t yet massive but shows a great opportunity for cannabis and CBD companies to get in on the ground. Headset has concluded through their analysis of 4 states that tracking and predicting data trends across states is not linear, and that piecemeal, state-by-state legalization affects sales. This shows that brands in individual states are shaping the markets of those states. Had cannabis been federally legalized, it would be easier to notice more consistencies across consumer preferences. 

Headset predicts that sodas will continue to grow, as will mocktails. People are now getting into lower dose beverages, recognizing that it’s rare that people can consume a 100mg beverage in one sitting. 

While Headset was reluctant to name cannabis-infused beverages as an alcohol replacement, several data points such as lower doses and the rise in popularity of sodas show that cannabis-infused beverages are becoming part of social circles and scenes.

 


Anne-Marie FischerAnne-Marie FischerAugust 9, 2019
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9min7830

“Don’t fail before you start,” says Wick & Mortar CEO and Founder Jared Mirsky when Green Market Report caught up on him regarding the latest shakeup in the cannabis industry regarding the Woodstock brand and name. 

The promise of a 50th-anniversary concert in honor of Woodstock 1969 came and went, yet stir around the Woodstock name over the last couple of years in the cannabis industry cast a big cloud over the “peace and love” vibe that the event tries to promote, and it wasn’t cannabis smoke. 

It started in February 2018, when Woodstock Ventures, the founders of the original 1969 festival and the established brand tied to the festival, sued Woodstock Roots, a Pennsylvania holding company that sells hemp rolling papers, vaporizers and other extracts under the consumer brand Woodstock American Products. Woodstock Roots countersued, filing a preliminary injunction against Woodstock Ventures, stating that Woodstock Roots had already filed for a trademark in 2013 to use the Woodstock name at the festival. The injunction sought to prevent the original brand from entering into licensing agreements to sell products at the 50th-anniversary concert that was to take place this summer.

Woodstock Ventures had been working with MedMen (MMNFF) to create cannabis products under the Woodstock brand, stepping on the toes of Woodstock Roots, who thought they had the monopoly on selling Woodstock-branded cannabis, even donning the tagline “since 1969”.

The case got stuck in court, leaving the two companies in a standstill as to who would be able to sell products under the Woodstock name, and no matter what these companies could do to push the case forward in court, everything seemed to be against them. 

The original ruling judge died, making the case take a few steps back until late-July, just days before the concert was canceled, when a new judge denied Woodstock Roots’ request for a preliminary injunction, ruling that Woodstock Ventures would be the only company permitted to carry on cannabis product sales using the Woodstock name.

Now, with the 5oth anniversary concert of Woodstock officially canceled, the case itself may be moot for selling cannabis at Woodstock festivals, but it certainly brings up a large issue for the cannabis industry in terms of branding and naming cannabis companies.

“There seems to be a big misunderstanding in terms of what you can and can’t do in terms of naming,” says Wick & Mortar’s Jared Mirsky. Wick & Mortar is the first branding and marketing firm in the world that provides services exclusively to the cannabis industry. It has been in operation for over ten years under Mirsky’s leadership. 

“Trying to take licenses of a company so tied to a culture I feel is an infringement,” says Mirsky, “The execution of a product so closely tied to a brand like Woodstock, could be detrimental to the established Woodstock brand.”

Mirsky says that the naming process is a large part of the services that Wick & Mortar take clients through when branding and marketing their products. “If a client has chosen a name that we have advised against, we ask them to sign a waiver acknowledging this,” says Mirsky, who has seen too many instances of brands getting themselves in hot water by infringing on other brands or established brand cultures.

According to Mirsky, choosing a name that is too closely aligned with another brand, or choosing a name that will fail to translate into global markets, is one of the biggest “faux pas” that cannabis brands can undertake. “This happens all the time,” says Mirsky, “Companies fail to do their due diligence, or even worse, they don’t care and take names anyway, figuring that they’ll remain unseen in the dilution of brands, and when it comes to it, they’ll eventually have the wealth to battle any brand infringements in court.”

Mirsky says originality is key when choosing a name. “When you have a brand name that is far more original, you increase your brand equity valuation,” explains Mirsky, “Wick & Mortar helps brands establish brand valuation by focusing on brand equity.” An example of brand equity is the ability to transfer a name to different SKUs and products, or the ability to bring brands to the global front, and have the name translate culturally.

“If a company is doing CBD pre-rolls, and now wants to move into providing topicals, or capsules, or any other cannabis product, there already could be another established brand offering those products under the same name,” explains Mirsky. When a brand fails to be able to translate across different products or SKUs purely due to the name already being taken, their brand equity valuation decreases. 

Brands who don’t take cultural translation into account may also have trouble expanding globally. Take for instance the cannabis company Puff Cannabis Co. Standing for “People United For Flower”, Puff seeks to celebrate the 1970s and flower power movement through its developing brand. “While this word certainly resonates within the North American cannabis industry,” says Mirsky, “The word ‘puff’ means something else in other cultural contexts,” he goes on, referring to the word being a slang British term to refer to homosexuals. “This brand would have difficulty going global.”

What can companies do to avoid mishaps in their name and branding? “Be original!” says Mirsky, “Choose a name unlike anything else, a name that allows you to do whatever you want with it.” Mirsky also suggests that creating names from made-up words, or synonyms of words relating to the industry can help build originality and avoid any naming infringement mishaps.

As far as naming a company “Canna” anything, that is far overdone, according to Mirsky. Even the word “canna” in your name could fail to translate to global markets, even if you’re offering legalized products derived from cannabis, like hemp-CBD. “The market is saturated with canna this, and canna that,” says Mirsky, “Don’t fail before you start. Start with a strong brand name, because in the end, you’ll be worth more because you’re different.”

 


Anne-Marie FischerAnne-Marie FischerAugust 1, 2019
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4min12950

Cannabis was featured in Nielsen Company’s Total Consumer Report 2019, with the data and information company predicting the sales of cannabis consumer packaged goods to rise 5x that 2018’s sales. 

They forecast that the sales of all legalized cannabis products in the U.S. could reach $41 billion by 2025. This includes all products manufactured from the marijuana plant and the hemp plant and all compounds derived from cannabis sativa. 

This was just one tidbit of information revealed in the report and the accompanying analysis entitled “Brace for Impact: CPG Cannabis Sales to Rise by the Billions”. Through these reports, Nielsen gave some interesting insights into the cannabis market and “cannabis-interested” consumers, especially when comparing how the industry has evolved from 2014, when cannabis was legal only across two states, to 2018, when legalization has become more widespread. 

During this time period, as more types of product and methods of consumption became available, people’s tastes in how they were consuming became more diverse. In 2014, 77% of legal consumers were buying flower, compared to 48% of sales being attributed to flower in 2018. Vapor pen sales rose from 4% to 19% over this time period. Edibles remained relatively stagnant with a respective 9% and 11% of sales in 2014 and 2018. “Other formats”, like capsules, beverages, topicals, and tinctures rose from 10% to 22%. 

There has also been a significant brand explosion over the last 4 years that can’t be ignored. In 2014, only 166 cannabis brands existed, compared to the 2650 that now make up the cannabis industry’s brand roster, growing 7x in 4 years.

Not only did Nielsen dig into consumer data to attempt to predict the future of the cannabis industry, but they also released some interesting data-based insights on the average “cannabis-interested” U.S. citizen:

  • They are 2x more likely to have tobacco products in their household, with cannabis-interested adults making up 65% of the population who is trying to quit smoking. 41% of which would consider using cannabis for smoking cessation;
  • They are 41% more likely to drink beer, with 1 in 5 cannabis consumers saying they spend less on store-bought beer as a result of consuming cannabis;
  • They are 36% more likely to have neck and back pain, with 65% of cannabis-interested consumers using over the counter pain medications to manage pain, and 35% of that group considering using cannabis as a replacement to these OTC medications;

Nielsen is a worldwide data and information global research firm that provides marketers reliable and objective information on marketing and sales program. Most widely known for the “Nielsen Ratings”, an audience measurement system, Nielsen also provides data and information for demographics, CPG and retail, and markets and finances. 


Anne-Marie FischerAnne-Marie FischerJuly 31, 2019
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8min48070

According to Brightfield Group, the CBD market in the U.S. has grown over 700% in 2019.

The CBD industry is becoming much more saturated than it was before the passing of the U.S. Farm Bill late last year, with new products entering the market, threatening to take a slice of the CBD pie that the early producers of CBD have enjoyed until this time.

Nevertheless, the top 20 CBD companies still hold a majority of the even bigger pie that is CBD in the cannabis industry. 

Brightfield Group listed the Top 5 CBD Companies that the research group says “continue to make a name for themselves” within the growing CBD market. Here’s what we know about these various companies:

 

  • CW Hemp (Charlotte’s Web)

 

Earlier this summer, Charlotte’s Web Holdings (TSX:CWEB)(OTCQX:CWBHF) announced that their total acres of hemp planted for the 2019 growing season had increased 187% due to interest and demand for the products. Prior to that, the company reported its earnings for the first quarter with revenue growing 66% to $21.7 million. 

“Interest and demand for our products has been exceptional and growing rapidly. Our 2019 planting strategy ensures we will have the required raw materials to deliver on production targets for Charlotte’s Web products through 2020 and into 2021,” stated Deanie Elsner, CEO of Charlotte’s Web. “Our leading CBD hemp varieties under cultivation today are the foundation of our 2020 production plan.”

Brightfield Group remarked of the company: “By deeply understanding who they are as a brand and identifying the consumers that resonate with their messaging, they have built the foundation for potentially life-long customers and advocates.”

  1. PlusCBD Oil (CV Sciences)

PlusCBD Oil by CV Sciences (OTCMKTS: CVSI) has found success largely due to their low-dose capsule and softgel formats that Brightfield Group referred to as “a safe bet for more conservative users”. Green Market Report has been watching the steady increase in CV Science’s company value following last year’s impressive sales jump of 203% in the second quarter. 

The company is expected to announce its second-quarter results for 2019 on August 6. 

        3. Green Roads World

Green Roads offers unique, high-dose products, and have built their success on effective social strategies. With a growing employee base of over 100 the company had an estimated value of $45 million in 2018, according to co-founder Arby Boroso. 

The company sells CBD-infused products such as tinctures and balms, online and in 6,000 stores and 2,000 doctors’ offices across the country. Brightfield attributes their “values-based marketing” to their success and prominence in the CBD industry. 

  1. Medterra

Medterra’s growth is largely due to its effective SEO strategy and marketing. With a site that is full of engaging content that manages to get past the limitations of search engines, Medterra gets itself in front of the eyes of consumers.

The company recently announced a foray into the sports, fitness and golf communities, by partnering with Worldwide Golf Shops, the parent company to Edwin Watts, Roger Dunn, and some of the most well-known and established golf retail stores in the United States. 

  1. Irwin Naturals

Irwin Naturals turned heads when Klee Irwin, the founder of the company announced the company would be giving away $1M worth of CBD products to honor the passing of the Farm Bill. 

The company is concerned with making the cost of CBD products affordable, saying “Our mission is to spread health to the world through plant medicine. Our nation is on the edge. And I am worried about the future of our children. If we can make CBD affordable and accessible to the masses, it just might help our country avoid a meltdown.”

Groups of Competitors in the CBD Market

Brightfield Group laid out the different types of companies and brands that are continuing to lead the pack when it comes to innovative marketing, advanced products, and ways to stick out in the market. These companies are those who are:

  • CBD-only companies that have established brand loyalty, improved marketing strategies, and grow larger and more diverse customer bases
  • Cannabis companies including multi-state operators that leverage networks and infrastructure to build brand recognition and raise capital to expand CBD lines
  • Supplement brands existing in the natural food store and retail chain space
  • Disruptor brands that were little-known prior to this year and have risen up in the ranks as they’ve been picked up by large retail chains

As it is only still summer, it remains anyone’s game as to who will end up at the finish line in the CBD brand race by the end of the year.  


Anne-Marie FischerAnne-Marie FischerJuly 24, 2019
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11min25780

In a time of designer bags, jewelry, shoes, and a slew of other consumer goods being knocked off, the cannabis industry has also fallen victim to counterfeit products.

Imagine going into what you believe is a legitimate cannabis dispensary or online shop and being sold what you think is a King Pen, Brass Knuckles, or Heavy Hitter vape, only to find that in comparison to what you’re inhaling, “you’re better chewing on lead paint”. 

This is an occurrence more common than we think within the cannabis industry, according to Ashesh (Alex) Shah, CEO and Founder of solo sciences the consumer-products intelligence company dedicated to preserving the integrity of the cannabis industry as a whole by protecting cannabis consumers from potentially harmful bogus products. 

The Extent of Counterfeit Cannabis

solo sciences dug into their own research and estimate that up to 80% of all packaged cannabis products appearing within the cannabis market, both illicit and legal, are counterfeit. This means that 8 in 10 times, cannabis consumers around the U.S. are consuming products that have not been distributed through licensed providers, manufacturers, distribution companies, and retailers. Most common cannabis products being knocked off are vape pens, trying to represent the big brands of that product category.

Just a Google Search away, people with less than honest intentions can access knock-off packaging from cannabis brand giants, to fill with low-quality oils, or in some cases, products that don’t contain any cannabis at all. With so many new consumers putting their trust in the hands of dispensaries and budtenders being sold counterfeit packaged cannabis products, Shah remarks that “It’s a perfect storm that could mean the end to the industry.”

A Tool to Protect Industry Integrity

“Major brands are being misrepresented,” says Shah, as licensed brands only legally do business with licensed retailers. To fix this, Shah, along with co-founder Kate Flannery, solo* is bringing to the cannabis industry technology yet unseen by the industry, and the anti-counterfeit solutions industry as a whole. 

The world and the industry’s first cryptographically secure cannabis product authentication system, solo*CODE™ is the first-of-its-kind, closed-loop intelligent authentication system for cannabis products. The platform uses an app to decipher uniquely encoded labels that create a “digital fingerprint” that can only be used and decoded by the solo* app. What is produced is a product authenticity report that acts as a certification for cannabis brands, telling the consumer that the product is 100% authentic.

With 80% of products estimated to be counterfeit, the problem is mostly exacerbated by online retailers that get their materials mostly from China. Disposable counterfeit vape cartridges either comes pre-filled with mystery oil or is sent empty for the retailer to fill. Since there is no regulatory body overseeing what is going into these products, it could be low-grade oil, pesticide-ridden products, or even synthetic cannabinoids, which have proven to be fatal in some cases.  

As the black market continues to thrive, unlicensed shops also add to the problem of pushing counterfeit packaged cannabis products. For instance, according to the Los Angeles Times, more than 200 illegal dispensaries operate in L.A. alone, which could be a conservative estimate. 

“The world of cannabis is murky, unpredictable, and often not safe,” said Ashesh (Alex) Shah, CEO and founder of solo sciences in a company press release. “As brands and governments are struggling to fight the illicit market, we created solo* to solve that problem by creating transparency into what cannabis providers are actually selling to consumers. solo* is designed to keep people out of the dark when it comes to what they’re consuming and putting into their bodies, so they feel secure and knowledgeable about the products they’re purchasing.” 

According to Flannery, the solo* app is about “putting the power into the hands of the consumer”, allowing the consumer themselves, not a budtender at a possibly unlicensed shop to tell them what products are authentic.

Data Experts Playing “Data Judo”

Solo sciences is not your average cannabis data company brought together to sling just another data set into the cannabis space. Shah is a former CIA Profiling Specialist on the Presidential Task Force holding 8 patents, while Flannery is a former consultant in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries, working among the likes of Medtronic, Philips Healthcare, and Hospira/Pfizer. Filling out the team of 20 employees at solo sciences are former members of the CIA, DEA, and advanced professionals in the technology of detection. The development of solo*CODE involved “image processing containing the most complicated algorithms,” according to Shah. “This is beyond a QR code,” he adds. 

Solo sciences came across the platform and its potential “accidentally, but it’s become the most important part of our product”, said Flannery to Green Market Report

The solo* app couldn’t be easier to use for the consumer, and it not only empowers the consumer with information about the legitimacy of their product but also invites the consumer to provide feedback on their experience with their product. 

How solo* Works

Through building widespread awareness among the cannabis community, consumers will recognize the solo* label on cannabis products, which will invite them to scan the code into their phone via the app. Information about the possible side effects (as reviewed by a doctor), THC:CBD ratio and other product attributes, package and dosage details, and producer information with the license number will appear to confirm a product’s legitimacy. 

Following this authentication process, consumers are invited to provide feedback on their product after its use, prompted by a series of interactive questions that will ask the consumer their mood along with their level of energy, focus, and even their level of confidence. “This allows us to close the loop and provide intel to brands from the voice of the individual,” explains Shah.

Shah also explains that the emergence of solo* “puts the screws to brands to be transparent” in offering product information to this platform that will eventually make its way directly into the hands of the consumers. The platform allows for transparency upstream and downstream, something that Shah refers to as “data judo” to Green Market Report, by working with manufacturers to help ensure customer safety. “Consumers also have a level of expectation around technology when it comes to the data that’s available to them,” adds Flannery. “This helps everyone on all sides,” remarks Shah. 

Spreading Authentication Across the Industry

In addition to publicly unveiling its cannabis authentication product, solo sciences also announced today that more than 1.2M units with the solo*CODE™ will start shipping in August through its partnership with Vertical Companies, a seed-to-sale multi-state operator

“We’re proud to be a launch partner for solo*CODE™,” said J. Smoke Wallin Vertical Wellness CEO in solo science’s press release, “We demand the highest standards in terms of product safety and excellence. We want the distributors in our network to know that our brands and CBD products they’re selling in stores or online are the real things. Through the solo*CODE™, consumers can get a download of exactly what’s going into their bodies, in real-time through the mobile app. This builds trust and transparency and should be the industry standard across the industry.”

To date, solo* has partnered with 53 cannabis brands to join forces with the new cannabis authentication system. It’s expected to ship more than 9 million encoded units into the market over the next 12 to 24 months.

 

 

 


Anne-Marie FischerAnne-Marie FischerJuly 23, 2019
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8min14740

If there is someone who exemplifies a smart investor in the cannabis industry, it’s Marion Mariathasan, currently the co-founder and CEO of Simplifya, the industry’s leading regulatory compliance tool for licensees and those who audit them.

Mariathasan is a serial investor and entrepreneur if there ever was one. More attracted to ancillary cannabis services and solutions, he has personally founded or invested in about 14 different cannabis companies, including Ceylon Solutions, providing high-quality development solutions for the cannabis industry. He is also the largest shareholder of Leafwire, a platform for companies and investors to create funding relationships, and continues to be on the Boards of several organizations.

Green Market Report caught up with Mariathasan to hear about his path to where he is now in the cannabis space. 

Name: Marion Mariathasan

Title: Co-Founder/CEO 

Company: Simplifya

Years at current company: “I wish I could take credit for this concept,” says Mariathasan, explaining that the renowned cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP is to be attributed to the idea surrounding compliance software. Mariathasan came on board in October 2016 as the company’s first investor, making his commitment in February 2106 in advance of the launch. 

Education profile: Mariathasan is certainly well-equipped to take on a role in the tech side of cannabis. A graduate from the University of Kansas and Emporia State University, studying Architecture, Computer Science, and Computer Information Systems, his career emerged at the forefront of technology. He began his work as a computer programmer for a leading medical software company and has since held positions in some of the world’s leading tech companies. 

Most successful professional accomplishment before cannabis: It’s difficult for Mariathasan to isolate just one successful professional accomplishment before making his foray into cannabis. Mariathasan is responsible for staring a handful of tech companies, so he sees his success as more cumulative. “What I’m most proud of is taking a concept that aims to solve a problem, and being able to build upon it, grow it, raise money, and sell it.”

Company Mission: Simplifya gives businesses the power to delegate, review, and proactively manage compliance tasks across all facilities and license types. With easy-to-use tools for scheduling, audit management, and tracking issues, Simplifya gives license holders a 360-degree view of their compliance. According to Mariathasan, their mission extends “to enable the cannabis industry and the movement to continue forward by helping license holders preserve their license. License is the most valuable asset that they have. If they’re not compliant from a regulatory and operational perspective, can get hundreds of dollar fines or lose their license.” 

Company’s most successful achievement: Through working with its partners and cannabis license holders, Simplifya has learned and understood the pain points of the license holder and create technology around it. To make this possible, Simplifya has created relationships all around the industry that puts compliance at the forefront and have the industry value it. “It takes a village”, says Mariathasan, “The investors coupled with the team has been our best achievement thus far, but as we bring on multi-license operators, mom and pop shops, government stores, is what makes this feel like we know we’re at the right place.” 

Has the company raised any capital? In December of last year, it was announced that Simplifya had raised $3 million in Series C funding from the private equity fund Merida Capital Partners. It was announced then that they would pursue additional funding, and this sure occurred to the tune of $7.3 million raised through a Founder’s round, and the series of funding rounds, including the last Series C round completed by Merida Capital. “The investors are second to none in this industry,” Mariathasan remarks. 

Any plans on raising capital in the future?: Simplifya plans to hold another raise of capital towards the end of this year to help with the company’s expansion. “We’re in 17 states right now,” explains Mariathasan, “Now we have opportunities to go into more states and international. Our initial focus was marijuana dispensaries, and now we’re bringing what Simplifya has to offer to governments, banks, and insurance companies.”

Most important company 5-year goal: “We exist to make cannabis easier to operate in,” says Mariathasan, “We serve medical marijuana dispensaries, and we’re helping governments, banks, and insurance companies with mitigating the risks that come with legal cannabis while streamlining projects.” 

Thus, Simplifya will continue to make relationships with companies within and external to the cannabis industry. “Government didn’t have the expertise to enforce the regulations they created,” says Mariathasan, “Now it’s easier to stay on top of the cumbersome regulations, as we can now help manage cannabis compliance from a government perspective.” 

What does Mariathasan attribute to the success of Simplifya? “A lot comes down to the team and their experience with cannabis. If they can put a strategic plan together, and execute it, while building a personal connection then we are successful together.”

 


Anne-Marie FischerAnne-Marie FischerJuly 12, 2019
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5min20460

According to a recent Headset market report, “Understanding the CBD market in state-legal cannabis”, CBD could potentially take up the majority of sales among non-inhalable products in legal cannabis states. If current trends continue, CBD products could even potentially become the majority of sales among the cannabis industry at large.

The data giant revealed insights into the shift in popularity and sales for CBD products, noting the passage of the U.S. Farm Bill as an important catalyst for allowing more people to access cannabis products. The report is quick to note that despite going into the mainstream, hemp-derived CBD products (now purchased at places like CVS Health Corporation (NYSE: CVS) and Walgreens) and cannabis-derived CBD products (traditionally purchased at dispensaries) are to be considered two different things.

Here are some important highlights of the Headset market report that Green Market Report finds of interest:

Google Searches for CBD

The Headset report reaches back to 2015, citing data from Google searches for CBD. At the start of that year, Google searches for CBD were nil. Google searches for CBD were at an all-time spike in May of 2019, representing a 100% increase of when CBD first hit the Google searches later in 2015.

A Non-Smoking Experience

While the cannabis industry is characterized by smoking and inhaling cannabis products like traditional cannabis buds or flower and concentrates, the CBD trends are showing that one-third of CBD sales are going to non-inhalable products. Customers are demonstrating a preference for edibles, topicals, tinctures, and sublinguals. Headset suggests that “the CBD market is expanding on top of the existing market for high-THC, psychoactive inhalable products, rather than inside it.”

The report also states that there is a “new and distinct customer base” that is more health-conscious, preferring to stay away from pre-roll and vapor pen products. 

CBD Product Categories

Within the non-inhalable CBD products category, Headset compiled data from Washington and Colorado and saw that there are 5 emerging product categories: Beverages, Capsules, Edibles, Topicals, and Tinctures & Sublinguals. 

CBD products have experienced a surge in growth in the past 12 months in comparison to tradition, THC-based products. 

CBD Edibles have always had the highest market share and retains this position, with customers gravitating to high CBD products. CBD Edibles experienced a 43.9% growth this year, compared to 24.8% growth for non-CBD edible products. Almost 50% of dollars spent on all edibles in 2019 were spent on CBD Gummies. Within the edible product category, honey, sugar, and sweeteners, CBD products made up almost 1/3 of the proportion of overall sales. 

Capsules are not showing much growth in the overall product categories. Headset speculates that this is because capsules are “usually associated with medical conditions” and that CBD is used as therapy rather than a full-on medication.

Tinctures and Topicals & Sublinguals are the dark horse of the CBD market, once having just a tiny sliver, and now taking a giant slice, growing nearly 60% in sales in the past 12 months in comparison to high-THC infused products’ 10% increase.

Headset suggests that “if your company is producing Gummies, but not CBD Gummies, you may want to adjust course”.

Opening Wallets for CBD

Average item price (AIP) and the number of products people are adding to their basket in the CBD category (basket penetration) are rising concurrently.

Since 2015, CBD went from only 3% of baskets to 7% in 2019. Average item price also is rising with the interest in CBD, indicating that “consumers aren’t only more interested in CBD, but also more willing to spend money on it”. 

 



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