Leading financial and industry professionals convened at the Green Market Report’s Finance Summit on Aug. 3 in New York City to explore and debate key issues in an evolving cannabis market.
The summit served as a platform for an open dialogue on the future of the industry, with insights from a variety of experts shedding light on opportunities and challenges – sprinkled with bits of history that brought us here along the way. Here are some highlights from the day.
Jason Wild, executive chairman of TerrAscend, kicked off the event by drawing attention to Maryland’s adult-use launch and contrasting it with New York’s legalization policies.
“I think Maryland saw what happened in New York and used it as an example of what not to do,” he said.
Wild expressed hope that Pennsylvania would take note of the lessons learned when it eventually joins the other rec markets.
A major focus of the summit was the financial strain within the industry. Frank Colombo, director of data analytics for Viridian Capital Advisors, warned of potential risks for over-levered companies and expressed uncertainty regarding the bottom of the investment market.
His colleague Pablo Zuanic, former Cantor Fitzgerald cannabis analyst who now heads up his own firm, Zuanic & Associates, took a more optimistic approach, arguing that the industry is at its lowest point, but that it’s not on the upswing just yet.
“We’re kind of bouncing along the bottom here,” he said.
Colombo and Zuanic also addressed issues around uplisting and having investment firms unblock cannabis stocks, taxes, and the the impact of SAFE Banking legislation.
“I also don’t think that safe is really about credit, because I just do not see Chase, or any of the major banks pouring into providing credit for this industry,” Colombo said. “With regard to Chase, they could write a check for the market cap of the entire industry and still be below its lending limit.”
Rather, SAFE would open the doors to easier payment processing and embolden banks to custody assets.
It’s a sentiment that carried over in a panel with Sundie Seefried, CEO of Safe Harbor, Samantha Gleit of Feuerstein Kulick, and Skip Intro Advisor’s David Feldman. The trio discussed the need for transparency about business operations when seeking financial services, regardless of a company’s plant-touching status. Seefried noted that much of the money laundering activity is likely taking place via ancillary companies rather than growers and retailers.
Real estate opportunities also took center stage, as Gleit highlighted the importance of owning real property and being cash flow positive. The panel also considered the risks of handing over the keys and the nuances of evaluating leverage based on current circumstances.
A panel hosted by Pensions & Investments’ Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Ablan delved into the Cresco Labs-Columbia Care megadeal blowup and questions surrounding institutional money flowing toward cannabis capital markets. Todd Harrison from CB1 Capital Management and Green Klub’s Angelo La Roche and Elizabeth Priya Kumar shared insights on licensing, property-level cash flows, and legal considerations.
Anthony Coniglio of NewLake Capital Partners and Rob Sechrist of Pelorus Equity Group brought nuanced perspectives on geographical considerations, license value, and the importance of short-term loans in an inconsistent landscape. The focus on anti-money laundering was also emphasized.
The New York City Economic Development Corp. closed out the program, providing insights into the complex financial dynamics that shape one of the most promising state markets rife with disagreement about how to pursue paths forward.