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StaffJune 8, 2022
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The Daily Hit is a recap of the top cannabis business stories for June 8, 2022.

ON THE SITE

Surging May Sales not Enough for Scotts

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company (NYSE: SMG) said consumer purchases of its core lawn and garden brands surged in May with unit volume now trending towards the company’s original assumptions for the season. However, a variety of factors are causing Scotts to lower its outlook for both sales and adjusted earnings for fiscal 2022. the stock was sliding over 13% in early trading to $88.50. The 52-week high for the stock was $204. Read more here.

Icanic Brands Restructures Debt

Icanic Brands Company, Inc. (OTCQB: ICNAF)  has entered into a Restructuring Support Agreement with certain holders of its 2019 Secured Convertible Debentures for a proposed recapitalization transaction and to announce financing of approximately $2.0 million arranged by insiders of the company. The move will decrease the Icanic’s debt from $14.5 million to $10.9 million and save $110,000 in interest annually. Read more here.

Hardcar Crashes

California-based distribution company Hardcar crashed hard as the company was facing a big tax bill and no willing investors. In its death spiral, the company also laid off employees without wages that were owed to them. Yet, the “out of business” company was apparently still making cash drops and deliveries until a co-founder stepped back in to shut the operation down for good. Read more here.

How to Start Your Own Psychedelics Company

You’ve read the predictions, you’ve heard the buzz—psychedelics are about to change the world of mental health treatment. They promise no more mental health pharmaceuticals that numb out the brain, or that help mask the side effects. No more taking chemicals for the rest of your life that are not body-friendly, with the caveat that psychedelics can also cause brief, uncomfortable events during treatment on their way to profound, life-changing results. Read more here.

IN OTHER NEWS

Star Buds Cannabis Co., DoorDash Canada

Star Buds Cannabis Co., a Canadian cannabis retailer, operating under CordovaCann Corp. (CSE:CDVA) (OTCQB:LVRLF) in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia, has entered into a partnership with DoorDash Technologies Canada to launch cannabis pickup on the DoorDash Marketplace app. The initial launch will be across Star Buds locations in Barrie and Innisfil, Ontario, bringing the accessibility and convenience of online ordering and pickup of cannabis products to consumers outside of metropolitan areas. Read more here.

Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc.

Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ: NEPT) (TSX: NEPT), a diversified and fully integrated health and wellness company focused on plant-based, sustainable and purpose-driven lifestyle brands, today announced the launch of a new consumer packaged goods (CPG) focused strategic plan to reduce costs, improve the company’s path to profitability and enhance current shareholder value. Read more here.

Impact Naturals Group, Rowe Capital Group

Impact Naturals Group, a health technology company, announced a capital raise and partnership with Rowe Capital Group. Impact Naturals’ growth-focused capital raise will enable the company to accelerate planned research and development of its CHYLOSOMA™ technology, which has unlocked greater bioavailability of lipid-soluble ingredients including cannabinoids, dietary supplements, and prescription therapies making them better absorbed and better distributed throughout the body. Read more here.


Debra BorchardtJune 2, 2022
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The back story of the cannabis concept stock Bright Green (NASDAQ: BGXX) involves a burned-down building, a years-long battle with the state of New Mexico, a bankruptcy case, and an angry former CEO who is accusing the company of fraud. Bright Green recently began trading on the NASDAQ (NDAQ) as a direct listing, not as an Initial Public Offering (IPO). The stock shot up almost immediately to $58 and has since sold off and was lately selling at $3.54.

Direct Listing vs. IPO

 In an IPO situation, founders, employees, and other early-stage investors are typically restricted from selling their stock right away. According to the NASDAQ website, “Companies choosing a direct listing typically have had no immediate need for additional capital, have a large and diverse shareholder base and are a well-known brand with an easy-to-understand business model. Recent examples of direct listings include Coinbase (COIN) and Spotify (SPOT).” 

No additional shares are offered to the public, which reduces scrutiny. The public can only buy the shares that are sold by the insiders. Requirements from NASDAQ about direct listings state that in the NASDAQ Capital Market guidelines, “The listing company must have a recent valuation from an independent third party indicating in excess of $10 million to $30 million in the aggregate market value of publicly held shares, depending on the financial standard met. (Rule 5505).” In addition to the valuations, companies also have pre-tax income requirements – which Bright Green doesn’t meet. In fact, the company only has net losses. This valuation figure is a key element in the complaint from the former CEO John Fikany. 

Lucky for Bright Green it clearly states in its S-1,  “Because of our novel listing process on the Nasdaq Capital Market, Nasdaq’s rules for ensuring compliance with its initial listing standards, such as those requiring a valuation or other compelling evidence of value, are untested. In the absence of a prior active public trading market for our common stock, if the price of our common stock or our market capitalization falls below those required by Nasdaq’s eligibility standards, we may not be able to satisfy the ongoing listing criteria and may be required to delist.” So, the company discloses right up front that it may not be able to even stay listed on NASDAQ. 

There are currently several companies that have been approved by the DEA to sell cannabis to the Federal Government for research purposes, so the concept cannabis company actually does have existing companies for comparison in order to determine a true valuation. Granted they aren’t trading publicly, but they aren’t untested with regard to valuations. However, it doesn’t matter because Bright Green already says if it can’t meet those requirements then it will just delist. That’s of course after insiders sell their shares. 

Bankruptcy Disclosure

Another thing that is unique about companies going public is that the SEC requires a bankruptcy to be disclosed to potential shareholders. The idea is that investors should have adequate information in order to make a wise investment decision. In the case of Bright Green, the company states that no director or executive officer has filed for bankruptcy. In 2017, John Stockwell was listed as the CEO of Bright Green according to this Albuquerque story which stated the greenhouse would open in 2017. He is no longer listed as having a role in the company. However, his wife Lynn Stockwell is a Director of Bright Green and John Stockwell did file for bankruptcy in the state of New Mexico in 2015. 

Stockwell is a Canadian citizen and his next-door neighbor in Canada was Jerry Capussi who is suing for shares of Bright Green. According to the bankruptcy documents, in about 2003 Stockwell purchased the assets of Agstar of New Mexico, Inc., including greenhouses in Grants and Estancia, New Mexico. These properties became the Sunnyland Farms. 

Sunnyland Farms Burns Down

The documents state that Stockwell approached Capussi and asked for assistance in starting a greenhouse business in New Mexico. Although Capussi never signed any contracts with Stockwell, he met with state officials, helped put together business plans, talked to potential vendors, traveled to New Mexico, provided meeting facilities, and the like. That business was called Sunnyland Farms based in Grants, New Mexico where Bright Green Cannabis is based. 

Unfortunately, one of Stockwell’s employees inadvertently started a fire at the Estancia greenhouse. Even worse, the Central New Mexico Electric Cooperative (“CNMEC”) had shut off the electricity at the greenhouse. Without electricity, they couldn’t pump water to fight the fire, and the Estancia greenhouse was destroyed. The fire apparently devastated Stockwell financially according to the bankruptcy documents.

He sued CNMEC in 2005, alleging that the utility wrongfully disconnected the electricity service and was awarded about $22 million in damages. CNMEC appealed the judgment and won giving Stockwell little more than his attorney fees. On further appeal, in 2013 the New Mexico Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision in part, increasing Stockwell’s award to about $7.4 million. CNMEC gave up and paid this judgment amount. After attorney fees were deducted, he was left with about $5.45 million in cash. Unfortunately, this was “fully encumbered by the first lien of the Stockwell’s pre-petition secured lender.” Capussi was awarded $108,000, which was a much smaller amount than the $2 million he had wanted. The Bright Green filing says that Capussi is suing for 108,000 shares of the company. At some point during these years, it seems the Sunnyland greenhouses were transferred to Lynn Stockwell who then transferred the property to Bright Green. 

Former CEO Claims Fraud

In addition to the Capussi lawsuit, Bright Green’s former CEO John Fikany is also suing the company. Michigan-based Fikany is an accomplished executive who was once Vice President, North America sales strategy for Oracle, Vice President at Microsoft, and Vice President at Quicken Loans. In his lawsuit, he claims that the Stockwell’s approached him to be CEO. Even though he said he had other offers on the table, the Stockwells said they could pay more. He began working for the company on May 1, 2018, as CEO with a salary of $1 million and was to receive $500,000 on the first day of employment. He was also to get 2.5 million shares. Fikany also says in the lawsuit that his employment wasn’t contingent on any specific measures of success. After six months of work, Fikany had yet to be paid.

Acoma Pueblo Gov. Kurt Riley, surrounded by members of Tribal Council and Acoma Business Enterprises, signing a business agreement with Bright Green Group on Dec. 16, 2017. Photo published by Albuquerque Business First

While he was employed, Fikany was working on a deal for Bright Green to develop a cultivation facility on Indian land with the Acoma Pueblo tribe. The deal had been in the works prior to Fikany coming on board but hadn’t actually closed. According to the court document Fikany claims that Stockwell almost torpedoed the deal, but he was able to save it. The only thing keeping the deal from being consummated was that Bright Green needed to deposit some escrow money. Ultimately, Stockwell refused to send the escrow money to the Acoma Pueblo and that deal fell through. The Acoma Pueblo sent documentation to formally withdraw from the deal. 

While Fikany was working to secure the deal with the Acoma Pueblo he was also working with Stockwell to prepare the company to go public. One issue that arose during the process was the valuation of Bright Green. Stockwell was responsible for hiring the advisors to determine the number, but Fikany said the valuation was “misleading and aggressive”. At this point, the company actually paid Fikany his one and only paycheck of $19,230.77. He also supposedly received another 2.5 million shares. Undeterred, Fikany continued to push back.

Fikany says he was concerned about the false and misleading nature of Stockwell’s valuation report asking, “How is it possible that we continue to radically increase our valuation from $1.5 billion to 2.5 to 4.0 to 6.5?” According to the complaint, Fikany became worried his name would be attached to the company’s valuation statement, which he believed was false and inaccurate. In July 2019, the company issued a letter to investors with the alleged inflated valuation over Fikany’s opposition. He expressed his fear that his reputation would be at risk for knowingly telling investors that Bright Green had a valuation that was incorrect. He was then terminated.

Bright Green Is A Sham

Fikany says in his lawsuit that Bright Green was “a sham, operated illegally and fraudulently.” He alleges that the Stockwell’s “engaged in acts of fraudulent misrepresentation and attempted to force Fikany to aid and abet them in making fraudulent misrepresentations to investors concerning the valuation and progress of Bright Green Corporation.” He is suing for $1.7 million in unpaid wages. 

The Stockwell’s deny the allegations about the misrepresentation of the valuation of Bright Green, but they do admit that the deal with the Acoma Pueblo did fall through. Bright Green in its statement suggests that Fikany was hired to complete the Acoma Pueblo deal, which ultimately never closed. Thus, he didn’t meet the conditions of his employment and was terminated. 

New CEO

Bright Green’s current CEO is Edward Robinson. He took over the role in 2019, although his LinkedIn profile only states he is a special advisor, he is on the company website as the CEO. Robinson was the Chief Executive Officer of BMW Financial Services for the America’s Region from April 2005 to December 2016. He gets an annual base salary of $540,000 paid in monthly installments. The employment contract reads, “Robinson shall receive monthly payments in the amount of $6,750 with an aggregate of $344,250 in deferred compensation due and payable on or before December 15, 2022.” Robinson got 5.6 million shares, while his wife Elaine Robinson received 605,000 shares. 

John Stockwell’s Connection

Left to right: Dean Valore, Ed Robinson, Terry Rafih, Lynn Stockwell, John Stockwell, Robert Arnone.

John Stockwell supposedly has no official role in Bright Green, but he was featured in a photo (above) of a groundbreaking ceremony in New Mexico in October 2021. Typically in groundbreaking ceremonies, only top executives or board members take the stage. Stockwell’s wife Lynn Stockwell is a Director of the company and owns 44% of the voting shares or 69 million shares.  In 2020, she lent the company $392,194 and has no fixed repayment term. She was at the groundbreaking ceremony for the $300 million planned research complex, even though the company has nowhere near that amount of money. This is also the second groundbreaking ceremony. 

At the time Lynn Stockwell said, “With the cooperative spirit of federal, state and business we found in New Mexico, we will see New Mexico and Bright Green Corp. become leaders in this emerging field of medical research.

The facility in Grants, New Mexico is supposed to be “A two-acre Fast Start University Greenhouse to begin housing our cannabis research, development, cultivation, and manufacturing operations.”  Bright Green also stated in its filing that its existing 22-acre Venlo greenhouse is currently under renovation to be operational in May 2022 and provide the initial supply of marijuana and marijuana extracts. The company has also said that it will be able to harvest its first crop of cannabis in two months, however, any cannabis cultivator will say that it takes at least 3-8 months for a cannabis plant. Bright Green could purchase more mature plants to speed up the process, but then the DEA would actually be buying someone else’s plants. 

In Closing

Most companies clean up lawsuits before going public so that investors won’t see the dirty laundry. In this case, Bright Green plowed ahead. The company played up its connection to the DEA suggesting that the Memorandum of Agreement was a done deal, even though the company doesn’t have a formal contract with the DEA. The DEA also would not confirm it had a contract with Bright Green and wouldn’t comment on the MOA. The NASDAQ seems to be playing along even though it also doesn’t seem to have vetted the company’s valuation claims. Other financial media also jumped in and never looked beyond the company’s press release and helped tout the idea of a cannabis company trading on the NASDAQ. That boosted the share price in the early days further enriching the sellers. Looking at the track record of Sunnyland and then Bright Green, it will remain a stock to keep under the microscope. 


Debra BorchardtMay 18, 2022
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Bright Green (NASDAQ: BGXX) is a cannabis company with no revenue that just began trading on the NASDAQ, despite the exchange’s insistence that it won’t list U.S. cannabis companies due to the product being federally illegal. Bright Green plans to produce cannabis for research purposes with the Drug Enforcement Agency‘s (DEA) blessing, which seems to be the reason why the NASDAQ has allowed the company to trade. It would be considered federally legal cannabis. The stock is trading at $26.

Bright Green states in its prospectus, “In May 2021, we entered into the MOA with the DEA, which outlines the terms of the DEA’s conditional approval of Bright Green to proceed through the DEA’s registration process, as described above. The MOA with the DEA is effective for a one-year term, renewable for up to four additional one-year terms. These terms are agreed to by both the DEA and BGC, and the MOA is filed under DEA Document Control Number W20078135E. There is no guarantee that we will obtain the necessary authorization now, or in the future for renewal purposes.” Previously, only the University of Mississippi held such authorization.

Green Market Report has asked the DEA to confirm this agreement but has not received a response as of yet.

The company only has two employees a Chief Executive Officer and a Chief Financial Officer. No one on the board has any cannabis experience whatsoever and mostly comes from the automotive industry. Plus, the company is already involved in two lawsuits one of which is involving the company’s former CEO John Fikany. Terry Rafih is the Chairman of the Board and Edward Robinson is BGC’s Chief Executive Officer and Director. Robinson was the Chief Executive Officer of BMW Financial Services for the America’s Region from April 2005 to December 2016. Douglas Bates resigned as Chief Financial Officer in March 2022. Saleem Elmasri was appointed as his replacement in March 2022.

DEA Is the Customer

“We plan to sell cannabis to research institutions pursuant to our conditional approval from the DEA. Sales of THC cannabis products will be made only via bona fide supply agreements from existing DEA registrants, and not directly to consumers. Following final approval from the DEA, Bright Green will receive a Controlled Substances Bulk Manufacturing License to cultivate and manufacture cannabis for sale to federally funded research institutions and other purposes. There is no guarantee that we will receive final approval from the DEA.”

The company has also said that it plans to sell high CBN and CBG cannabis directly to consumers if and when cannabis legalization occurs at the federal level. “We also plan to leverage our cultivation, research, and manufacturing facilities to develop and commercialize approved medical cannabis products to sell to DEA registered pharmaceutical producers. BGC plans to sell mostly extracted oils from medicinal plants grown in these high-tech facilities and processed onsite through a proprietary system that vertically integrates the genetically altered growth of the plants to conform to automated growing systems. Once the two larger greenhouses are constructed, we estimate we can process 5,000 pounds of dry plant biomass per day to produce 220 pounds of distillate, which can create 85,000,000 milligrams of cannabinoids per day.”

Negative Cash

The company must be hoping that by going public it will raise the money necessary for the lofty building ambitions. It had a negative operating cash flow of $1,656,575 in the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, and $513,337 for the year ended December 31, 2020. The company’s filing states it only has $1.2 million in cash on hand as of the end of 2021.

Greenhouses

The company said it plans to spend $76 million in 2022 on its greenhouse facilities, $161,200,000 in 2023, and another $60,000,000 in 2024 for a total of $297 million.

BGC owns a 70-acre parcel of land, on agricultural property, which includes an existing 22-acre greenhouse structure. The company also owns a 40-acre parcel of land nearby and holds options for two additional 300-acre properties which are adjacent to the owned properties (one is known as the “Candelaria” property, and the other is known as the “Azuz” property). The existing 22-acre greenhouse will be used to cultivate non-cannabis herbs and medicinal plants.

In addition to the existing greenhouse, BGC will be undergoing new construction to establish a state-of-the-art facility headquartered on our property in Grants, NM that will include two 57-acre greenhouses and a two-acre University Greenhouse (the “Fast Start University Greenhouse”) to begin housing our cannabis research, development, cultivation and manufacturing operations. This first greenhouse facility will have a production capacity for 50,000 cannabis plants at all times of differing maturity levels. Additionally, we estimate we will harvest approximately 300,000 mature plants per year (with multiple harvests per year).

The Fast Start University Greenhouse will house our research and development facility pursuant to potential partnerships and other arrangements with leading U.S. universities. The Fast Start University Greenhouse is expected to be complete by October 2022 though there may be delays due to global supply chain issues. “Our first harvest will be complete approximately two months from the date of completing construction. We will take a phased approach to the build out of Phase 1 and Phase 2 and will plant intermittently as phases of each greenhouse reach completion with estimated planting dates to be completed in tranches as follows: March 2023, September 2023, March 2024, September 2024.”

Aurora Larssen

The BGC process says it will draw on expertise from Aurora Larssen Projects, which has completed over 50 fully legal cannabis projects in jurisdictions throughout the world. However, BGC “has not entered into a formal agreement with the company.”  Aurora Larssen is owned by Aurora Cannabis (NASDAQ: ACB). BGC says it will start with tissue cultures from Nordic Supreme, which will provide proven cannabis genetics from Denmark, and then have best practices developed by Aurora Larssen.

 

Lawsuits

The company is already facing two lawsuits before even getting started. These cases are listed in the company’s filing:

Bright Green Corporation v. John Fikany, D-1333-CV-2020-00231, State of New Mexico, County of Cibola, Thirteenth Judicial District. In this matter, the Company filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against the former acting Chief Executive Officer of the Bright Green Group of Companies, an entity unrelated to the Company, to determine if defendant is entitled to 5,000,000 shares of the Company’s common stock, based on a failure to fulfill agreed-upon conditions precedent to earning such shares from the Company. Defendant counterclaimed and filed a third-party claim against Lynn Stockwell, founder and a director of the Company, and Ms. Stockwell’s husband, for claims including wrongful termination and breach of contract. The Company denies defendants allegations and have set forth arguments refuting defendant’s counterclaims and third-party claims. The case is in the discovery phase. The Company is exploring potential dispositive motions against the counter and third-party claims.

Bright Green Corporation v. Jerry Capussi, D-1333-CV-2020-00252, State of New Mexico, County of Cibola, Thirteenth Judicial District. In this matter, the Company and defendant, a former consultant of BGGI, a predecessor to the Company, have each filed claims for declaratory judgment seeking to determine by court order whether defendant is entitled to (i) shares of common stock in the Company (amounting to no more than 108,000 shares) or (ii) fair market value of defendant’s equity ownership of BGGI. The lawsuit is in early discovery stages, and we are preparing arguments for a summary judgment motion. There are no claims for specific monetary liability against either party.

List of the DEA approved Bulk Manufacturer Marihuana Growers:

Biopharmaceutical Research Company LLC

Groff NA Hemplex LLC

Irvine Labs, Inc.

National Center for Development of Natural Products

Royal Emerald Pharmaceuticals Research and Develop

Scottsdale Research Institute


StaffMarch 24, 2022
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Hempacco applied to list its common stock on the Nasdaq Capital Market, under the symbol “HPCO.” In its filing, the company said it is focused on Disrupting Tobacco by manufacturing and selling nicotine-free and tobacco-free alternatives to traditional cigarettes. The company says it is using a proprietary, patented spraying technology for terpene infusion and patent-pending flavored filter infusion technology to manufacture hemp and herb-based smokable alternatives.

Hempacco launched the production and sale of its own in-house brand of hemp-based cigarettes, The Real Stuff Smokables, in three presentations: the twenty pack, the ten pack, and the Solito single pack, all of which are sold in our patented counter displays in convenience stores through master distributors.

“We have also entered into several joint ventures to launch multiple new smokables brands: Cali Vibes D8, a joint venture focused on Delta 8 smokable products; Hemp Hop Smokables, a joint venture with rapper Rick Ross and Rap Snack’s CEO James Lindsay; a joint venture with StickIt Ltd., an Israeli corporation, to manufacture cannabinoid sticks for insertion into other cigarettes; and a joint venture to launch Cheech & Chong-branded hemp smokables.”

Hempacco Co., Inc. was acquired by Green Globe International, Inc. in May 2021 and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of it. Subsequently, it issued additional shares of common stock, and as of immediately prior to this offering, it is a majority-owned subsidiary of Green Globe International, Inc., with Green Globe International, Inc. owning approximately 93.4% of our capital stock.

The company reported $1.1 million in revenue in 2021 and $1.8 million in net losses. It said it expects to continue to incur significant expenses related to our expanding operations and to generate operating losses in the near future. “The size of our losses will depend, in part, on the rate of future expenditures and our ability to generate revenues. We incurred a net loss of $1,870,675 for the year ended December 31, 2021, and a net loss attributable to our common stockholders of $2,613,904 for the year ended December 31, 2021, and our accumulated deficit increased to $3,459,214 as of December 31, 2021.” The company leases property owned by the CEO Sandro Piancone, who is paid $300,000 a year.

In addition it has launched a brand of flavored hemp rolling papers, and also private label manufacture hemp rolling papers for third parties. It is currently manufacturing hemp rolling papers for HBI International, one of the leading smoking paper producers in the world, and recently received its largest purchase order to date for approximately $9.2 million from HBI International’s Skunk and Juicy brand to manufacture hemp rolling papers for it.


Debra BorchardtApril 28, 2021
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MindMed (NASDAQ: MNMD) shareholders have been taken on quite the trip over the last few days as the company uplisted from the Over The Counter Market to the big time at the NASDAQ. The stock jumped to over $5 a share in its last days at the OTC Markets, only to move to midtown Manhattan and see the shares plunge 29% in its debut. The stock closed at $4.02 on Tuesday. Some buyers look like they are jumping back in as early trading on Wednesday is seeing a 10% increase in price.

Last week, CEO J.R. Rahn said “The listing of our stock on the Nasdaq represents a significant milestone in our growth as a publicly-traded company. We believe this listing will increase our visibility in the marketplace, improve liquidity, broaden and diversify our shareholder base, and ultimately enhance long-term shareholder value. I would like to thank our employees, management, directors and our many collaborators for their hard work in making MindMed a member of the Nasdaq exchange, an important step that will help facilitate our mission to discover, develop and deploy psychedelic inspired medicines and therapies to address addiction and mental illness.”

MindMed is a clinical-stage psychedelic medicine biotech company that discovers, develops, and deploys psychedelic-inspired medicines and therapies to address addiction and mental illness. The company is assembling a compelling drug development pipeline of innovative treatments based on psychedelic substances including Psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, DMT and an Ibogaine derivative, 18-MC. MindMed will retain its listing on the Neo Exchange Inc. under the symbol “MMED”

NASDAQ Is Tripping

NASDAQ has always been a home to emerging biotech companies. It has now become the goal of many psychedelic-based biotech companies to call the marketplace home as well. Compass Pathways listed at the exchange in September 2020. That company listed at roughly $29 and was lately trading at $39.  Its largest shareholder is Atai Life Sciences, which owns 29% of the stock. Compass has five analysts covering the stock with an average price target of $70.

Atai Life Sciences will be joining its peers on the NASDAQ soon enough. The company is one of the earlier psychedelic medicine biggies that was founded in 2018 and is based in Berlin. To date, Atai has raised more than $362 million in private funding from a variety of investors with the most famous being Peter Thiel and his firm, Thiel Capital. Last week the company filed for a 4100 million offering and noted its plans to list on the NASDAQ using the symbol ATAI. Atai currently has no revenue and reported a net loss of $178.6 million last year. According to the company’s filing, operating costs have increased to $104.1 million. Atai said it had $97.2 million in cash at the end of last year.

 


Debra BorchardtApril 27, 2021
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Fire & Flower Holdings Corp. (OTCQX: FFLWF) announced its financial and operational results for the fiscal year and quarter ending January 30, 2021. In the fourth fiscal quarter, Fire & Flower reported total revenue of $43.2 million versus revenue of $16.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2019. It was an increase in revenue of 30.5% and an increase of 42.8% in total gross profit dollars compared to the third quarter of 2020.

The company said that it was the second consecutive quarter of positive Adjusted EBITDA of $1.5 million as compared to $1.2 million of positive Adjusted EBITDA in the third quarter of 2020 and negative Adjusted EBITDA loss of $5.26 million for the fourth quarter of 2019. The net loss for the quarter was $11.4 million a decline of 49% from last year’s net loss of $22 million.

Full Fiscal Year 2020

For the fiscal year ended January 30, 2021, Fire & Flower delivered revenue of $128.1 million including sales of $101.5 million in the Retail Platform, $20.3 million in the Distribution Platform, and sales of $6.3 million in the Digital Retail and Analytics Platform. The company achieved a positive Adjusted EBITDA of $0.02 million for the fiscal year 2020. For the 2020 fiscal year, the company recorded a net comprehensive loss of $79.0 million, or net loss per share, and on a fully diluted basis of $0.45. The net comprehensive loss incurred during the year largely due to non-operating charges including debt extinguishment and finance costs, offset by a gain on revaluation of derivative liabilities, as well as operating losses as the Company continues to invest in the expansion of its business lines including the acquisition of Friendly Stranger Holdings Corp.

“While 2020 was a challenging year due to the pandemic, it was also a transformative year for Fire & Flower as our strong fiscal 2020 financial and operational results demonstrate our ability to successfully execute on our aggressive growth strategy,” said Trevor Fencott, Chief Executive Officer of Fire & Flower. “From an operating standpoint, we continued to make significant progress as we grew from 21 stores at the beginning of 2019 to 80 stores today, which includes the recent acquisition of Friendly Stranger. Building on top of our record growth is our recently signed strategic licensing partnership and acquisition option with American Acres, which provides us with an opportunity for considerably greater expansion as it serves as an entry point into the sizable U.S. cannabis market. Financially, fiscal 2020 was a banner year of growth for the company as we increased revenues over 150% year-over-year and ended with positive Adjusted EBITDA. We also strengthened our balance sheet through the reduction of debt which provides us with greater financial flexibility to execute on our overall strategy.”

Circle K Effect

Fencott continued, “Our investment in technology and innovation has led our proprietary Hifyre digital platform to become the market-leading analytics and data-driven system, assisting our multi-banner retail stores understand consumer habits and behaviours which further positions us for growth and the challenges of competition.  Our cutting-edge retail platform is now being recognized as a key tool for growth in the cannabis retail industry. Recently, leading U.S. analytics company, BDSA, partnered with our Company to build their operations with our proprietary platform. In addition, the owners of Circle K, Alimentation Couche-Tard continued to support our strategy by bringing their ownership stake in us to 19.9% and deepening our operational relationship with initiatives like our Circle K co-located store pilot program which utilizes their existing real estate footprint or selling Fire & Flower gift cards in hundreds of Circle K stores across the country.”

Nasdaq

“With the strong momentum we have entering 2021 and our path to US market entry, we felt that now is the right time to apply to list on the Nasdaq (NDAQ), which will give us increased exposure to the global investment community while we execute on our growth plan to cement our status as the leading data-driven international cannabis retailer,” concluded Fencott.

After The Quarter

The company noted that after the quarter ended, it entered into a strategic licensing partnership and acquisition option with American Acres, which intends to operate dispensaries in CaliforniaArizona, and Nevada with the first Fire & Flower branded store expected in Palm Springs, California this year. It has more than 80 retail stores under four banners across the provinces of AlbertaSaskatchewanManitoba and Ontario, and the Yukon territory. The company completed a $15 million, low-cost, at-the-market equity distribution offering which further strengthened the company’s balance sheet and positions Fire & Flower for future growth. Announced planned $53 million debt-to-equity conversion which significantly improved the company’s balance sheet and further reduced interest costs. Circle K owner, Alimentation Couche-Tard’s debenture conversion was $23.6 million, which will bring their equity stake to 19.9%. Hifyre entered into strategic agreement with leading U.S. analytics company BDSA.


Debra BorchardtDecember 14, 2020
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This interview has been slightly edited for grammatical purposes.

Green Market Report Editor-in-Chief Debra Borchardt:  

So first, congratulations. That’s quite a feat to have pulled off this year. Certainly, SPACs have been the way to go. Most of the deals in cannabis this year have been with the public companies, not so much on the private side. So, kudos to you guys for doing that.

Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals:                         Thank you.

Green Market Report:   I had a question regarding your numbers in 2019 versus your numbers in 2020. It seemed your net income really dropped in 2019 and then it bounced back in 2020. And I was curious what you did to make that happen?

Chris Beals:                         So, we’ve gone through a cyclical approach to investment, just with building out this “business in a box” in sort of the tech platform. Keep in mind, we’ve essentially built this entire operating system in the last three years. Two things underpin that. One was that I believed in embarking on this strategy that we’ve seen increased economies of scale. So, we’d be able to launch successive pieces of software more cheaply because we’d increasingly be able to rely on parts of the sort of a software layer where the data normalization work we were doing to preceding pieces. But the other is we’d be able to lower our cost of acquisition or our cost of adoption by doing things like having self- onboarding occur and that sort of thing. One of the things that we’ve done is we go through successive waves of investment. So, we’ll invest heavily in building out the next suite of the platform and then work to make sure that we have adoption in product markets before we cycle forward. We also, periodically, we’ll have some heavier investment periods when we see the market’s open and given that the last few years from a macro view has been a bit muted in terms of the rapid expansion most people expected.

Green Market Report:   Back in 2019 you guys had some negative headlines about listing dispensaries that weren’t licensed and then you started 2020 on a mission to eradicate those unlicensed operators from Weedmaps. Is that complete?

Chris Beals:                         Not only is it complete, what we’ve done is something that frankly, I don’t think there’s any other sort of marketplace I’ve seen out there do it, which is we’ve been rolling out sort of this enhanced verification process for businesses that want to be on the site as opposed to say what you see with the Googles (NASDAQ: GOOGL) and others of the world relying on their section 230 defense and that sort of thing. In part, I think that’s a natural extension of the amount of work we do on the policy side that we build into sort of our software compliance stack. It’s all part of the same cycle, but yeah, so we have that enhanced verification with the marketplace side, but also that same sort of enhanced verification exists for businesses using the WM business.

Green Market Report:   Looking at the revenue, your revenue estimates from ’21 to ’22, you jumped from $205 million to $300 million, and then ’22 to ’23, you estimate a jump, another pretty big jump, from $300 million to $440 million. What is going to get you there? Because granted your previous increases have been pretty respectable, but they seem like they’ve been a little more consistent in the size. And then all of a sudden we have these huge jumps, but then you also say within your investor presentation that you’re not really relying on new markets. So, what’s going to be behind that big jump from ’21 to ’22? To me, it would seem like it would be reliant on these new markets, but you’ve said that you’re not really baking that in.

Chris Beals:                         So, we’ve driven over the last five years a 40% CAGR. And as you look on the go forward, that’s essentially a carry forward of that 40% CAGR. Although we have a large and very effective policy team, a lot of that allows us to build this compliance by design, and with the WM business suite, we typically sort of on the go forward look, take a fairly conservative view in terms of our estimates when markets will open, maybe aggressively conservative. Given what happened in this last election, but separately, we can’t have our go-forward projections be sort of reliant on the vagueries being exactly when a certain market opens. So, we built in the conservatism for that reason.

In terms of the “go-forward” what you see on the go forward is actually a continuation of that roughly 40% growth rate we’ve historically had. The other thing that’s worth noting is on the marketplace side, not only the largest and sort of most effective marketplace for cannabis, we also have a dominant position in terms of actual cannabis’ rivals. And so, a lot of us don’t realize this, but people who consume cannabis once a month or more are less than 10% of the population we’d estimate. When you look across the Weedmaps marketplace user base, over 90% of those users consume monthly. In fact, over 70% consume daily. And so, the thing that’s interesting is we’re actually right now by far the cheapest way for cannabis businesses to reach consumers, but we’re also the most effective once they do reach them.

We have about a 50 cent cost per click, which is a fraction of what it would cost to go out and try and aggregate demand on generalized platforms or out of the home. Separately, we’re driving an almost 15% conversion rate across our platforms and at best, you’re looking at likely a low single-digit conversion rate on the sort of any other platform, not to mention the fact that getting to these consumers is incredibly valuable. You sort of go out and sort of try and attract demand in a generalized sense. 90 to 95 cents on every dollar you spend are effectively wasted because you’re not actually hitting a cannabis consumer.

Separately, on the WM business suite, we offer this entire operating system for retailers for $500 a month. It offers a huge amount of benefits from a compliance and operational efficiency you’d bring because those pieces link together, but separately, if a business were to go out and buy those pieces individually, it would cost several times that. And so, as we look at the go forward, obviously, I think there’s the ability to sort of think about monetization more on the business in a box, that SAS suite, but separately, over 40% of our headcount is engineering, product, and design. We have a zesty roadmap of new products, new features that we expect to bring on and be able to monetize. So, I would say that if you look at that go forward growth if you’re just looking at the steady-state of where the markets are right now, I guess the easiest way to analogize it is there’s a lot of room for growth within existing markets, just on that base level.

Green Market Report:   NASDAQ recently announced its desire to have the companies that list on their marketplace to have diversity in the board and looking at Silver Spike and Weedmaps, it’s just a bunch of white men. Are there any plans for the board to have any females?

Chris Beals:                         Absolutely. Diversity is really a core part of Weedmaps and what we strive to do. Look, I think it’s always an area that companies can improve in and I would say we’re no exception. It’s something that we’ve actually made a focus internally. Separately, in terms of board composition, we absolutely care about having a diverse board. And that was something we would do regardless of the changes or whenever the NASDAQ comes out.

Green Market Report:   Well, that could have maybe happened before. Any acquisition plans?

Chris Beals:                         Keep in mind, just one note on that actually, it’s a closely held LLC. Part of this transition will be forming a new board.

Green Market Report:   Got it.

Chris Beals:                         And that’s part of the merger process.

Green Market Report:   Are there acquisitions planned? It looked like most of the proceeds were planned for just like more tech and an expansion of the tech that’s existing. I didn’t really see that there were any plans for acquisition, so I was just curious if that was part of the mix?

Chris Beals:                         Yeah. We always want to ensure that we have dry powder for acquisitions. I think we are a company that’s looking sort of out further, but I would say one thing that sometimes weighs against that is sort of the continued efficiencies we’ve been able to drive on sort of our internal development efforts and separately as a company ethos, we’re very sort of ROI focused on our investments, whether that be internal initiatives or potential M and A. But that’s something we keep track of, but nothing sort of specific planned.

Green Market Report:   Along the line of the board member question, what Weedmaps has done with regards to any kind of social equity or social justice types of movement. Is that something that you guys are engaging in?

Chris Beals:                         Actually, it’s a pretty core mission. Weedmaps’ mission is to power a diverse and inclusive cannabis industry. We actually launched something called the WM Teal (Together for Equity Access and Legislation) and that was basically a social equity support program that we launched late last year, which was basically intended to give free software, support, consulting services and to help these businesses participate. Separately through our policy team, we actually wrote a lot of the initial draft language on social equity programs and have been big advocates for actually having social equity programs within jurisdictions that are opening up. We’ve worked closely, for instance, with the NAACP and other groups in New Jersey in advocating for that.

I think, yeah, there is a lot we’re doing in this space. I think part of it is the support of folks who get licenses and unfortunately, a lot of these social equity programs have been too slow to roll out, but the other part is advocating. And this is something we’ve been doing for some time and writing white papers and this mock language on, sort of a model legislative language on, which is trying to get more jurisdictions to implement social equity programs or to actually have that opportunity as well as encouraging jurisdictions to realize that starting up a cannabis business is incredibly expensive between the fees, the licensing, but then the sort of sheer rigor of these compliance regulations where we’re really regulating cannabis like it’s a radioactive substance. And so, encouraging state and local governments to think about things like grants or sort of loan forgiveness programs or things like that because you can have the programs, we can give the software, we can give all these enablement tools, but ultimately, raw capital is, unfortunately, sometimes feels like a must in this industry just because of sort of how we’re regulated for this.

Green Market Report:   So, looking at your revenue numbers, they were pretty solid. You consistently, as you noted, grew your revenues. Why go public? Because going public is certainly not, as I’m sure you’re finding out, the end all and be all. You got special accountants, you’ve got to have so many things that you’re doing with regards to the compliance and then, of course, reporting every quarter to your shareholders. Why go that route? Why not just stay private?

Chris Beals:                         We have a pretty seasoned executive team and we have folks who are fairly familiar with the rigors of the process and yeah, we would not disagree with you that there’s a lot of increased work and rigor. Look, I was a former life scientist and tech transactions attorney, I’m, yes, very familiar with it. I think for us, it’s a couple of things. I think one, being the first sort of tech company at this valuation you got at NASDAQ, in and of itself I think has a frankly, sort of these positive externalities in terms of raising the profile of the company and also enabling us to do successive transactions more easily, to have a public currency that we can utilize if we’re going to go about and do M and A, but then the other part of it is, is that this was frankly, a very effective way for us to raise capital, but also bring, given the fact that we’ve essentially been a bootstrap company for our entire history, to bring bellwether investor groups in and to support the story and grow.

I know it sounds a bit cliche, but I think one of the toughest things about doing what we do, doing this very regulatorily intensive software stack, working on this marketplace, which frankly, wouldn’t have transactability without us doing a bunch of machine learning and data normalization and building the wrong product catalogs that actually underpin these listings so that when you click on an individual menu listing, there’s information that enables a consumer to transact. These are really complex things where we’re doing things like machine learning and that sort of thing. And I think by bringing these investors around the table, I think it highlights and it is a sign of recognition of, I think, just how tough what we’re doing is and sort of, I think, how future says, we’ve been in our approach.

Green Market Report:   Have you had any pushback from NASDAQ? Because I know that NASDAQ folks are not very friendly towards the cannabis companies. They’ve certainly not shown a desire to really work with them very much. And while Greenlane and Akerna and a couple more have managed to get in the door, have you felt any pressure from them with regards to any of the marketplace transactions that you would be engaged in selling cannabis?

Chris Beals:                         A couple of things to note there. We’ve had a very cordial and open dialogue because as you can imagine, they want to understand that this is a compliant company and then how we operate. I think the thing here that’s really important to note is we provide SAAS software on a licensing fee basis and then we provide the sort of broader consumer reach things. We don’t do anything that is involved in a cannabis transaction. We don’t enable payments for cannabis transactions, we don’t take Visa on cannabis transactions, anything like that. And so, I think part of what underpins, and look, we take a fairly conservative approach from a compliance view, so it’s one of the ancillary benefits of having a large compliance and policy team for building the software we build, is they also give you advice on sort of everything else.

We as a company, keep a very conservative path from a compliance view and I think that’s something that NASDAQ understood and took comfort in, but there’s a lot of intentionality there. And look, undoubtedly, there are definitely opportunities for us. In fact, I think frankly, very large opportunities exist when federal legalization or something like federal banking, like when the Safe Banking Act passes and we simply don’t or won’t, or can’t do now because of that compliance first mindset.

 


Debra BorchardtJuly 22, 2020
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4min830

Europe’s largest independent cannabis company EMMAC Life Sciences Limited will become a publicly-traded company on the NASDAQ following a merger with Andina Acquisition Corp. III (NASDAQ: ANDA). The two companies signed a non-binding letter of intent (LOI) to combine with EMMAC’s shareholders rolling over all of their equity in EMMAC into the combined public company and becoming the majority owner of the combined company

“As a fully-integrated company with strength across the value chain, we are proud of what EMMAC has already accomplished in maximizing value from upstream and downstream assets, while controlling quality, supply, distribution and marketing in each region,” said Lorne Abony, Executive Chairman of EMMAC, and Antonio Costanzo, CEO of EMMAC.

EMMAC is known for its scientific research along with its medical cannabis cultivation, extraction, and production. EMMAC has established pharmaceutical and medical cannabis manufacturing credibility and a direct-to-patient pharmacy license, multiple take-or-pay contracts for wholesale cannabis, and a strong portfolio of wellness brands and wellness products. EMMAC is also the first European cannabis company to sell and export products to Israel and will be launching white-label CBD products in the US.

Luke Weil, Chairman of Andina, and Julio A. Torres, CEO of Andina, said, “As the largest independent European cannabis company, we believe that EMMAC is an extremely attractive investment opportunity and would be a tremendous merger partner for Andina. Given Europe’s large population, addressable market with strong pricing, and meaningful barriers to entry, EMMAC’s vertically-integrated pan European footprint ideally position the company to realize significant opportunities in both medical cannabis and CBD wellness.”

Research Platform

EMMAC has an extensive research platform spanning genetics, technology, and medical/clinical programs with Imperial College London and other leading European research centers. EMMAC’s wealth of experience, combined with a network of supply and distribution partnerships throughout Europe, means that it is uniquely positioned to meet the rapidly growing demands of the market, led by regulatory change and the increasing demand for access to premium quality cannabis product. In total, EMMAC has approximately 130 employees, including 17 Ph.D’s.

Andina

Andina Acquisition Corp. is a blank check company that has in its portfolio of companies, LazyDays RV Center and Technoglass. Julio Torres was CEO of Andina II from 2015 to 2018 and co-CEO of Andina I from 2012 to 2013. Since the merger of Andina I with Tecnoglass, he has served as a board member of the merged entity. Since 2013, Julio has been a managing partner at Multiple Equilibria Capital, a financial advisory firm covering Latin and Central America. From 2008 to 2013, Julio was managing director of Nexus Capital Partners, a private equity firm focused on infrastructure in the Andean region.

Luke Weil was the Non-Executive Chairman and Sponsor of Andina II and CEO and founder of Andina I. Prior to this, from 2008 to 2013, he headed International Business Development for Scientific Games Corporation in Latin America where, among other responsibilities, he oversaw business acquisitions in the region.


Debra BorchardtJune 1, 2020
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4min1922

International cannabis company Clever Leaves will be listed on the NASDAQ (NASDAQ:NDAQ) as a result of its agreement with the Schultze Special Purpose Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SAMA). According to a company statement, SAMA and Clever Leaves will combine and become a publicly-traded company on NASDAQ.

Kyle Detwiler, CEO of Clever Leaves said, “The SAMA team possesses significant experience assisting companies similar to Clever Leaves and will be highly additive as we work to advance our commercialization efforts, further develop and broaden our brand portfolio, and expand our operations and distribution channels. As a result of our low-cost, pharmaceutical-grade cannabis cultivation platform and effective distribution network, Clever Leaves is favorably positioned to experience aggressive growth in the rapidly expanding global medicinal cannabis industry. Strengthening our balance sheet and listing on NASDAQ would be important achievements for our company as we are eager to accelerate the commercialization of our high-quality products and to expand our distribution into markets around the world.”

Clever Leaves has ownership in two medical cannabis distribution companies in Germany as well as a branded nutraceutical producer and distributor in the US and is currently distributing non-cannabis products.  The company’s investments are anticipated to drive sales growth in rapidly expanding cannabis markets within Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and South America. Clever Leaves also recently secured a regional supply agreement with Canopy LATAM Corporation, a wholly-owned and controlled subsidiary of Canopy Growth Corporation.

George J. Schultze, Chairman, and CEO of SAMA, said, “Clever Leaves has earned its industry-leading market position through its high-quality genetics capability and highly scalable cultivation, and extraction capacity. Moreover, the leveragability of its pre-existing distribution infrastructure, unique GMP certification, and disruptive low-cost model bring us great enthusiasm about its future prospects.”

Clever Leaves’ shareholders will own a majority of the equity in the combined public company. SAMA’s cash balances, currently in excess of $130 million, would be used primarily to fund the combined company’s near-term operating expenses, capital expenditures, working capital, and potential M&A opportunities.

The company has successfully developed low-cost, pharmaceutical-grade cannabis cultivation and extraction platform, operating under Colombian Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for cannabis production. Clever Leaves is also in the process of becoming one of the few cannabis companies in the world, and the only cannabis company in Latin America, to be granted a European Union Good Manufacturing Practice certification for extracts, subject to the successful completion of the certification process. The

Clever Leaves currently cultivates in over 1.9 million square feet of greenhouses. Clever Leaves employs a staff of approximately 500 globally and has raised approximately $120 million of capital to date, including substantial debt and equity investments from leading institutional investors with a demonstrated track record in the cannabis sector.


Debra BorchardtMay 26, 2020
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3min1422

Aphria Inc. NYSE: APHA has decided to throw in the towel on its listing at the New York Stock Exchange and is moving to NASDAQ effective Friday, June 5, 2020, after the market close. Aphria said that shareholders  can expect the common stock will begin trading as a Nasdaq-listed security at market open on Monday, June 8, 2020 and will continue to be listed under the ticker symbol “APHA.” This transition will not impact the company’s primary listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: APHA).

It is cheaper for companies to list at NASDAQ than it is to list at the NYSE. The amenities offered to companies that list at NYSE don’t apply to cannabis companies. For example, a cannabis company can list at NYSE, but is not allowed to ring the opening or closing bells. Cannabis companies are treated like second class citizens at the NYSE, but their exchange listing money seems to be considered of equal value.

“We are excited to have Nasdaq as our new exchange partner. This move is a reflection of our ongoing commitment to find cost-effective ways of operating so we can continue to deliver long-term value to shareholders,” said Irwin D. Simon, Chief Executive Officer. “Additionally, as a purpose-driven company, we believe Nasdaq will be a good fit for Aphria, particularly given our focus on, and the progress we have made, integrating ESG practices across our business.”

ESG stands for environmental, social and governance and is typically considered to be a measurement of the sustainability and societal impact of an investment in a company or business. These criteria help to better determine the future financial performance of companies (return and risk).

“With over 76% of Nasdaq-listed companies reporting on at least one ESG metric, we welcome Aphria to the Nasdaq family as they strive to integrate ESG best practices across their business and add strategic value to all of their stakeholders,” said Bob McCooey, Global Head of Capital Markets, Nasdaq.

The NASDAQ has been a bit more welcoming of cannabis companies, although only slightly. For example, the Green Market Report is often declined on-site interview requests because it is a cannabis-only news outlet despite having a long-standing relationship with the NASDAQ.


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