Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

The Cannabis Crowd

The ‘Cartel’

The first five companies that received medical marijuana licenses got a considerable head start. Combined, as of Sept. 1, the five accounted for 116 of the state’s 157 medical marijuana stores, 84% of the smokable marijuana sold and the same percentage of the psycho-active marijuana sold in other forms.

If being first with the most is the key, Trulieve is in enviable shape. It was an original licensee and the first to open. The Tallahassee company, publicly held in Canada, posted $58 million in revenue in its second quarter. It has 192,000 customers in a market of only 237,000 as of July. Trulieve’s smokable pot made up almost half of all smokable product sales in Florida in August. Its total cultivation capacity is 1.6 million square feet in Florida. Its CEO is Kim Rivers, an M&A and securities lawyer with a bachelor’s in business and political science from Florida State University and a law degree from the University of Florida. It has 31 stores here and plans 44 by year-end.

The chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based Surterra Wellness is William “Beau” Wrigley Jr., scion of the chewing gum and candy family. Its CFO is from Kellogg, and its executive director from Patron Spirits. Active in four states, it claims the largest greenhouse operation on the East Coast. An original license holder, it raised $100 million recently. It also operates in Texas, Nevada and Massachusetts. Wrigley’s investment arm, Wychwood Asset Management, is based in West Palm Beach. Surterra has 29 stores in Florida.

Publicly traded in Canada but based in Miami, Cansortium operates in Florida under the name Fluent and got its license here as Knox Medical. The company was founded by CEO Jose Hidalgo, a London-born, Venezuelan-raised mortgage banking executive. Cansortium recently expanded its Tampa grow facility, once an indoor vertical lettuce farm, to double its crop and support at least 40 stores by 2020. It also grows in Winter Garden. It operates in Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and Texas, has licenses in Colombia and Canada and plans to enter Michigan. It projects $82 million in revenue this year. Fluent is the smallest player among the original five, with only 14 stores here.

Liberty Health Sciences
Publicly held and based in Toronto, Liberty says its Florida greenhouse can crank out 700 pounds of marijuana a week. It employs more than 200 people in Florida and has 190,000 square feet of cultivation space in Gainesville. The average customer buy is $120. It sold its original grow facility, Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, in Alachua in August. It’s also in Ohio and Massachusetts. It has 16 stores in Florida.

Massachusetts-based Curaleaf is one of the biggest players in the industry, operating in 12 states. And it’s about to get much bigger. Publicly held, Curaleaf is acquiring one of the largest privately held marijuana companies, Grassroots, for $875 million. The combination, the two say, will make the world’s largest marijuana company by revenue with operations in 19 states and 2.1 million square feet of cultivation space. Before going into marijuana, Curaleaf CEO Joseph Lusardi, a Boston College MBA, worked in financial services at Liberty Mutual and Fidelity. Curaleaf has 26 stores here.

The ‘One Pointers’

Marijuana market entrants who didn’t win a license in the state’s first round — sometimes losing out by a single point in the state’s scoring system — took to court and hired lobbyists to argue for expanding Florida’s market. Whether they missed by a point or more, they became known as the “one pointers.” In 2017, some were awarded licenses and are speeding to build their footprints to compete with the original five.

AltMed Enterprises
Sarasota-based AltMed actually sold its first marijuana in Arizona in 2016. Known for its MÜV brand, AltMed is now in Florida and has licensing deals in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and Canada and is working to expand to Europe. In Florida, the privately held company works with Plants of Ruskin, a company owned by the Dickman family, who endowed an agriculture chair at the University of Florida. Despite not being in the original group of licenses, it moved recently to fourth in the state in medical marijuana and smokable medical marijuana sales volume. It has seven stores in Florida.

The Culver City, Calif., company has 7% of the California market. It’s in several states with 37 stores. With a grow facility in Eustis, it sold its first smokable marijuana in July at its West Palm Beach store. The publicly traded company expects to have 12 stores this year in Florida but as of Sept. 1 had but one. Annual revenue reached $130 million across its system for its year ended June 29.

Owned by publicly held iAnthus Capital Holdings based in New York and Toronto, GrowHealthy says that since opening its first Florida store just in December, it’s grown to 3% of the state market by THC volume and ranks third by THC volume sales per store. It recently ranked in the top five in Florida’s smokable market. It had eight stores as of Sept. 1 — with plans for more — and 120,000 square feet of growing space in Lake Wales.

Harvest Health & Recreation
Founded in Arizona and publicly traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange, Tempe-based Harvest Health got into Florida with its $65.7-million acquisition of license holder San Felasco Nurseries in Gainesville. Harvest’s gross profit margin in the second quarter was 64%. Spokesman Alex Howe says it employs 113 in Florida. Retail front-line employees average $14.49 per hour. In Florida, it has six stores.

Green Thumb Industries
Chicago-based Green Thumb, which operates under the Rise store brand in Florida — “Rise Florida: 31 Locations Coming Soon!” — is a multi-state operator in 12 U.S. markets. It employs 1,200 across the company. University of Chicago MBA Ben Kovler founded and leads the publicly traded company. It has five stores in Florida and says it will open 30 more.

The sale of Jacksonville-based VidaCann for $120 million to publicly held Cresco is pending. VidaCann has 175,000 square feet of cultivation space. It has 12 stores in Florida but projects 20 by year-end. Among its selling points is having the Florida brand rights to the formulations for the Charlotte’s Web medical marijuana products, developed by Stanley Bros., a prominent name in the field, and the brand rights to Tikum Olam, an Israeli-developed product. VidaCann employs 170 in Florida.

Columbia Care Florida
The publicly held company grows in Arcadia. CEO Nicholas Vita and chair Michael Abbott both have finance backgrounds. It operates in 14 jurisdictions nationally, including Puerto Rico, and has two stores in Florida.

Acreage Holdings
Led by an investment banker who started with a Maine marijuana license, the Canadian Securities Exchange company wasn’t selling in Florida as of Sept. 1. It plans a 100,000-sq.-ft. greenhouse in Sanderson in Baker County west of Jacksonville.

In April, as Florida further opened its market, eight applicants tied to nurseries received licenses from the state Department of Health to grow, process and sell marijuana. None was up and running as of Sept. 1. Industry observers expect most to sell their licenses. That’s what Spring Oaks Greenhouses did, selling its license to publicly held Canadian company Green Growth Brands for $54 million. Meanwhile, the license awarded to applicant Hart’s Plant Nursery in Jacksonville is held by Illinois-based Revolution Enterprises.

Efforts to interview other successful licensees about their plans were unsuccessful. Representatives of some said they couldn’t speak because they were under non-disclosure agreements involving the sale of their license.

The rest of the new eight are

- DeLeon’s Bromeliads in Miami- Dade and Mount Dora

- Dewar Nurseries in Apopka, Loxahatchee and Mount Dora

- Bill’s Nursery, doing business as Almond Tree Nursery, Homestead

- Redland Nursery, Homestead

- Tree King-Tree Farm, Quincy

- Perkins Nursery, LaBelle


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