Marijuana moves from the black market to the stock market
Terra Tech, a cannabis-focused agriculture company, announced its acquisition of the California-based Blum Oakland dispensary on Tuesday. The merger marks the first time a fully integrated company that is directly involved with the production, extraction and sale of cannabis can be publicly traded. Cannabis-related companies are mostly listed on OTC markets — and some have been added to the Nasdaq — however they are mostly ancillary businesses that don’t deal directly with the product.
Though marijuana is federally illegal, medical marijuana has been legalized in 23 states and recreational cannabis has been legalized in four states and the District of Columbia.
The dispensary — which brought in slightly less than $15 million in revenue in 2015 — has about 48,000 registered patients and sees nearly 1,000 patients a day, according to Terra Tech chief executive Derek Peterson. The acquisition of the storefront includes a “seed-to-sale” fully integrated facility where cannabis is cultivated, processed and sold to patients.
Consolidating operations can significantly decrease costs. Typically retail outlets can pay up to $2,500 per pound of cannabis from cultivators and sell it for about $5,000 per pound. Peterson estimates that on-site cultivation reduces that cost to about $600-$800 per pound, while the company’s retail price will remain at industry levels and can be as high as $7,000 per pound, depending on the strain.
Despite the convenience of integration, the facility will be one of the few in the state that is able to simultaneously cultivate and sell marijuana, Peterson says. Under California Assembly Bill 226, signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Oct. 9, 2015, a single business won’t be able to conduct all commercial cannabis activity unless they began operating before July 1, 2015. Blum has been open since November 2012.
Peterson says Terra Tech has faced similar banking issues as other marijuana-related companies; however, Peterson says the company has had little trouble filing its financial information with the SEC. “We haven’t seen an issue on that side,” he says.
The SEC declined to comment on its policy of allowing cannabis companies to be publicly traded, but as with every other company, such businesses must disclose potential risks they face in their filings.
The transparency that comes with publicly filing the dispensary’s financial information is a positive step for an industry that has existed mostly in the black market, Peterson says. “[Marijuana] is leaving the black market and getting into the most overt market there is,” he says.