For Your Consideration...

Altria Group investment in Cronos Group is a sign of big things to come in 2019

wall street

Yesterday, Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris USA,  maker of Marlboro cigarettes (AKA Big Tobacco) made a major investment into cannabis company Cronos Group, Inc. The investment was $1.8 billion (US)  dollars for a 45% of the company and an option to gobble up the remaining 55% over the next 5 years. This follows a wave of other M&A deals earlier this year including the mammoth $ 4 billion investment by Constellation Brands (AKA Big Alcohol) in Canopy Growth Inc.

So as of yesterday, two giant players in tobacco and liquor have planted their flags firmly in the cannabis industry. There is no better indicator of faith in the future growth of an industry than large investments by well-established, globally recognized brands. And these investments differ greatly from a traditional M&A deal to leverage economies of scale. This is about real disruption and the need for entrenched players to make bold moves to ensure the future livelihoods of their enterprises. They (liquor and tobacco) have shown their hands in regards to their concern and the need to stave off am explosive growth industry that is beginning to emerge as a massive force in the global economy.

This bodes extremely well for strong cannabis brands in the U.S. going forward because they currently remain insulated from the large competitors due to federal prohibition. In some respects, this is the inverse of the internet bubble in the late nineties. Instead of hordes of fly-by-night dot-com’s with zero revenue skyrocketing in value overnight and then crashing in spectacular fashion, you have cannabis companies methodically building real value while large potential acquirers can only sit and watch while mini-empires are built in large commercial markets. However, with the strong possibility of the Farm Bill passing and the potential signing of the States rights bill by President Trump, the table may become set for the largest M&A feeding frenzy in history. In other words, buckle up for a wild ride in 2019!

At my firm Electrum Partners, we have coined this large scale, once in a lifetime merger and acquisition phenomenon, The Big Roll Up.


By Leslie Bocskor

About the Author

Leslie Bocskor is the Executive Chairman of Electrum Partners, a venture development company in the legal cannabis industry. Please direct inquiries to the Contact form on our website.


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Barry Grissom SVP of Global Policy for Electrum Partners interview with FOX4 News in Kansas City

Barry Grissom, former U.S. Attorney and Senior Vice President of Global Policy at Electrum Partners was recently interviewed by Mark Alford at FOX4 News in Kansas City (Facebook video).

In this Facebook video, Mr. Grissom speaks about his role in the position of US Attorney for Kansas spanning 6 years under the Obama Administration. During the interview he discusses an interesting criminal case and emphasizes that the investigation was a successful team effort.

Mr. Grissom also states in the interview that he believes our laws should reflect public policy that is good for us as a community and country. He points out that listing cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug no longer reflects the current view of the majority of Americans and cites a recent Gallup poll that 61% [66%] of Americans now favor medical cannabis being legalized.

He reiterates that he is pro-law enforcement, stating that the limited money we spend is much better suited to be pursuing more serious crimes than wasting police officer time for minor trafficking of cannabis.

Mr. Grissom also discusses visiting a dispensary for the first time in Aspen, Colorado, and finding it to be clean and professional. In regards to the successful launch of recreational cannabis, he mentions that $1.5 billion didn’t go to criminals in Colorado and instead went to tax paying businesses and employees/staff.

Mr. Grissom later mentions the Cole Memo and how the framework was structured to be similar to the way alcohol is regulated. He finishes the interview by discussing the importance of making decisions based on real-world data. If people take a deep breath and approach cannabis from a data driven standpoint, they will see the benefits of making changes to local public policy.

The Impact of Legalized Cannabis in the U.S. – Part 1 of 2

There are now 33 States in the US with some form of medical marijuana program and 10 States that have legalized cannabis for adult use, and the question on everyone’s mind is “what will the impact of legalized Cannabis be on the US once prohibition ends?” This article will examine the potential impact on the US from several different perspectives.

American flag graphic in the shape of a marijuana leaf

  • Government: State and Federal Tax revenue
    Looking at a few States, Colorado reported a billion dollars in sales in 2018, adding $200 million to state coffers in tax revenue. Nevada collected almost $70 million in tax revenues in its first year of adult use sales and exceeded projections. Other states that are considering adult use legalization are releasing estimates. A 2018 report by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) and the project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne projected that an estimated $1.6 billion would be sold in the state of Illinois with approximately $525 million generated in new tax revenues (pdf file) based on a 26.25 percent excise tax on retail cannabis in addition to the 6.25 percent general tax. In addition, over 23,600 jobs would be created and more than 2,600 new businesses would be formed. This would be a significant boost to the Illinois economy and represents a microcosm of the overall impact legalization would have on tax revenue, jobs and new business creation on a national level. On the federal level, a 2017 report by New Frontier Data estimated that legalizing cannabis at the federal level would lead to $131.8 billion in aggregate tax revenue being collected between 2017 and 2025. The number was based on a 15% retail sales tax, payroll tax deductions and business tax revenue. Although this estimate was based on a 35 percent retail tax rate before the tax cuts in December 2017, the revenue is still enormous. However, there is a catch-22…
  • Balancing Act
    The catch-22 in regards to federal legalization is that there are currently no tax exemptions available to cannabis companies under tax code 280E. This forces cannabis companies to pay tax on their gross profit rather than net profits, resulting in real taxation rates of 70% to 90% on income by some estimates. So while the plant remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug, the federal government continues to rake in an increasingly large windfall in tax revenue as the industry matures and larger players enter the space. The Motley Fool points out that “if the federal government removed marijuana as a controlled substance, it would no longer be subject to 280E. If marijuana businesses were allowed to take normal business deductions, its estimated that the federal government would lose $5 billion in tax revenue over the next decade.” Further, these numbers are based on 2017 projections which are low considering the financial breakout the industry experienced in 2018. Therefore, this reduces the fiscal incentive for federal policy makers to legalize nationally since they would see a reduction in taxes collected on cannabis companies.
  • Addition by Subtraction
    Yet, in the big picture, by removing cannabis from being a Schedule 1 Drug, the cost savings from the reduction in unnecessary arrests and incarceration to US taxpayers is significant. A 2013 report from the American Civil Liberties Union (pdf file) found that federal cannabis enforcement costs were approximately $3.6 billion per year. Also, by removing cannabis from the controlled-substances list, it would reduce the number of marijuana related court cases that go to trial every year. This number is difficult to extrapolate but undoubtedly in the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of legal, law enforcement and judicial hours wasted combined with the burden on tax payers to incarcerate people who could be leading productive lives and contributing to the U.S. economy by paying their federal taxes. While the private prison industry might take a hit, the hidden benefit is that law enforcement agencies would not be wasting their time on minor offenses such as possession and minor trafficking and would instead be focused on reducing serious crime, which would be of benefit to all of society.

By Leslie Bocskor

About the Author
Leslie Bocskor is the Executive Chairman of Electrum Partners, a venture development company in the legal cannabis industry. Please direct inquiries to the Contact form on our website.

Follow Leslie on Twitter: @lesliebocskor
Follow Leslie on LinkedIn

Where does your business venture fit in the cannabis economy?

Remington Cowboys wrestling a bull

The cannabis industry offers seven different industry verticals for a new business venture to consider when entering the explosive growth cannabis economy. A big distinction is often drawn between businesses that “touch the plant,” or deal directly with marijuana, whether it’s cultivation, manufacturing, production or retail, or any of the professions which attend to these duties (delivery, or distribution), versus those that don’t. At my company, Electrum Partners, LLC, we have identified seven different industries which spiral off from this one plant. They are:

  1. Adult Use: Involves the cultivation, harvesting, curing, trimming, fertilizing, watering, lighting, manufacturing and processing the plant. This can involve whole flowers, edibles, concentrates and vaping solutions. From there, we can break down each category into specifics: for instance, concentrates. Forecasts are all over the map, but Forbes predicts legal cannabis spending will hit $57 billion by 2027. We believe this number is quite conservative.
  2. Medicinal: The endo-cannabinoid system is a recognized and vital homeostatic regulator of many of our body’s vital metabolic and healing processes. Cannabis is being actively explored for muscular dystrophy, glaucoma, appetite stimulus for AIDS/HIV and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy (with research into mutant cell apoptosis ongoing), neuropathy and many other conditions. Global Market Insights predicts the medical marijuana market will be worth over $55 billion by 2024. Again, we see this number as quite conservative.
  3. Nutraceutical: The herbal supplement market is huge, with hundreds of products listed on Amazon overlapping with vitamin supplements, weight loss, sports nutrition and child care. The anticipated rescheduling of cannabis and further study will most likely expand the known benefits considerably, so we believe that this market will grow immensely in 2019. The nutraceuticals industry is projected to grow to almost $320 billion by 2023.
  4. Industrial Hemp: Historically supplanted under suspicious circumstances by wood pulp and cotton for paper and textiles, hemp may get its revenge as a less thirsty and environmentally burdensome alternative to both. Thousands of products that can be made from its stalks, leaves and stems, and the US currently loses a tidy sum each year in revenue from cultivators and manufacturers in Canada, China, South Korea and other countries. Once legalized, industrial hemp will certainly disrupt many different business models in its wake and all of us will be the beneficiaries. We believe industrial hemp is the sleeping giant within the cannabis economy. Grand View Research sees industrial hemp expanding at a CAGR of 14% to 2025. This number could change dramatically if the Farm Bill is passed in the US.
  5. Pharmaceutical: Cannabis is a powerful mood enhancer, which is why a vocal contingent of war vets have turned to cannabis to treat PTSD. Those who suffer chronic pain have also derived relief from cannabis via salves and ointments manufactured from the plant. Considering its high safety profile compared to other pharmaceuticals and its unique pharmacological composition of active compounds, mental health researchers will no doubt mine this plant for decades for new products and treatments. The next Prozac or Viagra may well result from these studies, allowing the pharma company that owned the IP to reap tens of billions in profits from a single FDA approved drug.
  6. Animal Health: Animals also possess an endocannabinoid system, not just humans. Consequently, a growing CBD-based medical industry for pets has developed with infused biscuits, pet food and oils, often for arthritis and joint pain among other ailments. We expect an explosion of CBD infused products for animal health and well-being to hit the market in 2019.
  7. Ancillary: Financial services, transportation, real estate, marketing services, legal compliance, publishing, media, conferences, concerts, events, festivals, manufacturing, security services, testing labs, software and IT services are examples of verticals in the ancillary component of the industry. Obviously, an immense amount of opportunity and growth for the entire cannabis sector in the years to come.

In short, especially in this early stage of the industry, virtually anyone can develop a product or provide a service that reflects his/her own unique skillset. And due to the ringed fence nature of the cannabis economy, larger, well-heeled conglomerates are forced to sit on the sidelines due to cannabis remaining a Schedule 1 Drug. This gives anyone with a unique idea, some seed money and a lot of determination to enter the cannabis industry with a head start that most entrepreneurs normally never have.

By Leslie Bocskor

About the Author
Leslie Bocskor is the Executive Chairman of Electrum Partners, a venture development company in the legal cannabis industry. Please direct inquiries to the Contact form on our website.

Follow Leslie on Twitter: @lesliebocskor
Follow Leslie on LinkedIn

Electrum Partners Hires Former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom as Senior Vice President

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 5, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Barry Grissom, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas has joined Electrum Partners as its Senior Vice President of Global Policy and Corporate Counsel. Electrum Partners is an advisory services firm specializing in medical and recreational cannabis and ancillary businesses.

I am honored to join such a highly respected and innovative company like Electrum Partners. Electrum has helped the nascent cannabis industry grow into a full fledged market force in a responsible and ethical manner, and I look forward to contributing to the further maturation of legal cannabis market,” said Mr. Grissom.

Mr. Grissom was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas by President Barack Obama in 2010 and served as such until 2016. As U.S. Attorney, he assessed and resolved a wide array of civil and criminal cases, managed three offices and a large legal workforce of 49 Assistant U.S. Attorneys and 53 support staff, while representing the Department of Justice in diverse communities across his district. Mr. Grissom’s law enforcement priorities included national security, violent crime, drug trafficking, financial fraud and crimes against children.

As U.S. Attorney, Mr. Grissom was selected by Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as one of 15 members on the Attorney’s General Advisory Committee (AGAC), which advises the Attorney General on matters of administration and policy. As a member of the AGAC, Mr. Grissom contributed to efforts to reform the federal criminal justice system through his Smart on Crime initiative. He also served on several sub-committees, including Financial Fraud, Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Team, Terrorism & National Security (Cyber), Native American Issues and Civil Rights.

We are elated to welcome Mr. Grissom to the Electrum Partners family and anticipate his extraordinary background and experience will help us take our business to the next level,” said Diane Katz, President of Electrum Partners.

About Electrum Partners
Electrum Partners adds value to your business through a combination of industry expertise and our extensive network of business associates and contacts. We assist with financing, corporate structure, market strategy, government relations, distribution partnerships and more. For Companies exploring the public markets, our experienced senior leadership team is well-versed in engineering the underpinnings of successful business entries and exits across the full spectrum of cannabis business verticals.