Pot Topics is a weekly collection of cannabis-related news curated by the Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s the latest news for this week:

  • Chicago pot company makes huge investment in Nevada
  • Massachusetts recreational marijuana stores opening this week
  • Wrigley heir becomes cannabis company CEO
  • National League of Cities pushes changes to federal pot laws
  • Online marketplace starts selling CBD in 41 states
  • Blue Moon beer founder develops THC-infused ale

Chicago’s GTI acquires Nevada-based cannabis company for $290 million

The Canadian Securities Exchange is quickly becoming the go-to place for U.S. cannabis companies orphaned by their own stock exchanges because the U.S. government still considers marijuana an illegal drug.

Ben Kovler, CEO of Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries, which recently acquired a leading Nevada-based cannabis company for $290 million. | AP file photo

River North-based Green Thumb Industries announced Tuesday that it had signed on to acquire Integral Associates, Nevada’s leading cannabis company, according to a statement.

GTI will take over three cannabis dispensaries in the Las Vegas Valley, including the first and only pot shop on the Las Vegas Strip, as well as two cannabis cultivation and processing facilities in the city. The deal, which is expected to close by the first half of next year, is valued at roughly $290 million, including $52 million in cash and about 20.8 million shares of the company.

“We are thrilled to expand GTI’s production, distribution and retail footprint in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world,” Ben Kovler, GTI’s founder and chief executive, said in the statement.

GTI has been rapidly expanding since becoming the first Chicago-based cannabis company to go public in Canada in June. The company currently has eight manufacturing facilities and licenses for 60 dispensaries across eights states.

Since recreational cannabis was legalized in Nevada last January, sales have greatly exceeded the state’s projections. Last year, Nevada dispensaries unloaded nearly $425 million  worth of recreational pot, outpacing all other states that have legalized the drug for recreational use.

GTI already operates two recreational dispensaries in the state and a cultivation and processing facility in Carson City.

First recreational pot shops set to open in MA

Nine states have legalized marijuana for so-called recreational use since 2012, including eight at the ballot box. Thirty-one states have authorized the drug for medical purposes. Four states have marijuana ballot questions this fall.

State officials cleared two recreational marijuana shops to open Tuesday in Massachusetts. | AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Recreational marijuana sales are expected kick off Tuesday in Massachusetts when a pair of new pot shops open their doors.

On Friday, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission announced that the dispensaries in Leicester and Northhampton had been given the go-ahead to “commence adult-use operations.” To gain approval, the companies operating the dispensaries “underwent thorough background checks, passed multiple inspections, and had their products tested, all to ensure public health and safety as this new industry gets up and running,” according to Steven J. Hoffman, chairman of the commission.

“This signal to open retail marijuana establishments marks a major milestone for voters who approved legal, adult-use cannabis in our state,” Hoffman noted.

In November 2016, more than 53 percent of Bay Staters backed a ballot initiative to legalize recreational pot, and the drug was fully legalized the following month.

From candy to cannabis: Wrigley heir named CEO of medical pot company

William “Beau” Wrigley Jr. was recently named the CEO of Surterra Wellness, an Atlanta-based cannabis company. | Sun-Times file photo

Surterra Wellness, a leading medical cannabis company based in Atlanta, announced Thursday that William “Beau” Wrigley Jr. would take over as the company’s chief executive officer. Wrigley, the former CEO of the Chicago-based Wrigley Company, had previously been named Surterra’s board chairman in August.

“I’m thrilled to assume the role of CEO for Surterra as the company evolves to the next stage of its rapid growth as a leader in the health and wellness industry,” Wrigley said in a statement.

“Today we’re at a key moment for the company as we further grow our leadership team, add new brands, expand into new markets and expand our supply chain,” he added. “Together, we will continue to expand our network of new partners and deliver on our strategy of building an industry-leading portfolio of brands that further elevate Surterra as a global leader in the dynamic cannabis space.”

Surterra, which has raised over $100 million since 2015, manufactures cannabis products and is licensed to operate medical dispensaries in Florida and Texas.

In July, Surterra closed a $65 million Series C fundraising round that was led by Wrigley. Two months later, the company announced a partnership with Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, who signed on to develop a line of cannabis products under his Coral Reeer brand.

Wrigley is the great-grandson of William Wrigley Jr., the founder of the massive chewing gum company that bears their name. During his time at the company, the younger Wrigley oversaw the acquisition of Altoids and Life Savers before turning over the office to former Nike and SC Johnson CEO William Perez in 2006. Two years later, Wrigley was sold to Virginia-based Mars, the maker of Snickers, Twix and other popular candies.

National League of Cities pushes for federal cannabis reform 

The first full year of legal marijuana sales in Nevada exceeded expectations by 40 percent, state tax officials said Tuesday.

The National League of Cities is pushing to give cannabis businesses access to federally regulated banks and remove the drug from the list of dangerous Schedule 1 drugs, among other things. | AP file photo

Prompted by vocal pot opponent Jeff Sessions’ resignation last week from his post as attorney general, an advocacy group that represents thousands of communities across the country has urged the federal government to reform certain marijuana laws and protect states that have already legalized the drug.

During a summit this weekend in Los Angeles, the National League of Cities — which represents 19,000 cities, villages and towns and 49 state municipal leagues — passed two resolutions to “empower local governments,” according to a statement from the group.

The first of which encourages President Donald Trump’s administration and members of Congress to “resolve the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws” and “provide guidance to financial institutions that results in the cannabis market having access to the federally regulated banking system.”

The other measure aims to reschedule cannabis and remove it from the list of dangerous Schedule 1 drugs while demanding Congress to “pass legislation that would ensure states and local governments have the ability to establish laws and regulations on the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of medical and adult-use cannabis within the state.”

Pot delivery company launches online CBD marketplace

Ease Wellness, a new online marketplace, began shipping CBD products to 41 states and the District of Columbia this week. | AP Photo/Richard Vogel

A California-based marijuana delivery company announced a new online marketplace Wednesday for products made with hemp-based CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating chemical compound derived from cannabis.

Online pot proprietor Eaze, which is known for making on-demand marijuana deliveries across the Golden State, will now ship CBD products throughout most of the country, according to a statement from the company. The new platform, dubbed Eaze Wellness, will allow users in Washington D.C., Illinois and 40 other states to purchase the trendy drug treatment at the click of a mouse.

“Eaze’s mission has always been to educate consumers and provide safe, legal access to cannabis. The launch of Eaze Wellness is a natural next step in our mission,” Eaze CEO Jim Patterson said in the statement. “Americans are curious about CBD and asking for high-quality CBD products, but until now, there’s been no singular destination where consumers with a variety of experience levels can find the products that are right for them. Eaze Wellness changes that.”

CBD has grown increasingly popular in recent years, with patients and experts reporting that it can be used to treat a range of conditions, including epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, and even anxiety in dogs. Unlike THC — or tetrahydrocannabinol, another cannabis-derived chemical compound — CBD doesn’t get users stoned.

The Eaze Wellness marketplace, which is open to anyone over 21 years old, will offer products from a range of prominent, national CBD brands.

Blue Moon founder to launch THC-infused beer

Keith and Jodi Villa are launching a cannabis-infused beer company, Ceria Beverages.

Keith and Jodi Villa are launching a cannabis-infused beer company, CERIA Beverages. | Courtesy of CERIA Beverages

The brewmaster who created Blue Moon beer over two decades ago will launch a new non-alcoholic, pot-based ale next month.

Grainwave Belgian-Style White Ale, which includes 5 milligrams of psychoactive THC, will be the first beer sold by CERIA Beverages, the Colorado-based brewing company Keith Villa started with his wife after retiring from Blue Moon after 32 years.

Brewed with blood orange peel and coriander, the beer “has a richer, deeper orange character and a little different type of bitterness because of the cannabinoids,” Villa said. Although Grainwave will only be available in Colorado when it’s released next month, Villa hopes to expand distribution to California and Nevada soon.

Cannabis-infused beers have become trendy, but so far none released in the U.S. have THC. They typically have hemp, which gives them a taste similar to marijuana.

Federal law prohibits brewers from using marijuana in beer. But CERIA’s beverage doesn’t contain alcohol, so it technically isn’t a beer.

Signs of interest in the marijuana-beer business include Molson Coors’ deal, announced in August, to work with Canadian cannabis company The Hydropothecary Corp. to develop nonalcoholic marijuana drinks for the Canadian market. And Constellation Brands, maker of Robert Mondavi wine, Corona beer and Svedka vodka, last year invested $4 billion in Canopy Growth, a Canadian marijuana firm, with cannabis drinks among future plans.

USA Today contributed to this report.

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