The Marijuana CEO Talks to Wall Street

March 1, 2019
Bruce Linton talks about Canopy Growth Corp. to the Consumer Analyst Group of New York Conference.

Even though it's hot in Boca Raton, Fla., in February, most of the male attendees at the annual Consumer Analyst Group of New York Conference wear sport coats. So the new guy wore a sport coat, even if it didn't quite hide the black T-shirt with lettering, much less the jeans.

The guest speaker on Feb. 20 turned out to be the founder, chairman and CEO of Canopy Growth Corp., the apparent leader in developing cannabis products in the newly legal Canadian market. Sales of $2 billion, a market capitalization of $16 billion.

Canopy Growth's newest advisor and collaboration partner? Martha Stewart. Canopy Growth made the announcement February 28

"I operate the biggest legal producer of cannabis on the planet," Bruce Linton explained to the crowd. They seemed impressed. The analysts wander in and out of these presentations, depending upon their interest in the publicly traded food companies that speak, but for this presentation, the huge meeting room was packed.

The recent legalization of marijuana in Canada and potential for same in the U.S. "is an opportunity unheard of in our lifetime," said Bill Newlands, CEO of Constellation Brands, the U.S. marketer of such old-school "relaxation" products as Corona Beer, Mondavi wines and Svedka vodka. And now the biggest investor in Canopy Growth. Constellation already has sunk $4 billion in the Canadian company and, if all warrants are exercised, will own 50 percent of Canopy Growth.

"Cannabis – think disruption," Linton said, echoing a common business philosophy/challenge. He impressed the Wall Street guys with talk of patents, plant genetics and other intellectual property, "delivery technologies," and an understanding of the potential for legal pot and associated products in markets around the world.

Canopy is not all about the hallucinogenic side, although that's certainly a part of it. Linton talked of mildly relaxing beverages, in the same league as beer and wine, and sports recovery drinks. Also about the medicinal benefits of cannabidiol, the non-hallucinogenic component of marijuana and hemp: "anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], animal health, sleep" among its benefits and applications.

While Canopy Growth is the publicly held parent, Tweed Inc. is the original storefront subsidiary, which set up shop in 2014 – ironically, in an abandoned Hershey’s chocolate factory – in Smiths Falls, Ontario. "Our idea was simple: here’s a remarkable plant that can be a force for good – let’s share it," says the company website.

Tweed initially produced high-quality cannabis products for limited medicinal use, but it also forms the infrastructure – farms, research, product development, distribution, marketing – for Canopy Growth. In May 2018, Canopy Growth became the first cannabis-producing company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Canopy Growth is ready for legalization in the U.S. and around the world – although with that $16 billion market cap, it's no longer under anyone's radar. Neither is the potential in Canada: Molson Coors Canada, the Canadian business unit of Molson Coors Brewing Co., chose Hydropothecary Corp. to create a joint venture to develop non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages for the Canadian market.

When cannabis consumables become legal in Canada, expected later this year, the company will serve the adult-use market under the HEXO brand. Molson Coors Canada will have a 57.5 percent controlling interest in the JV, which "will combine the proven beverage experience of Canada's leading brewer with a recognized innovator in the fast-growing cannabis sector."

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