CommonWealth Magazine 8 November 2018
Dire warnings about large investors entering legal market were right, just not accurate.
DURING THE 2016 CAMPAIGN, and since the passage of the law legalizing the sale and adult use of marijuana in Massachusetts, opponents of legal pot have continually pointed to the potential for wealthy investors to cash in on the billion-dollar industry and nudge smaller entrepreneurs to the side.
They have labeled such corporate backers “Big Marijuana,” turning the phrase into a pejorative that scares communities out of allowing the businesses into their midst and conjures up images of megacorporations lobbying to craft the laws and regulations to maximize profits.
But is there such a thing as “big marijuana,” or is it just a bogeyman to demonize an emerging industry that banks on a one-time, and still federally, illegal substance?
“Theoretically, yes, absolutely,” said Shaleen Title, a commissioner on the state Cannabis Control Commission, when asked if “big marijuana” was a thing. “It’s something to always think about as we regulate. Does it exist right now? That’s a harder question.”
Title, the only commission member with previous experience in the legal marijuana industry, said the agency and lawmakers were fully aware of the potential for large corporations to dominate the landscape and have written the statute to ensure a level playing field for both big and small players, including capping at three the number of licenses any one person or entity can hold.
Joe Lusardi, president and CEO of Curaleaf in Wakefield, called the limits in Massachusetts an “artificial cap.” Curaleaf has grown from a 10-person medical marijuana grower and dispensary to a 1,000-employee national cannabis company with 29 dispensaries, including a couple retail stores and 12 cultivation facilities in a dozen states. While there is a three-license limit on each type of operation in Massachusetts, something no other state has, Lusardi said there is no restriction on the size of a recreational wholesale operation and he plans to take full advantage of that.
“If that’s what you want to call big, great, we don’t mind being called that,” said Lusardi. “We’re creating jobs. It’s actually more than just the marijuana product. There’s ancillary businesses that create more jobs – security, construction, legal, energy. There’s a ripple effect on the industry. We see it as a net positive.”
Lusardi took the company public on the Canadian Securities Exchange last month at an initial value of $4 billion. The company raised about $400 million in private funding before going public, the largest amount raised by a US cannabis company in advance of public trading.
READ MORE: https://commonwealthmagazine.org/back-story/big-marijuana-is-actually-a-thing/