Cannabis Comes to Davos, Sharing Spotlight With Global Elites

(Bloomberg) -- If more proof was needed that cannabis is becoming accepted by the world’s financial and political elite, what better place to find it than at the Swiss ski resort of Davos?

While the usual cadre of billionaires, politicians and bankers debated the hot topics of the day (China, Brexit, trade), there was Bruce Linton of Canopy Growth Inc. extolling the virtues of legal pot with a Congolese Queen.

And over at the Canada Cannabis House Pavilion -- a rented bar in Davos -- Anthony Scaramucci (best known for his 11-day stint as White House communications director) interviewed former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Barak, chairman of medical marijuana company InterCure Ltd., was speaking a week before Israel’s cabinet is expected to approve medical cannabis exports.

In an era when everyone from former Speaker of the House John Boehner to ex-Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and former Mexican President Vicente Fox sit on the boards of pot firms, such a match up no longer seems bizarre. But if you had told someone at Davos two years ago that a former White House communications director would be interviewing a former Israeli prime minister about the benefits of medical marijuana, they might have thought you were smoking too much of the product.

Davos is all about serendipitous meetings, and so it was for Linton, chief executive officer of Canopy Growth. As a Bloomberg reporter tried to interview him, Queen Diambi Kabatusuila Tshiyoyo Muata of the Bakwa Indu people of the Democratic Republic of Congo introduced herself, and the two chatted about the economic and social benefits of legalization.

Linton, who heads the largest pot company by market value -- worth twice as much as retailer Macy’s Inc. -- said he met former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the president of Kosovo. He also attended an exclusive interview with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Linton’s advice for meeting the right people and getting invited to the right parties? “You’ve got to hustle.”

The hustle seems to be paying off for Canopy’s stock, which has soared this year.

Cannabis Comes to Davos, Sharing Spotlight With Global Elites

Still, even with all the glad-handing at Davos, there are plenty of obstacles to full acceptance of cannabis. Earlier this week, CBS rejected a Super Bowl ad that called for the legalization of medical marijuana, according to Acreage Holdings Inc. (which counts Boehner and Mulroney as directors). You can see the ad here.

Super Bowl viewers may not get to learn about pot this year, but football fans have another reason to pay attention after Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana took part in a $75 million fundraising round for Caliva, one of the best-selling marijuana brands in California.

An Unsolicited Bid

Last week, we also got a formal bid for Aphria Inc. from Green Growth Brands Inc. The offer was identical to an informal proposal made in December and values Aphria at about C$2.4 billion. Aphria advised shareholders to take no action until the board reviews the offer, which was rebuffed by the company last month as too low.

The only new piece of information that surfaced last week is that All Js Greenspace LLC, backed by the retail fortune of Ohio’s Schottenstein family, has agreed to purchase up to C$150 million ($113 million) worth of Green Growth shares at C$7 as a backstop for the takeover. That’s well above Green Growth’s current trading price of about C$5.75.

Whatever the outcome of the bid, investors should expect to see more hostile takeovers and more activist investors in the Canadian cannabis space this year given the volatile stocks and inexperienced management teams, Walied Soliman, global chair of law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, told Bloomberg.

Upcoming Events This Week

  • Slang Worldwide Inc. will begin trading Jan. 29 on the Canadian Securities Exchange with an approximate market value of C$500 million. Founded by the people behind Mettrum Health, which was acquired by Canopy in early 2017 for C$430 million, Slang is primarily focused on the U.S. market, with a goal of becoming a global cannabis brand company
  • The Cantech Investment Conference runs from Jan. 29-30 in Toronto and includes presentations by executives from several pot firms including Canopy, Organigram and Slang Worldwide
  • The Canadian stock ticker POT, which formerly belonged to Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., is up for grabs on Jan. 30. No doubt there will be plenty of demand for such a memorable symbol
  • Organigram Holdings Inc. plans to reports earnings on Jan. 28
  • The 2019 North American Cannabis Summit, focused on public health, will be held Jan. 28-30 in Los Angeles

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