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The cannabis sector continues its steady shift toward big business and big money, with much of growth based on acquisitions, agreements and consistent research.

TransCanna Holdings Inc. (CNSX:TCAN.CN) (FRA:TH8) (Profile) is focused on creating a large operation with various licenses and recognized brands, with several key acquisitions, being part of that strategy. Medmen Enterprises Inc. (CNSX:MMEN.CN) (OTC:MMNFF) is in the process of acquiring PharmaCann, which recently received an extension to complete the development of its cultivation facility in Ohio. Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ:CRON) (TSX:CRON.TO) just entered into a multiyear supply agreement that will help the company provide high-quality products to consumers in anticipation of the derivative market launching in Canada this fall. Tilray Inc. (NASDAQ:TLRY) recently completed its acquisition of Manitoba Harvest, the largest hemp food company. GW Pharmaceuticals Plc (NASDAQ:GWPH) continues its march forward as a leader in cannabinoid prescription medicines sector with its recent announcement of positive, top-line results of a Phase 3 clinical trial of Epidiolex® in the treatment of seizures associated with a rare and severe form of childhood-onset epilepsy.

— Cannabis companies are engaging in multimillion-dollar acquisitions in growing numbers.

— This strategy supports a consolidation of the industry as it moves from scattered creativity to efficient large businesses.

— The trend is built in part on intangible assets, including brands, licenses and research.

To view an infographic of this editorial, click here.

A Very Different Business

The image of the cannabis industry varies significantly depending upon an individual’s point of view. To supporters, the market is a transformative sector aimed at bringing the world together. Detractors call the industry one more vice threatening public morals. For many standing in the middle ground, the sector is a space where hippies and stoners can thrive but not necessarily one that encourages the buzz and dynamism of mainstream business.

In reality, the cannabis sector fits none of these images. The industry is emerging from its early nascent steps into legality to become a significant business sector much like any other, with all the elements of modern capitalism. This growth appears to be reflected in the sector’s recent burst of mergers and acquisitions.

Big-Money Deals

Certainly one of the most eye-catching aspect of mergers and acquisitions in the cannabis sector is the significant amount money involved. Take just two recent examples from a single company: TransCanna Holdings Inc. (CNSX:TCAN.CN) (FRA:TH8).

In the past few months, the Vancouver-based cannabis company has made announcements on two major deals. First came the acquisition of a 196,000-square-foot vertically integrated cannabis facility for a total purchase price of $15 million. Then came a letter of intent relating to Californian company Lyfted Farms outlining TransCanna’s plans to acquire Lyfted’s business and assets for $5.5 million.

By some standards, these might not seem like significant deals. But when a company is investing $20 million on expansion in the space of a couple of months, stability seems evident. That TransCanna can make these deals is a show not only of the strength of the company but also the strength of the industry.

The financial growth of the legal cannabis industry has been a positive move for everyone from company leaders to their lowest-paid employees. The legalized trade is pulling money out of the black-market economy and allowing those at the top to earn big bucks while also providing employees with a decent wage. Far from weakening the power of legal providers, paying employees properly is leaving them with enough money to go around buying up competitors, as TransCanna is doing.

Success has also brought funds from outside. From private individuals to big alcohol and tobacco companies, investors are pouring money into pot, allowing businesses to expand while keeping their employees happy. There are living wages at the bottom and big money at the top.

Tidying Up the Market

The progression of the legal cannabis industry started with a scattered approach. TransCanna is one of many companies that started in the market with a relatively small presence. Some began as entrepreneurs seeing a new industry within which to operate. Others were experienced cannabis cultivators moving from the illegal to the legal market. Still others were pharmaceutical companies dipping their toes into a new medicine and, from there, into the recreational industry.

As a result, the cannabis industry was initially made up of diverse and disconnected businesses. Now, however, the sector is moving toward a space of consolidation.

This doesn’t mean that the variety created in that early surge is being lost. When larger companies buy up smaller ones, the aim is often to continue supporting and growing the individual brands and styles the smaller companies have created. For example, TransCanna has announced the acquisition of GoodFellas, allowing TransCanna to take control of the Daily Cannabis Goods brand. TransCanna CEO Jim Pakulis has talked not in terms of absorbing the Daily brand into TransCanna’s existing identity but in terms of maintaining Daily and expanding its sales.

The consolidation of multiple brands and businesses into a smaller number reflects a dialectic process that’s common in new business areas. First comes a burst of creativity. With few precedents and no big players dominating the market, entrepreneurs and creatives have free rein. Some of their experiments fail, but the ones that succeed get consumers interested and fill the market with ideas.

While this creates plenty of exciting idea and products, it’s also inefficient. In the phase that follows, bigger companies step in or emerge from among the smaller ones. Consolidation creates efficiency, providing more reliable products for consumers and better value for companies.

The Power of the Immaterial

In the illegal market, product was the main focus for cannabis sellers. In the legal market, the focus is different. When a company relies on the full complement of marketing, intangible assets become important. That’s why GoodFellas is valuable to TransCanna — not just for its cannabis but for the Daily brand attached to it.

And while intangible assets are normally talked about in terms of brand and IP, there’s another sort of asset that gets much less publicity and that the cannabis industry is bringing to investors’ attention: legal licenses.

Licenses of various sorts are important for a wide range of industries, from food production to mining. But they have a particular prominence in the cannabis industry because tight regulation has created a scarcity of licenses. When TransCanna subsidiary TCM Distribution Inc. gained cannabis manufacturing and distribution permits from the City of Adelanto, California, it was an important step in the company’s growth within the state. And when a deal like TransCanna’s acquisition of Lyfted is announced, the target’s cannabis licenses are often mentioned. These licenses are a crucial asset and one that investors are concerned about. Without the licenses, the business can’t function.

The prominence of licenses is a new feature of investment for those going into cannabis. But it could be a feature that helps investors recognize these assets in other companies. Cannabis companies are increasingly about immaterial assets, and immaterial assets are increasingly about licenses as well as IP.

Keeping Profiles High

In such an atmosphere, cannabis companies are working hard on keeping their profiles high while building up their portfolios of products.

Last year Medmen Enterprises Inc. (CNSX:MMEN.CN) (OTC:MMNFF) soared 60% in one week when the company announced the deal to buy PharmaCann. PharmaCann is working to complete its $20-million cultivation center, which must be operational before the acquisition can be completed to comply with Ohio law, which requires a licensee to have operating certification before transferring a license to another owner. The deal will double the number of states where Los Angeles-based MedMen has licenses to operate – expanding the firm’s reach to 12 states with 66 retails stores and 13 cultivation facilities.

The agreement between Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ:CRON) (TSX:CRON.TO) and MediPharm Labs Corp. will supply Cronos Group with approximately $30 million of high-quality, private-label cannabis concentrate over 18 months and, subject to certain renewal and purchase options, potentially up to $60 million concentrate over 24 months. In addition, Cronos Group and MediPharm Labs have entered into a multiyear tolling agreement, where Cronos Group will supply bulk cannabis to MediPharm Labs’ state-of-the-art extraction facility in Ontario.

With the completion of the acquisition, Manitoba Harvest will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Tilray Inc. (NASDAQ:TLRY), leveraging the expertise of Tilray’s global cannabis industry expertise. “Tilray’s acquisition of Manitoba Harvest is a milestone for the cannabis industry,” said Tilray president and CEO Brendan Kennedy. “It builds on the strategic partnerships we have formed with consumer brand industry leaders and demonstrates our track record of disrupting the global pharmaceutical, alcohol, CPG, and functional food and beverage categories. We’re excited to work with Manitoba Harvest to develop and distribute a diverse portfolio of branded hemp-derived CBD food and wellness products in the U.S. and Canada.”

The newest test results from GW Pharmaceuticals Plc (NASDAQ:GWPH), the world leader in the science, development, and commercialization of cannabinoid prescription medicines, expands the company’s knowledge of Epidiolex and its potential use beyond the current indications. “Data from previous controlled clinical trials of EPIDIOLEX have shown clinically meaningful seizure reductions and consistent safety and tolerability in children and adults with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome,” said Dr. Elizabeth Thiele, the lead investigator of the trial, director of the Herscot Center for Tuberous Sclerosis Complex at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. “Based on the positive results of this trial in TSC patients, Epidiolex, if approved for this additional indication, may become an important treatment option also in this disease state with significant unmet medical need.”

The cannabis industry is clearly evolving with big money, consolidation and growing intangible assets playing pivotal roles in the growing strength and consistency of the sector.

For more information about TransCanna Holdings, please visit TransCanna Holdings Inc. (CNSX:TCAN.CN) (FRA:TH8).

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