Many mainstream businesses have been making big financial news lately with their long-awaited initial public offerings. But typically, cannabis businesses haven’t been welcomed to the party because companies who physically touch plants cannot have their shares listed on a U.S. exchange because of current federal laws. However, things are changing.
For some years now, the cannabis industry has taken advantage of the entities called Special Purchase Acquisition Companies — SPACs — that are non-traditional IPOs designed to bring private companies to public market. It’s a path often used by specialty companies: Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space flight operation and sports betting site DraftKings were both taken public through SPACs. While they trade on exchanges, they are time-bound; each SPAC carries a liquidation window within which it must complete a merger or acquisition. Typically, SPACs are funded by institutional investors.
Cannabis SPACs include cultivator Collective Growth Corp., NASDAQ:CGROU. Cannabis technology company Akerna Corp., NASDAQ:KERN. And the Subversive Capital Acquisition Corp. which recently brought Jay-Z on board as Chief Visionary Officer, OTCQX: SBVCF.
Yet all eyes are currently on cannabis advertising giant Weedmaps, whose parent WM Holding Co. is readying to go public on the NASDAQ. The company valuation post-IPO is estimated to reach $1.5 billion, which is naturally generating interest very similar to the recent IPOs in this article’s headline. The company sells a cloud-based operating system for cannabis businesses, and its website takes in advertising revenue from cannabis retailers paying to be featured in its national dispensary listings.
One bit of full disclosure: Weedmaps is currently being investigated by federal authorities in what is a question whether or not the website directory listed retailers who were not properly licensed in California. So it is likely that until this matter is resolved, the Weedmaps IPO will be, so to say, on the back burner.
Of course, the Canadian Securities Exchange is open for cannabis companies, and it remains the destination used for most U.S. companies seeking to go public. For example, Chicago-based Verano Holdings is currently making a second attempt to go public via taking over an existing shell company in Calgary. The company takes in approximately $800 million in annual revenue, and expects its post-IPO market capitalization to $2.9 billion. They will still have some catching up to do with the U.S. market leader, Massachusetts-based Curaleaf, with its $7.1 billion valuation on the Canadian Securities Exchange, CSE:CURA.