Reporting by Patricia Whyte, Ronit Pinto, and Jaime Lubin
Honeysuckle Magazine and Honeysuckle’s Honey Pot were thrilled to join The Arcview Group’s biannual Investors Forum. Arcview is the world’s oldest and most prominent cannabis investors organization. Founded by Steve DeAngelo (our latest Honey Pot cover story) and Troy Dayton, Arcview has been responsible for legendary moves that shape the sector, bringing cannabis to new heights. This October’s meetup in New York City, Honeysuckle’s first at the Forum, proved to be especially groundbreaking. Called “The Evolution of Cannabis: 2020,” this Arcview Forum converged stunning moments from cannabis’s past, present and future, allowing all in attendance to marvel at the power of the people invested in the plant.
The event, held at Convene’s One Liberty Plaza location in NYC’s Financial District, featured cannabis leaders and speakers from some of the industry’s most prominent companies. In attendance was a community of high-net-worth individuals, institutional investors, leading brands, entrepreneurs and money managers. Among these powerful players were Daymond John, founder of FUBU and star of ABC’s Shark Tank; Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve; Cassandra Farrington, founder and CEO of Marijuana Business Daily, and many others.
“We are not done yet,” Dayton said in his opening address to the audience gathered at Convene. “We have to remain politically engaged in this industry.”
Dayton was alluding to the many questions of social equity and legality still looming over cannabis. For example, the industry from which so many are profiting is laid on the backs of thousands of people still in jail or with permanent criminal charges on their records, which actually bar them from taking jobs in the legal cannabis space. There are issues surrounding barriers to entry for women and people of color, as well as problems with cannabis companies being able to establish functional payment systems without getting shut down. (The SAFE Banking Act, passed by the House of Representatives in late September, would establish financial institutions and insurance companies to serve state-legal cannabis businesses without federal interference.) Arcview’s membership, with their influential platforms, Dayton asserted, have an obligation to keep fighting for all people to have a seat at the table – because no war in this industry is over yet.
That said, the Forum provided some pioneering moments. For the first time in history, a sitting U.S. Senator, Michael Bennet of Colorado, spoke before a cannabis-specific investment group. Interviewed by Natalie Fertig of Politico, Bennet – a Presidential candidate for 2020 – discussed the SAFE Banking Act and the industry from a regulatory perspective. “I think you need to practice succeeding,” Sen. Bennet said. “And I think this banking bill is the perfect opportunity to get this through to the Senate, and once you have it there you can build on it.”
The forum also featured the first Lifetime Achievement Award ever presented at Arcview, which went to organic chemist Raphael Mechoulam, who discovered THC in 1964, for excellence in academic and professional achievements in Cannabis that have extensive impact and make a substantial contribution to society. The award was accepted by his great-nephew Avi Mechoulam, along with $10,000 for the great scientist to continue his research.
Arcview prides itself on creating outstanding opportunities to meet and network with investors in the cannabis industry and take part in insightful discussions with fellow leaders. Attendees of the Forum were able to partake in several events and activities throughout the weekend, including industry tours, educational presentations, and plenty of chances to connect with influential players in the cannabis space. According to The Arcview Group, the goal of the forum was simple: “To help [attendees] navigate and profit from the cannabis opportunity with exceptional deal-flow, unsurpassed networks, and industry leading research.”
Another milestone of the Forum: Jeffrey Finkle, co-founder of the Viridian Members Fund, the first member-managed fund in the cannabis industry, announced he would be joining forces with Arcview to bring the member-managed platform to their network, in what will surely be a turning point in widespread profitability in the sector.
Bruce Linton, founder and former CEO of Canopy Growth Corporation, gave a candid interview discussing his predictions for the industry’s next wave. While the pros and cons of importing and exporting cannabis were touched on, he was clear about the sector’s real commodity: “You must import intellect in the cannabis industry… exports is a short-term business.”
Barrington Miller, director of the Canadian Securities Exchange, delivered a keynote address in which he announced that “2020 is the year of the US [in cannabis].”
Daymond John echoed his sentiments; as an experienced businessman, he believes cannabis is the space to be in. As an investor, John wants to know where his proceeds are going in startups: “Today’s consumer wants to know what the cause behind it is. It’s not about what you have done for me, but what you have done for others.”
And there were in fact numerous examples of teamwork and public service throughout the conference. The Forum held its famed Best Pitch Competition; the winner, Sana Packaging, received a $25,000 investment. Sana, a bioplastic company launched in 2018, which manufactures cannabis packaging from materials including hemp plastic and plastic reclaimed from the oceans (in an ongoing collaboration with Oceanworks). According to Sana CSO and co-founder James Eichner, the company believes packaging should be regenerative and help heal the environment throughout its lifecycle.
Sana was one of ten companies the business accelerator CanopyBoulder brought to the stage. These included Stashlogix, a discreet brand of lockable stash bags and storage products; Anna, the only AI-powered self-checkout solution in the industry; and CliqueMJ, an innovative CRM and customer loyalty rewards platform that revolutionizes the dispensary-and-consumer communication experience. CliqueMJ also engages local businesses near the partner dispensaries on their platform, to offer consumers experiences like food and entertainment outside of cannabis.
Other special highlights included speaker Jason Wild of JW Asset Management, a brilliant fast-talking innovator whose firm just became a lead investor in the last round of funding for the healthy snack food company NatureBox, an exhibiting presenter at the event. And presenting sponsors Heart of the Hive, a craft cannabis company based in British Columbia, made a huge impression on Arcview attendees with their irresistible energy.
Arcview really belonged to the women this year, with addresses by leading ladies in the industry from Akerna (formerly MJ Freeway) founder and CEO Jessica Billingsley, Tahira Rehmatullah (T3 Ventures), Diane Czarkowski (founding partner of Think Canna), Beth Stavola (Chief Strategy Officer of iAnthus Capital), and many more. One of the Forum’s most exciting announcements came from Codie Sanchez, Managing Director of Cresco Capital Partners. Sanchez delivered the news that Cresco, a cannabis-specific private equity powerhouse, had officially transformed into Entourage Effect Capital LLC. The name is a nod to the concept that all components of the cannabis plant need to work together for healing, which Sanchez observed applies equally to people growing businesses in the space.
“If you are a private side investor, we [need] this new rationality for better deals,” she stated. “One person on a license doesn’t do anything for the community. We need to do better with social equity.”
The Arcview Women’s Investor Network (A-WIN) hosted its first ever daylong retreat at Duane Morris LLP. A-WIN is headed by Arcview’s indomitable trio of Jeanne M. Sullivan, Deborah Johnson and Barbara Koz Paley, who discussed the importance and necessity of women in the cannabis space. Reminding everyone in attendance that “it’s not a male, stale, pale world,” Paley advised, “Remember every one of us is born of a woman, and this is a female plant.”
“In all industries we need advocates, and especially in this industry,” Johnson emphasized.
Many of the women who took the Forum stage spoke on panels at the Retreat. Tahira Rehmatullah; Codie Sanchez; Jamie Pearson, COO of Bhang Corporation and a second-generation cannabis entrepreneur; Diane Czarkowski; the incredible Knox Family of physicians behind the American Cannabinoid Clinics (Drs. Rachel, Jessica, and Janice Knox have been responsible for extraordinary research into medical cannabis); Jody Weiss of KannAInsight, who gave a fantastic presentation on Vital Leaf CBD products; and more. It was an eye-opening experience, the collective power of women in that room.
The A-WIN keynote was delivered by Jessica Billingsley, the only woman in cannabis to take a company public on NASDAQ. Billingsley was also the first investor ever to present on the Arcview stage. She compared being a CEO to rock climbing: “In climbing you don’t climb alone. When you are the leader, when you climb first, you bring up your partner and your seconds behind you… Remember to lead, and we have to bring up all of our seconds as well.”
Keep an eye out for more from A-WIN as Honeysuckle and Honey Pot will continue to love on our ladies. But in the meantime, let us all celebrate the growth of the cannabis space and an amazing Arcview Forum. If we can be good teammates, savvy stewards, capable leaders and most importantly, genuine humans, we will create a world that’s seriously worth investing in.