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Happy Friday readers,
Another rough week in cannabis. On Tuesday, Tilray announced it was cutting 10% of its staff. That move was quickly overshadowed by a dump-truck full of bad news from Tilray’s competitor, Aurora Cannabis, which announced it was cutting 500 jobs, taking close to a billion dollars worth of writedowns, and moving on from its CEO, Terry Booth.
You can read my full story on the shakeup at Aurora here.
There were some other high-profile flameouts this week as well. Whoopi Goldberg’s women-focused cannabis startup, Whoopi & Maya, shut down after a personal fissure between the founders, and thanks to the challenges of operating in California’s legal cannabis market.
In more positive news, my colleague Yeji and I interviewed 15 of the top cannabis-focused VC and private equity funds to come up with a shortlist of the 15 hottest cannabis startups in 2020.
You can read our exclusive list here.
As always — and you know this if you’re a longtime Cultivated reader — get in touch with me if you have a tip or want to chat about stories.
Here’s what we wrote about this week:
These are the 15 buzziest cannabis startups to bet on in 2020, according to top investors
Business Insider interviewed 15 cannabis-focused venture and private equity funds and asked which companies they were most excited about this year, whether they’ve invested or not. Their answers ranged from B2B software platforms that cater to cannabis companies to product testing labs, and cultivation companies.
We then took that list of 65 cannabis startups and narrowed down the results based on which names came up the most.
California cannabis company Caliva is ditching Eaze and cutting more than 200 workers in a bet that building up its direct-to-consumer operation will pay off
California cannabis retailer Caliva is taking dramatic steps to shore up its business amid a slump in the cannabis industry.
The company is cutting ties with cannabis delivery service Eaze and plans to let go of around one-third of its workforce, CEO Dennis O’Malley told Business Insider. O’Malley said that Caliva plans to build up its own ability to sell cannabis products and deliver them to consumers, instead.
The employees were notified of the cuts early Tuesday morning, though their contracts run through the end of March, Caliva said. O’Malley did not say how many roles would be open for the affected workers to apply to.
Curaleaf, the biggest cannabis retailer, just snapped up Cura. The new CMO revealed how he plans to move the company forward after a string of controversies.
Curaleaf Holdings, America’s largest cannabis retailer, continued its growth streak by completing the acquisition of Cura Partners Inc. this week in all all-stock transaction valued at about $390 million.
Curaleaf plans to use its distribution network to boost sales of Cura’s Select cannabis oil products, Curaleaf’s new CMO Jason White told Business Insider. The acquisition closed days after Select paid a record $110,000 fine to the Oregon state government for mislabeling the ingredients in its vape pens, and White said his top goal is to help earn consumers’ trust in those products and make Curaleaf stand out in a crowded, confusing market.
Aurora Cannabis just laid off 500 workers amid an industry slump. We’re keeping track of all the job cuts across cannabis here.
The once red-hot cannabis industry is coming back down to earth.
In the past few months, cannabis companies — including venture-backed startups like Pax and giants like MedMen — have announced a series of job cuts, amounting to over 1,800 workers in the sector as a whole.
On Thursday, Canadian cannabis giant Aurora’s longtime CEO stepped down, and the company laid off 500 workers, including 25% of its corporate workforce, due to what the company says is slower than expected short-term growth in the cannabis industry.
We’re continuing to keep track of layoffs in the industry here. Please get in touch if you have a tip.
6 jobs that can earn you a 6-figure salary in the $85 billion cannabis industry
Despite a wave of recent layoffs at big cannabis companies and venture-backed startups, the industry still has an exciting future ahead.
If you’ve ever thought of working in cannabis, whether it’s selling a new product or making a complete mid-career change, there are opportunities to earn high salaries in some of the industry’s top roles.
Vangst’s annual salary guide reveals how much money candidates can expect to make in various positions. Based on the report, Business Insider rounded up the jobs that will earn you six-figure salaries.
Capital raises, M&A activity, partnerships, and launches
- Curaleaf closed its all-stock acquisition of Cura Partners, which owns the Select brand. The deal closed at an estimated $390 million value. My colleague Patrick Coffee interviewed Jason White, Curaleaf’s CMO, after the deal closed.
- Psychedelic startup Field Trip raised an $8.5 million Series A funding round. The round was led by the startup’s founders and Singhal Health Foundation. Other investors include Subversive Capital, Silver Spike Capital, and Bolt.
- Law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP has added Sativa Rasmussen to the firm’s Cannabis Practice Group in Seattle.
- Curaleaf adds Michael Carlotti as CFO. Carlotti previously worked as an SVP at MGM Resorts. Curaleaf’s former CFO, Neil Davidson, will become the firm’s COO.
- WeedMD CEO Keith Merker has stepped down from his role. He’ll be replaced by Angelo Tsebelis, the company’s president.
- Aurora Cannabis CEO Terry Booth has stepped down from his role. You can read my in-depth story here.
- The National Cannabis Industry Association added five new members to its board, including Canopy Rivers CEO Narbe Alexandrian, Rocky Mountain Reagents VP Liz Geisleman, and others.
Chart of the week
Data for cannabis sales in five different states in December showed year-over-year growth in all markets, according to Headset’s monthly market overview. California — the biggest market by far, with $261 million in adult-use sales — showed a 63% increase in year-over-year sales, while third-ranked Washington only saw a 5% increase:
What we’re reading
What Percentage of Americans Smoke Marijuana? (Gallup)
‘This was supposed to be reparations’: Why is LA’s cannabis industry devastating black entrepreneurs? (The Guardian)
Doctors reveal the most surprising questions about marijuana use and pregnancy they’ve gotten, like ‘Will it keep me skinny?’ (Insider)
Next up for cannabis reform in the Caribbean: The Bahamas (Cannabis Wire)
How a cannabis unicorn lost 87% of its market value in six months (Market Watch)
Who Thought Sucking on a Battery Was a Good Idea? Vaping is a health crisis that’s only just begun. (NY Mag, Intelligencer)
Joe Biden kinda, sorta, almost endorses legalizing marijuana (Politico)
Did we miss anything? Have a tip? Just want to chat? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or find Business Insider’s cannabis team on twitter: @jfberke & @jesse_yeji. You can also reach Jeremy on encrypted messaging app Signal on at (646) 376 6002.
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