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Vol. 8, No. 11-  March 12, 2022 - Edited by Dr. Lloyd Covens
CANNABIS LEADERS DEMAND GRINER RELEASE -- Charged with possession of vape cartridges-- possibly containing CBD or THC, but described by Russia as "hashish oil"-- WNBA star Brittney Griner(above) has been arrested and detained in a Russian jail.  With no further explanation of charges-- facing a possible 10-year sentence-- and US/Putin tension already at a critical stage--family members of a former U.S. Marine(Trevor Reed) detained years ago said they don't believe that Griner is guilty.  A family spokesman, Jonathan Franks, told TMZ that Reed's family was "highly skeptical" of the charges against Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star.  MJ pioneer/activist Steve DeAngelo is incensed that the Biden administration has not demanded her release.  Said DeAngelo   "Biden has outdone himself with his hatred for cannabis this time.  Without her written consent? Really? How would Brittney be able to provide written consent from a Russian jail cell? And why would we assume that she does NOT want expressions of support to be made by her government?"   Others in the cannabis industry also pointed to the horrific treatment of another Black female super-athlete -- Portland's Sha Carri Richardson-- in a pattern of using cannabis as an excuse to villify the victim. 
CURLF Stonewalls While Scutiny
of Blokh, Renaissance Rises

            Even as Britain sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich --number 6 on the Russian billionaire list with a $12.3Bill. fortune-- this week,  CuraLeaf again refused to offer any details on how the company's 2nd largest shareholder's proceeding in 2018-2020 investment of millions into Canadian stock exchange-traded public firm, CURLF.  New York-born Boris Alekseyevich  Jordan, CuraLeaf's 31% owner, spent the fall of last year raising millions for his other mega-company-- his 59%-owned  Renaissance Insurance.   With years of financial backing by EZRAV-- the Russian conglomerate owned by Abramovich-- a new $250Mil. public offering [not directly flowign to CureLeaf] closed at the end of 2021.

           On the 2018-2020 possible CuraLeaf investments by oligarch Andrei Blokh-- Forbes list number 71 richest oligarch and 21% ownership in the cannabis firm--- CuraLeaf vice president for corporate communications, Tracy Brady wrote West420 News: "We do not provide details about specific shareholders that are not already in public."   On Feb. 25th, the day after Russian invaded Ukraine,  Jordan tweeted: "our second largest shareholder is Andrei Blokh, a successful retired CPG entrepreneur who is not active in the Company.  Mr. Blokh is a U.S. citizen, who also holds a Russian passport," stating that no sanctions could be lodged against any CuraLeaf investor, repeatedly calling in his American-born status as sheilding him from any U.S. federal action against his assets.  Jordan's tweet failed to mention that Blokh holds dual-citizenship as a naturalized American, and lives in Moscow, where he still is involved with several Abramovich-connected businesses.

     On May 3,  CuraLeaf reported it’s 2021 results climbing to a record $1.2Bill (up 93%), indicating that both retail and wholesale revenue more than doubled to $860M and $347M from a year ago.  While the company experienced a tough 4th quarter (sales were flat from prior year), CURLF promised new SELECT-branded products heading its 120+ stores in 11 states, with a projection that 2022 could reach the $1.5-$1.6Bil. level.  In the 75 minute analyst voice call, never mentioning the Ukrainian war,  Jordan said he expects to see the company expand with a planned start of adult-use in its three New Jersey MMJ stores by mid-May, will expand its Arizona footprint with the addition of Tryke Industries holdings, and will bring new efficiencies to extracted oil/edible products through its installing of a proprietary “ACE” processing system.  On March 24, the New Jersey cannabis commission is slated to issue licenses for current state MMJ operators to expand into adult-use sales.  The Bellmawr, NJ  CuraLeaf MMJ store is seven miles over the Delaware River from downtown Philadelphia, a market of 1.6Million, with no RMJ access.

             But  Barron's 2020 business report on the Blokh and Abramovich was examined in their article: "Deep Russian Roots."  Said Barron's of CuraLeaf:  "The company is the creation of Russian-heritage billionaires who are American citizens. Its chairman is Boris Jordan, a banking success who was integrally involved in Russia’s complicated capitalist transition. His major investment partner is Andrei Blokh, well known as a former business associate of Russian oligarch
Roman Abramovich.  Abramovich is chronicled in the popular press as the owner of England’s Chelsea Football Club and for his behemoth “superyachts.”.....  For his part, Blokh grew immensely wealthy in Abramovich-tied oil deals and, of all things, milk products. His consolidation of the Russian dairy industry under the Unimilk umbrella and its subsequent 2010 sale in to Danone made him wealthy beyond most imaginations."    Barrons continued its feature: " In an interview with Barron’s,  Jordan was emphatic: Blokh’s old friendship aside, Abramovich has nothing to do with the company," said the CuraLeaf owner.  

         
West 420 reporters have been unsuccessful in gaining greater clarity over the 2017 purchase of Blokh’s Nevada-based cannabis company --House of Herbs -- which preceeded the reverse-stock issuance of the new "CuraLeaf" in 2018.  The original Jordan  twelve-percent investment in PalliaTech in 2017 from current executive/board member Joe Lusardi, led to renaming of the surviving entity as CuraLeaf.  Lusardi has been instrumental in growing company assets in licenses in Maine, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.


       In reporting the Renaissance capital raise, Interfax (Dec. 20, 2021 ) detailed the participants in the new flow of millions to Jordan's all-digital insurance agency:  " Credit Suisse, J.P.Morgan and VTB Capital acted as the joint global coordinators and joint bookrunners, BCS Global Markets was senior bookrunner and Renaissance Capital, Sberbank Tinkoff Bank and Sova Capital were joint bookrunners.  The free float after the IPO was about 24%. The Sputnik Group of Jordan and his partners owns 38.3% of the insurer, Baring Vostok holds 13.7%, a company controlled by billionaire Roman Abramovich owns 9.7%, and his partners Alexander Abramov, Alexander Frolov and and Andrey Gorodilov control 7%, 3.5% and 3.2%, respectively."    https://interfax.com/newsroom/top-stories/73421/    In the IPO offering, selling shareholders included Sputnik Management Services (and affiliate Holding Renaissance Insurance), which represents the group of investors led by Jordan; Baring Vostok through Notivia Ltd; companies owned by Evraz Plc billionaires Alexander Abramov and Alexander Frolov; and Andrey Gorodilov, who worked at Roman Abramovich’s oil producer Sibneft and was later deputy governor of Chukotka.

      Asked for comment on Jordan's chairman role at Renaissance, Brady wrote West 420 saying  "Curaleaf does not represent the interests of Renaissance Insurance; please address questions to that company directly."  We forwarded a request for comment to the Russian insurance firm at the email provided by CuraLeaf, and at press time had received no response.  Here is Jordan's upbeat Dec., 2021 interview with CNBC on the all-digital insurance prospects:  https://www.cnbc.com/video/2021/12/07/renaissance-insurance-we-are-one-of-the-largest-and-most-profitable-fintechs-in-the-world.html

         March 10's UK newspaper, The Guardian reported:  " Abramovich was targeted because the government’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation suspected that a steel company he had effective control of, Evraz plc, supplied steel to the Russian military to produce tanks."  As the owner of a major British soccer team, Abramovich has frantically looked for a new owner to sell the $2Bil.-plus valued franchise, but the UK sanction will halt any potential business with British companies.  Abramovich was reported to be a close Putin ally for much of the former KGS's 22 years as the Russian ruler.


Below: On Feb. 25, New York investor, "Betting Bruiser" issued a $10,000 challenge to Jordan to declare support for Ukraine, as had been done earlier by CEO's at Truleive and Green Thumb Industries.  The tweek(below) drew a quick response from Jordan who called Bruiser xenophobic, and called for diplomacy and "a peaceful resolution that protects the lives of all citizens on both sides of this conflict.”

Below:  MEDIA SAVVY JORDAN conducts another business cable interview from the newly purchased $14Mil. estate he purchased in Boca Raton, FL (bottom left) estate he acquired at end of 2021 for $14Mill.  Bottom right:   CuraLeaf co-founder  Blokh.   In April, 2019, Russia Business Today reported "Andrei Blokh was a long-time partner of Abramovich, being engaged in his oil business in the late 1990s, and in 1998 he headed oil company Sibneft. After the sale of Sibneft, Bloch took up Abramovich’s assets in the food industry, collecting Planet Management from disparate enterprises, and then together with a partner bought the dairy part of this business, Unimilk. In 2010, Unimilk announced a merger with the Danone division in Russia; until 2016, Bloch  remained a major shareholder of the combined company."  Full story at:  https://
russiabusinesstoday.com/economy/andrei-bloch-uses-marijuana-business-to-get-back-on-list-of-richest-russians/

  21 Webinars, Shows & Replays: Today's Update at Chemp7.com 

CANNABIS News Briefs..........

   California's new CBD consumer market for food/drink/pet and supplement access is gaining positive traction with regulators.  The California Hemp Consortium says the Dept. of Public Health will soon issue it's registration documents for out-of-California companies to complete to begin legal retail sales throughout the state, at any retail location.  CHC lead counsel Patrick Goggin suggests new CBD makers coming into California collect all their important certification details: COAs, labeling data, hemp sourcing, food safety filings and product  formulation details.  Last year's passage of AB-45 will also allow sales of bulk-CBD hemp(not exceeding .03% THC) for smoking, with the allowance of consumer cigarette-type products after a state tax (possible 7 to 9%) is set by mid-year.  Goggin also confirms a high priority in Sacramento to address revisions to the state's cannabis taxation scheme at the farmer level.

Link-of-the-Week:  The latest CBD report from Chicago's Brightfield Group details a projected strong 2022 for most product types. Other analysis includes a new Top 5 brands by  revenue, an in-depth look at CBD gummies and consumer demographic shifts.   Full report at:
 
https://global-ploads.webflow.com/596691afde3c5856d866ae50/621d0406d3876c070c89db5d_Q122_US%20CBD_Market%20Light%20Refresh_Report_FINAL%20(Public).pdf

Green Thumb Industries grew its total annual revenues to $893.6Mil. with a net income of $75.4 million or $0.34 per basic share-- compared with GAAP net income of $15.0 million or $0.07 in the prior year. At GTI, adjusted Operating EBITDA expanded 71.4% to $307.8 million or 34.5% of revenue.- Tilray Brands says it will buy $211 million in senior notes issued by Hexo Corp. as part of new strategic alliance between Canada’s original cannabis licensed producers.  Acres Holding also reported a quarterly consolidated revenue of $58.1 million and a net operating loss of $35.6 million-- Partner Colorado Credit Union was an early provider of full banking options under the direction of banker Sundee Siefried.  This week Northern Lights bought the Safe Harbor division for $185Mil., and intends to retain Siefried in the new ownership structure. 

State-by-State:  
Illiinois continues to set monthly sales records, reporting $114Mil. in total revenues for Feburary. Colorado's January revenues are off 20% from one year earlier, coming in at $151Mil.  Here is the Nevada 2021:


Note to readers:  For 8 years West420 has attempted to provide accurate, timely news coverage aimed at informing and lifting the entire North American legal cannabis industry.  On that mission, our coverage over the continued "Russian cloud" over CuraLeaf is not being received bravely by "the power structure" of MJ advocacy groups.  In our view, given international isolation of Russia under the Putin regime, it seems apparent that CuraLeaf will need to take a deep look at who continues to own the majority shares of the entity. Our calls out for comment have mostly been met with fear of antagonizing CuraLeaf, and at best, hiding from the complex question:  What kind of legal cannabis industry are we building for the future?  Your comments are especially valuable to "Dana@chemp7.com"  


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