Document

As filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on April 15, 2021.
Registration No. 333-254800          
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
AMENDMENT NO. 1
TO
FORM S-1
REGISTRATION STATEMENT
UNDER
THE SECURITIES ACT OF 1933
ASCEND WELLNESS HOLDINGS, LLC
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Delaware283383-0602006
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
(Primary Standard Industrial
Classification Code Number)
(I.R.S. Employer
Identification Number)
1411 Broadway
16th Floor
New York, NY 10018
(781) 703-7800
(Address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of registrant’s principal executive offices)
Daniel Neville
1411 Broadway
16th Floor
New York, NY 10018
(781) 703-7800
(Name, address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of agent for service)
As soon as practicable after this Registration Statement becomes effective.
(Approximate date of commencement of proposed sale to the public)
Copies to:
James Guttman
Dorsey & Whitney LLP
TD Canada Trust Tower
Brookfield Place, 161 Bay Street, Suite 4310 Toronto, Ontario
Canada, M5J 2S1
(416) 367-7376
If any of the securities being registered on this Form are to be offered on a delayed or continuous basis pursuant to Rule 415 under the Securities Act of 1933, check the following box:  ☐
If this Form is filed to register additional securities for an offering pursuant to Rule 462(b) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.  ☐
If this Form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(c) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.  ☐
If this Form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(d) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.  ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filerSmaller reporting company
Accelerated filerEmerging growth company
Non-accelerated filer
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 7(a)(2)(B) of the Securities Act.  ☐
CALCULATION OF REGISTRATION FEE
Title of Each Class of
Securities to be Registered
Amount to be Registered(1)
Proposed Maximum Offering Price Per Share
Proposed Maximum Aggregate Offering Price (1)
Amount of Registration Fee
Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value per share14,375,000$10.00$143,750,000
$15,684(2)
__________________
(1)Estimated solely for the purpose of calculating the amount of the registration fee in accordance with Rule 457(a) under the Securities Act. Includes the offering price of shares that the underwriters have an over-allotment option to purchase.
(2)The Registrant previously paid $13,638 in connection with the Registration Statement on Form S-1 (File No. 333-254800) filed with the Commission on March 29, 2021.
WE HEREBY AMEND THIS REGISTRATION STATEMENT ON SUCH DATE OR DATES AS MAY BE NECESSARY TO DELAY ITS EFFECTIVE DATE UNTIL WE SHALL FILE A FURTHER AMENDMENT WHICH SPECIFICALLY STATES THAT THIS REGISTRATION STATEMENT SHALL THEREAFTER BECOME EFFECTIVE IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 8(a) OF THE SECURITIES ACT, OR UNTIL THE REGISTRATION STATEMENT SHALL BECOME EFFECTIVE ON SUCH DATE AS THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, ACTING PURSUANT TO SAID SECTION 8(a), MAY DETERMINE.
EXPLANATORY NOTE
Ascend Wellness Holdings, LLC, or “AWH”, the registrant whose name appears on the cover of this registration statement, is a Delaware limited liability company. Immediately prior to the effectiveness of this registration statement and upon the approval of our board, AWH will convert into a Delaware corporation and change its name to “Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc.” We refer to this conversion throughout the prospectus included in this registration statement as the “Conversion.” The Conversion is not yet effective. As a result of the Conversion, the members of AWH will become holders of shares of stock of AWH. Except as disclosed in the prospectus, the consolidated financial statements and selected consolidated financial data and other financial information included in this registration statement are those of AWH and its subsidiaries and do not give effect to the Conversion. Shares of the Class A common stock of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. are being offered by the prospectus included in this registration statement.



The information in this preliminary prospectus is not complete and may be changed. These securities may not be sold until the registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission is effective. This preliminary prospectus is not an offer to sell nor does it seek an offer to buy these securities in any jurisdiction where the offer or sale is not permitted.
PRELIMINARY PROSPECTUS (Subject to Completion) Dated April 15, 2021
12,500,000 Shares
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Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc.
Class A Common Stock
This is an initial public offering of shares of Class A common stock of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. We are offering 12,500,000 shares of Class A common stock.
Prior to this offering, there has been no public market for our Class A common stock. It is currently estimated that the initial public offering price per share of Class A common stock will be between $8.00 and $10.00, with such estimated price reflecting a reverse split of our outstanding equity immediately prior to the effectiveness of the registration statement of which the prospectus forms a part, see “Corporate Conversion and Corporate Structure . For a detailed description of our Class A common stock, see “Description of Capital Stock.”
We have applied to list our Class A common stock on the Canadian Securities Exchange (the “CSE”) and to have our Class A common stock quoted on the OTCQX® Best Market operated by OTC Markets Group, Inc. (the “OTCQX”). Listing and quotation of our Class A common stock will be subject to us fulfilling all of the listing requirements of the CSE and OTCQX, respectively.
Following this offering, we will have two classes of common stock, Class A common stock and Class B common stock. The rights of the holders of Class A common stock and Class B common stock will be identical, except for voting and conversion rights. Each share of Class A common stock will be entitled to one vote per share. Each share of Class B common stock will be entitled to 1,000 votes per share and will be convertible at any time into one share of Class A common stock at the option of the holder. Following this offering, outstanding shares of Class B common stock will represent approximately 27% of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock. See “Description of Capital Stock.”
We are an emerging growth company under federal securities laws and are subject to reduced public company reporting requirements for this prospectus and our future filings. See “Implications of Being an Emerging Growth Company.”
Investing in our common stock involves a high degree of risk. We refer you to the section entitled “Risk Factors” on page 12 of this prospectus.
Per ShareTotal
Initial Public Offering Price
Underwriting discount and commissions (1)
Proceeds, before expenses, to us
________________
(1)We have agreed to reimburse the underwriters for certain expenses in connection with this offering. See “Underwriters.”
We have granted the underwriters an option for a period of 30 days following the date of this prospectus to purchase up to an additional 1,875,000 shares of Class A common stock at the initial offering price less the discount solely to cover over-allotments, if any. If the underwriters exercise the option in full, the total underwriting discounts and commission payable by us will be $     , and the total proceeds to us, before expenses, will be $     . See “Underwriters.”
Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor any state securities commission has approved or disapproved of these securities or determined if this prospectus is truthful or complete. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.
The underwriters expect to deliver the shares of Class A common stock against payment in            on               , 2021.
Canaccord Genuity



The date of this prospectus is               , 2021.



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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
F-1
1


ABOUT THIS PROSPECTUS
This prospectus is a part of a registration statement on Form S-1 that we filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”). You should read this prospectus together with additional information described under “Where You Can Find Additional Information.”
We have not authorized anyone to provide you with information other than that contained in this prospectus. We take no responsibility for, and can provide no assurance as to the reliability of, any other information that others may give to you. The information contained in this prospectus is accurate only as of the date of this prospectus, regardless of the time of delivery of this prospectus.
We are offering to sell, and seeking offers to buy, shares of Class A common stock only in jurisdictions where offers and sales are permitted. We have not taken any action to permit a public offering of our shares of Class A common stock or the possession or distribution of this prospectus in any jurisdiction where action for that purpose is required, other than the United States and Canada. You are required to inform yourselves about and to observe any restrictions relating to this offering and the distribution of this prospectus.
Unless otherwise indicated, information contained in this prospectus concerning our industry and the markets in which we operate, including our general expectations and market position, market opportunity and market share, is based on information from our own management estimates and research, as well as from industry and general publications and research, surveys and studies conducted by third parties. Actual outcomes may vary materially from those forecasts in the reports or publications referred to herein. Management estimates are derived from publicly available information, our knowledge of our industry and assumptions based on such information and knowledge, which we believe to be reasonable. In addition, assumptions and estimates of our and our industry’s future performance are necessarily subject to a high degree of uncertainty and risk due to a variety of factors, including those described in “Risk Factors.” These and other factors could cause our future performance to differ materially from our assumptions and estimates. See “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.
Solely for convenience, trademarks and trade names referred to in this prospectus may appear without the ® and ™ symbols, but those references are not intended to indicate, in any way, that we will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, our rights, or that the applicable owner will not assert its rights, to these trademarks and tradenames.
Unless the context otherwise requires, the terms “we,” “us,” “our” or the “Company” as used in this prospectus refer to Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc., together with its wholly-owned subsidiaries.
Unless otherwise indicated, all references to “$” or “US$” in this prospectus refer to United States dollars.
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IMPLICATIONS OF BEING AN EMERGING GROWTH COMPANY
As a company with less than $1.07 billion in revenue during our most recently completed fiscal year, we qualify as an “emerging growth company” as defined in Section 2(a) of the Securities Act, as modified by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”) of 2012. As an emerging growth company, we may take advantage of specified reduced disclosure and other exemptions from requirements that are otherwise applicable to public companies that are not emerging growth companies. These provisions include:
reduced disclosure about our executive compensation arrangements;
exemptions from non-binding stockholder advisory votes on executive compensation or golden parachute arrangements; and
exemption from the auditor attestation requirement in the assessment of our internal control over financial reporting.
We may take advantage of these exemptions for up to five years or such earlier time that we are no longer an emerging growth company. We would cease to be an emerging growth company if we have more than $1.07 billion in annual revenues as of the end of a fiscal year, if we are deemed to be a large-accelerated filer under the rules of the SEC or if we issue more than $1.0 billion of non-convertible debt over a three-year period.
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PROSPECTUS SUMMARY
This summary highlights certain information about us, this offering and selected information contained in the prospectus. This summary is not complete and does not contain all of the information that you should consider before deciding whether to invest in our shares of common stock. For a more complete understanding of our company and this offering, we encourage you to read and consider the more detailed information included in this prospectus, including “Risk Factors” and the financial statements and related notes thereto. See “Where You Can Find Additional Information.”
Overview
AWH is a vertically integrated multi-state operator focused on adult-use or near-term adult-use cannabis states in limited license markets. Our core business is the cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of cannabis consumer packaged goods, which we sell through our company-owned retail stores and to third-party licensed cannabis retail stores. We were founded in 2018 and initially pursued cultivation and dispensary licensing opportunities in Massachusetts. In December 2018, we entered the Illinois market with the acquisition of an existing cultivation facility through the acquisition of Revolution Cannabis-Barry LLC. We also acquired HealthCentral, LLC (“HCI”) and its related entities, which owned two operational medical dispensaries in Illinois. We have since expanded our operational footprint, primarily through acquisitions and now have direct or indirect operations or financial interests in five U.S. geographic markets: Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio.
We believe in bettering lives through cannabis. Our mission is to improve the lives of our employees, patients, customers and the communities we serve through the use of the cannabis plant. We are committed to providing safe, reliable and high-quality products and providing consumers options and education to ensure they are able to identify and obtain the products that fit their personal needs. As of April 15, 2021, we have direct or indirect operations or financial interests in five U.S. geographic markets and employ approximately 1,000 people.
Currently, approximately one third of our portfolio of cultivation and dispensary assets are generating revenue and we expect the remainder of these assets to begin generating revenue over the course of the 2021 calendar year. We are committed to being vertically integrated in every state we operate in, which entails controlling the entire supply chain from seed to sale. We are currently vertically integrated in two out of our five states with expansion plans underway to achieve vertical integration in all five states. While we have been successful in opening facilities and dispensaries, we expect continued growth to be driven by opening new operational facilities and dispensaries under our current licenses, expansion of our current facilities and increased consumer demand.
Our consumer products portfolio is generated primarily from plant material that we grow and process ourselves. We produce our consumer-packaged goods in five manufacturing facilities with 74,000 square feet of current cumulative canopy and total current capacity of 38,000 pounds annually. We are undergoing expansions at our Barry, Illinois, Lansing, Michigan and Athol, Massachusetts cultivation facilities which are expected to be completed in 2021 and we expect to build facilities in Monroe, Ohio and New Jersey in 2022. The expansions are expected to add a total of approximately 285,000 square feet of cumulative canopy, which is estimated to have a total production capacity of 142,000 pounds annually post build-out, assuming production and yields are in line with the performance of our current operating canopy. Our product portfolio currently consists of 102 stock keeping units (“SKUs”), across a range of cannabis product categories, including flower, pre-rolls, concentrates, vapes, edibles and other cannabis-related products. As of April 15, 2021, we have 16 open and operating retail locations, including pending acquisitions in Illinois and Ohio, which we anticipate will expand to 23 locations open and operating by the end of calendar year 2021. Our new store opening plans are flexible and will ultimately depend on market conditions, local licensing, construction and other regulatory permissions. All of our expansion plans are subject to capital allocation decisions, the evolving regulatory environment and the COVID-19 pandemic. See “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.
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Corporate Information
We were originally formed as Ascend Group Partners, LLC on May 15, 2018 as a Delaware limited liability company. We changed our name to “Ascend Wellness Holdings, LLC” on September 10, 2018. Prior to the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part, we will convert into a Delaware corporation pursuant to a statutory conversion and be renamed “Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc.” See “Corporate Conversion and Corporate Structure.”
Our principal executive offices are located at 1411 Broadway, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10018. Our telephone number is (781) 703-7800. Our website address is www.awholdings.com. The information contained on our website or connected to our website is not incorporated by reference into and should not be considered part of this prospectus.
Corporate Conversion and Corporate Structure
Immediately prior to the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part, we will engage in the following transactions, which we refer to collectively as the “Conversion”:
we will convert from a Delaware limited liability company to a Delaware corporation by filing a certificate of conversion with the Delaware Secretary of State; and
we will change our name from “Ascend Wellness Holdings, LLC” to “Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc.”
As part of the Conversion:
we will create two classes of authorized common stock, Class A common stock and Class B common stock;
we will effect a two-for-one reverse split of our outstanding equity (the “Reverse Split”);
holders of Series Seed Preferred and Series Seed Preferred+ Units of AWH will receive one share of Class A common stock of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. for each unit of Series Seed Preferred and Series Seed Preferred+ Units held immediately prior to the Conversion, as adjusted for the Reverse Split, rounded down to the nearest whole share;
holders of Real Estate Preferred Units of AWH will receive, for each unit of Real Estate Preferred Units of AWH, a number of shares of Class A common stock of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. equal to (x) one plus (y) (A) the original purchase price of such Real Estate Preferred Unit multiplied by 1.5, divided by (B) the price at which we are offering Class A common stock pursuant to this offering, as adjusted for the Reverse Split, rounded down to the nearest whole share;
holders of common units of AWH will receive one share of Class A common stock of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. for each common unit held immediately prior to the Conversion, as adjusted for the Reverse Split, rounded down to the nearest whole share;
holders of restricted common units issued under the 2020 Incentive Plan (as defined below) will receive one share of Class A common stock of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. for each restricted common unit held immediately prior to the Conversion, as adjusted for the Reverse Split, rounded down to the nearest whole share;
holders of warrants to acquire 7,062,285 common units of AWH at an exercise price of $2.00 per share will receive warrants to acquire an equal number of shares Class A common stock, as adjusted for the Reverse Split, rounded down to the nearest whole share; and
AGP Partners, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (“AGP”), will receive 65,000 shares of Class B common stock, which will constitute all of the outstanding shares of Class B common stock of AWH.
While we anticipate the Conversion, including the Reverse Split, will be approved by our board of managers, it has not been formally approved and is not effective as of the date hereof.
Effective as of the closing of this offering, holders of convertible notes will convert into shares of Class A common stock in accordance with the terms of the note purchase agreement, dated June 12, 2019, between the Company and the purchasers of the convertible notes (the “2019 Convertible Notes”). The holders of 2019
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Convertible Notes will receive a number of shares of Class A common stock equal to the outstanding principal and accrued and unpaid interest under the notes divided by a price per share equal to the lesser of (a) (i) a 20% discount to the price per share of Class A common stock offered pursuant to this offering in the event the offering occurs on or before 12 months from the closing date; (ii) a 25% discount to the price per share of Class A common stock offered pursuant to this offering in the event the offering occurs after 12 months from the closing date, but before the maturity date; and (b) $2.96, which represents the price per share resulting from a pre-money valuation of the company of $295,900,000, taking into account the Reverse Split.
Effective as of the closing of this offering, holders of convertible notes will convert into shares of Class A common stock in accordance with the terms of the note purchase agreement, dated January 6, 2021, between the Company and the purchasers of the convertible notes (the “2021 Convertible Notes”). The holders of 2021 Convertible Notes will receive a number of shares of Class A common stock equal to the outstanding principal and accrued and unpaid interest under the notes divided by a price per share equal to the lesser of (a) (i) a 20% discount to the price per share of Class A common stock offered pursuant to this offering in the event the offering occurs on or before 12 months from the closing date; (ii) a 25% discount to the price per share of Class A common stock offered pursuant to this offering in the event the offering occurs after 12 months from the closing date, but before the maturity date; and (b) $6.00 per share of Class A common stock, taking into account the Reverse Split.
Following the Conversion, Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. will be deemed to be the same entity as AWH, and as a result will continue to hold all property and assets of AWH and will remain liable for all of the debts and obligations of AWH. After effecting the Conversion, we will be governed by a certificate of incorporation to be filed with the Delaware Secretary of State and bylaws.
Following the Conversion, we will have two classes of authorized common stock, Class A common stock and Class B common stock. Each share of Class A common stock will be entitled to one vote per share. Each share of Class B common stock will be entitled to 1,000 votes per share. Holders of Class A common stock and Class B common stock will vote together as a single class on all matters (including the election of directors) submitted to a vote of stockholders, unless otherwise required by law or our certificate of incorporation. Each share of Class B common stock will automatically convert into one share of Class A common stock on the final conversion date, as defined in our certificate of incorporation. Each share of Class B common stock will also be convertible at any time at the option of the holder into one share of Class A common stock. In addition, each share of Class B common stock will convert automatically into one share of Class A common stock upon any transfer, whether or not for value, except for certain transfers described in our certificate of incorporation, including, without limitation, transfers for tax and estate planning purposes, so long as the transferring holder of Class B common stock continues to hold exclusive voting and dispositive power with respect to the shares transferred. Once converted into a share of Class A common stock, a converted share of Class B common stock will not be reissued. Following the conversion of all outstanding shares of Class B common stock, no further shares of Class B common stock will be issued. See “Description of Capital Stock.”
On the effective date of the Conversion, the members of the board of managers of AWH will become the members of the board of directors (the “Board”) of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc., with the exceptions described in this prospectus, and the officers of AWH will become the officers of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. Following the Conversion, we will consummate the initial public offering of our Class A common stock.
The following diagram illustrates our corporate structure following the completion of the Conversion and the closing of the offering. See Exhibit 21.1 to the registration statement of which this prospectus is a part for a list of our subsidiaries. All lines represent 100% ownership of outstanding securities of the applicable subsidiary unless
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otherwise noted. In part, the complexity of our organization structure is due to state licensing requirements that mandate that we maintain the corporate identity of our operating license holders.
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(1) In process of transfer to AWH. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is currently reviewing the transfer application.
(2) The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program is currently reviewing transfer requests for Hemma, LLC and BCCO, LLC. We have entered into an agreement to acquire Marichron Pharma, LLC, but cannot submit a transfer request until Marichron Pharma, LLC receives a certificate of operation.
Legend:
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In this prospectus, except as otherwise indicated or the context otherwise requires, all information is presented giving effect to the Conversion. The purpose of the Conversion is to reorganize our structure so that the entity that is offering our Class A common stock to the public in this offering is a Delaware corporation rather than a Delaware limited liability company, and so that our existing investors will own our Class A common stock rather than equity interests in a limited liability company. The Conversion will be effected by the filing of a certificate of conversion with the Secretary of State of the State of Delaware. See “Corporate Conversion and Corporate Structure.”
7


THE OFFERING
Amount of securities to be offered:12,500,000 shares of Class A common stock
Class A common stock to be outstanding after this offering:

168,489,326  shares of Class A common stock(1)
Class B common stock to be outstanding after this offering:

65,000 shares of Class B common stock(1)
Over-allotment option to purchase additional shares of Class A common stock: 
We have granted the underwriters the right to purchase up to 1,875,000 additional shares of Class A common stock within 30 days following the date of this prospectus
Use of proceeds:
We estimate that the net proceeds from this offering will be approximately $105,000,000, or approximately $120,900,000 if the underwriters exercise their over-allotment option in full. We expect to use (i) approximately $31,000,000 of the proceeds from this offering for the pending investment in MedMen NY, Inc., though we are not certain when or if such transaction will be consummated, or the terms upon which it will ultimately be completed as it remains subject to regulatory approval in all respects, (ii) approximately $7,000,000 to consummate the transactions for our proposed acquisitions of (a) Hemma, LLC and (b) BCCO, LLC, both of which are in Ohio, though we are not certain when or if such transactions will be consummated, or the terms upon which they will ultimately be completed as each remains subject to regulatory approval in all respects, (iii) approximately $20,000,000 for capital expenditures, and (iv) the remainder for future M&A transactions, general administration, tax liabilities, working capital and general corporate purposes, including additional financing provided to MedMen NY, Inc. prior to closing. See “Use of Proceeds.”
Dividend policy:
We do not expect to pay any dividends on our shares of Class A common stock for the foreseeable future. See “Dividend Policy.”
Voting and conversion:
We have two classes of common stock, Class A common stock and Class B common stock. The rights of the holders of Class A common stock and Class B common stock are identical, except for voting and conversion rights. Each share of Class A common stock will be entitled to one vote per share. Each share of Class B common stock will be entitled to 1,000 votes per share. In the event of any change of control transaction, shares of our Class A common stock and Class B common stock shall be treated equally, ratably and identically, on a per share basis, unless different treatment of the shares of each such class is approved by the affirmative vote of the holders of a majority of the outstanding shares of Class A Common Stock and Class B Common Stock, each voting separately as a class. See “Description of Capital Stock.”
Registration Rights Agreement
We intend to enter into a registration rights agreement (the “Registration Rights Agreement”) with AGP in connection with this offering. The Registration Rights Agreement will provide AGP certain registration rights whereby, following our initial public offering and the expiration of any related lock-up period, AGP can require us to register under the Securities Act shares of Class A common stock. The Registration Rights Agreement will also provide for piggyback registration rights for AGP.
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Risk factors:You should read the “Risk Factors” section included in this prospectus for a discussion of factors to consider carefully before deciding to invest in shares of our Class A common stock.
Trading symbol:We have applied to list our Class A common stock on the CSE and to have our Class A common stock quoted on the OTCQX. The listing and quotation of our Class A common stock will be subject to us fulfilling all of the listing requirements of the CSE and OTCQX, respectively.
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(1)The total number of shares of our common stock outstanding immediately after this offering is based on 168,489,326 shares of Class A common stock and 65,000 shares of Class B common stock that would be outstanding as of April 15, 2021, if the Conversion occurred on April 14, 2021, and excludes:
3,531,143 shares of Class A common stock issuable upon the exercise of warrants outstanding as of April 15, 2021, at an exercise price of $4.00 per share of Class A common stock;
1,093,750 shares of Class A common stock issuable upon the exercise of warrants outstanding as of April 15, 2021, at an exercise price of $3.20 per share of Class A common stock; and
2,792,703 unvested restricted stock units.
The data presented above gives effect to a two-for-one Reverse Split. While we anticipate the Reverse Split will be approved by our board of managers, it has not been formally approved and is not effective as of the date hereof.
In this prospectus, except as otherwise indicated or the context otherwise requires, all information is presented giving effect to the Conversion. The purpose of the Conversion is to reorganize our structure so that the entity that is offering our Class A common stock to the public in this offering is a Delaware corporation rather than a Delaware limited liability company, and so that our existing investors will own our Class A common stock rather than equity interests in a limited liability company. The Conversion will be effected by the filing of a certificate of conversion with the Secretary of State of the State of Delaware. See “Corporate Conversion and Corporate Structure.”
Summary of Risk Factors
Participating in this offering involves substantial risk. Our ability to execute our strategy is also subject to certain risks and uncertainties. The risks described under the heading “Risk Factors” included elsewhere in this prospectus may cause us not to realize the full benefits of our strengths or may cause us to be unable to successfully execute all or part of our strategy. Some of the most significant challenges and risks include the following:
the effect of the volatility of the market price and liquidity risks on shares of our Class A common stock;
the effect of the voting control exercised by holders of Class B common stock;
our ability to attract and maintain key personnel;
our ability to continue to open new dispensaries and cultivation facilities as anticipated;
the illegality of cannabis under federal law;
our ability to comply with state and federal regulations;
the uncertainty regarding enforcement of cannabis laws;
the effect of restricted access to banking and other financial services;
the effect of constraints on marketing and risks related to our products;
the effect of unfavorable tax treatment for cannabis businesses;
the effect of security risks;
the effect of infringement or misappropriation claims by third parties;
our ability to comply with potential future FDA regulations;
our ability to enforce our contracts;
the effect of unfavorable publicity or consumer perception;
the effect of risks related to material acquisitions, dispositions and other strategic transactions;
the effect of agricultural and environmental risks;
the effect of risks related to information technology systems;
the effect of product liability claims and other litigation to which we may be subjected;
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the effect of risks related to the results of future clinical research;
the effect of intense competition in the industry;
the effect of adverse changes in the wholesale and retail prices;
the effect of outbreaks of pandemic diseases, fear of such outbreaks or economic disturbances due to such outbreaks, particularly the impact of the COVID-19 illness; and
the effect of general economic risks, such as the unemployment level, interest rates and inflation, and challenging global economic conditions.
Before you invest in our Class A common stock, you should carefully consider all the information in this prospectus, including matters set forth in the section captioned “Risk Factors.”
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SUMMARY OF CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL INFORMATION
The following table sets forth our selected consolidated financial data for the periods, and as of the dates, indicated. The (i) consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019 and (ii) consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2020 and 2019 have been derived from the audited consolidated financial statements of the Company and its subsidiaries, which are included elsewhere in this prospectus.
The data set forth below should be read in conjunction with “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and the consolidated financial statements and the accompanying notes presented in this prospectus. Our consolidated financial statements have been prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP and on a going-concern basis that contemplates continuity of operations and realization of assets and liquidation of liabilities in the ordinary course of business.
Year Ended December 31,
(in thousands, except per share data)20202019
Revenue, net$143,732 $12,032 
Cost of goods sold$(82,818)$(8,744)
Gross profit$60,914 $3,288 
Total operating expenses$53,067 $29,409 
Other income (expense)$(12,986)$(6,454)
Net loss attributable to AWH$(25,439)$(31,895)
Net loss per share attributable to AWH $(0.13)$(0.18)
Total assets$427,748 $195,931 
Noncurrent liabilities$308,677 $145,045 
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RISK FACTORS
Investing in our Class A common stock involves a high degree of risk. You should consider carefully the risks and uncertainties described below before making an investment decision, which we believe are material risks associated with our business and this offering. Our business, financial condition, operating results or growth prospects could be harmed by any of these risks. In such an event, the trading price of our Class A common stock could decline, and you may lose all or part of your investment. In assessing these risks, you should also refer to all of the other information contained in this prospectus, including our consolidated financial statements and related notes. Please also see the sections captioned “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” and “Market Industry and Other Data.”
Risks Related to this Offering and Our Class A Common Stock
We do not intend to pay dividends on our shares of Class A common stock and, consequently, your ability to achieve a return on your investment will depend on appreciation in the price of our shares of Class A common stock.
We have never declared or paid any cash dividend on our shares of Class A common stock and do not currently intend to do so in the foreseeable future. We currently anticipate that we will retain future earnings, if materialized, for the development, operation and expansion of our business and do not anticipate declaring or paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the success of an investment in our shares of Class A common stock will depend upon any future appreciation in their value. Our shares of Class A common stock may not appreciate in the short term or long term or even maintain the price at which said shares of Class A common stock were purchased. A holding of shares of Class A common stock is speculative and involves a high degree of risk and should be undertaken only by holders whose financial resources are sufficient to enable them to assume such risks and who have no need for immediate liquidity in their investment. Holding shares of Class A common stock is appropriate only for holders who have the capacity to absorb a loss of some or all of their holdings.
Our voting control will be concentrated.
Abner Kurtin, one of our founders and our Chief Executive Officer, and Frank Perullo, one of our founders and our Chief Strategy Officer, have the ability to exercise significant voting power with respect to our outstanding shares because of the shares of Class B common stock that will be held by AGP, an entity Mr. Kurtin and Mr. Perullo control. Shares of Class B common stock will be entitled to 1,000 votes per share. Upon completion of this offering, Mr. Kurtin and Mr. Perullo will control approximately 18% of our total issued and outstanding shares and approximately 40% of the voting power attached to all of our issued and outstanding shares (approximately 18% and 40%, respectively, if the underwriters exercise their option to purchase additional Class A common stock in full).
As a result, Mr. Kurtin and Mr. Perullo have the ability to exercise significant voting power on decisions that require stockholder approval, including the election and removal of directors and significant corporate transactions. This ability to exercise significant voting power could delay, defer or prevent a change of control, arrangement or merger or sale of all or substantially all of our assets that our other stockholders may support, which in turn could have a material adverse effect on the market price of our Class A common stock. Conversely, this concentrated control could allow the holders of the Class B common stock to consummate such a transaction that our other stockholders do not support. In addition, the holders of the Class B common stock may make long-term strategic investment decisions and take risks that may not be successful and/or may seriously harm our business.
Additionally, subsequent to the Conversion, Mr. Kurtin will serve as our Chair of the Board and Mr. Perullo will serve as one of our directors.
Future transfers by holders of Class B common stock will generally result in those shares converting to Class A common stock, subject to limited exceptions described in our certificate of incorporation. Each share of our Class B common stock is convertible at any time at the option of the Class B holder into one share of Class A common stock. The conversion of Class B common stock to Class A common stock would dilute the overall voting power of
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Mr. Kurtin and Mr. Perullo and the voting power of holders of Class A common stock in terms of voting power within the Class A common stock, including holders of Class A common stock purchased in this offering.
For a description of our capital structure, see “Description of Capital Stock.”
Our capital structure and voting control may cause unpredictability in the price of our Class A common stock.
Given the concentration of voting control that is held by the holders of the Class B common stock, this capital structure and voting control could result in a lower trading price for, or greater fluctuations in, the trading price of our shares of Class A common stock, adverse publicity or other adverse consequences.
If you purchase our shares of Class A common stock in this offering, you will incur immediate and substantial dilution in the book value of your shares.
If you purchase shares of Class A common stock in this offering, you will incur immediate and substantial dilution of $7.97 per share after giving effect to the sale by us of 12.5 million shares of Class A common stock offered in this offering at the public offering price of $9.00 per share, which is the midpoint of the price range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, and after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions for shares sold in the public offering and estimated offering expenses payable by us. The exercise of outstanding stock options and warrants may result in further dilution of your investment. See the section titled “Dilution” appearing elsewhere in this prospectus for a more detailed description of the dilution to new investors in the offering.
The market price for the shares of Class A common stock may be volatile, which may affect the price at which you could sell the shares of Class A common stock.
The market price for securities of cannabis companies generally are likely to be volatile. In addition, the market price for the shares of Class A common stock has been and may be subject to wide fluctuations in response to numerous factors beyond our control, including, but not limited to:
actual or anticipated fluctuations in our quarterly results of operations;
recommendations by securities research analysts;
changes in the economic performance or market valuations of companies in the industry in which we operate;
addition or departure of our executive officers and other key personnel;
release or expiration of transfer restrictions on outstanding shares of Class A common stock;
sales or perceived sales of additional shares of Class A common stock;
operating and financial performance that varies from the expectations of management, securities analysts and investors;
regulatory changes affecting our industry generally and our business and operations both domestically and abroad, or legislative or regulatory decisions to halt adult-use or medical cannabis programs;
announcements of developments and other material events by us or our competitors;
fluctuations in the costs of vital production materials and services;
changes in global financial markets and global economies and general market conditions, such as interest rates and pharmaceutical product price volatility;
significant acquisitions or business combinations, strategic partnerships, joint ventures or capital commitments by or involving us or our competitors;
operating and share price performance of other companies that investors deem comparable to us or from a lack of market comparable companies; and
news reports relating to trends, concerns, technological or competitive developments, regulatory changes and other related issues in our industry or target markets.
Financial markets have at times historically experienced significant price and volume fluctuations that: (i) have particularly affected the market prices of equity securities of companies, and (ii) have often been unrelated to the operating performance, underlying asset values or prospects of such companies. Accordingly, the market price of the
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shares of Class A common stock from time to time may decline even if our operating results, underlying asset values or prospects have not changed. Additionally, these factors, as well as other related factors, may cause decreases in asset values that may result in impairment losses to us. Further fluctuations in price and volume of equity securities may occur in the future. If increased levels of volatility and market turmoil continue, our operations could be adversely impacted, and the trading price of the shares of Class A common stock may be materially adversely affected.
We may face liquidity risks.
We have applied to list our shares of Class A common stock on the CSE and to have our shares of Class A common stock quoted on the OTCQX. Listing and quotation of our Class A common stock will be subject to us fulfilling all of the listing requirements of the CSE and OTCQX, respectively. We cannot predict at what prices the shares of Class A common stock will continue to trade, and an active trading market may not be sustained.
Our shares of Class A common stock do not currently trade on any U.S. securities exchange. In the event our shares of Class A common stock do trade on any U.S. securities exchange, we cannot predict at what prices the shares of Class A common stock will trade and there is no assurance that an active trading market will develop or be sustained. There is a significant liquidity risk associated with an investment in us.
We will be subject to increased costs as a result of being a United States company listed on the CSE.
We have applied to be listed on the CSE and anticipate being subject to SEC rules and regulations. As a result, we will be subject to the reporting requirements, rules and regulations under the applicable Canadian and U.S. securities laws and rules of stock exchanges on which our securities may be listed. The requirements of existing and potential future rules and regulations will increase our legal, accounting and financial compliance costs, make some activities more difficult, time-consuming or costly and may place undue strain on our personnel, systems and resources, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We will face costs of maintaining a public listing.
There are costs associated with legal, accounting and other expenses related to regulatory compliance. Securities legislation and the rules and policies of the CSE require listed companies to, among other things, adopt corporate governance and related practices, and to continuously prepare and disclose material information, all of which add to a company’s legal and financial compliance costs. We may also elect to devote greater resources on communication and other activities typically considered important by publicly traded companies.
Anti-takeover provisions in our certificate of incorporation and bylaws and Delaware law could discourage a takeover.
Our certificate of incorporation and bylaws, as adopted in connection with this offering, will contain provisions that might enable our management to resist a takeover. These provisions include:
authorizing the issuance of “blank check” preferred stock that could be issued by our Board to increase the number of outstanding shares and thwart a takeover attempt;
advance notice requirements applicable to stockholders for matters to be brought before a meeting of stockholders and requirements as to the form and content of a stockholder’s notice;
restrictions on the transfer of our outstanding shares of Class B common stock, which shares will represent 27% of the voting rights of our capital stock following this offering, or 27% of the voting rights if the underwriters exercise in full their option to purchase additional shares of Class A common stock;
the dual-class structure of our common stock, which gives our founders significant influence over all matters requiring stockholder approval, including the election of directors, amendments to our charter documents and significant corporate transactions, such as a merger or other sale of our company or its assets;
the inability of our stockholders to act by written consent;
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a requirement that the authorized number of directors may be changed only by resolution of the Board;
allowing all vacancies, including newly created directorships, to be filled by the affirmative vote of a majority of directors then in office, even if less than a quorum, except as otherwise required by law;
limiting the forum for certain litigation against us to Delaware; and
limiting the persons that can call special meetings of our stockholders to our Board, the chief executive officer, the president, the secretary or a majority of the authorized number of directors.
These provisions might discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company or a change in our Board or management. The existence of these provisions could adversely affect the voting power of holders of Class A common stock and limit the price that investors might be willing to pay in the future for shares of our Class A common stock. In addition, because we are incorporated in Delaware, we are governed by the provisions of Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which generally prohibits a Delaware corporation from engaging in any of a broad range of business combinations with any “interested” stockholder for a period of three years following the date on which the stockholder became an “interested” stockholder. See “Description of Capital Stock.
We may issue shares of preferred stock in the future, which could make it difficult for another company to acquire us or could otherwise adversely affect holders of our Class A common stock, which could depress the price of our Class A common stock.
Our certificate of incorporation will authorize us to issue one or more series of preferred stock. Our Board will have the authority to determine the preferences, limitations and relative rights of the shares of preferred stock and to fix the number of shares constituting any series and the designation of such series, without any further vote or action by our stockholders. Our preferred stock could be issued with voting, liquidation, dividend and other rights superior to the rights of our Class A common stock. The potential issuance of preferred stock may delay or prevent a change in control of us, discourage bids for our Class A common stock at a premium to the market price, and materially and adversely affect the market price and the voting and other rights of the holders of our Class A common stock.
Our certificate of incorporation and bylaws will provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the sole and exclusive forum for substantially all disputes between us and our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers or employees.
Our certificate of incorporation and bylaws, which will become effective prior to the completion of this offering, provide that, unless we consent to the selection of an alternative forum, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware is the sole and exclusive forum for (i) any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf, (ii) any action asserting a claim of breach of fiduciary duty owed by any of our directors, officers or other employees to us or to our stockholders, (iii) any action asserting a claim arising pursuant to the Delaware General Corporation Law or our certificate of incorporation or bylaws, (iv) any action to interpret apply, enforce or determine the validity of our certificate of incorporation or bylaws, or (v) any action asserting a claim governed by the internal affairs doctrine.
This exclusive forum provision would not apply to suits brought to enforce any liability or duty created by the Securities Act or the Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”) or any other claim for which the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction. Our bylaws provide that, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the federal district courts of the United States of America shall be the exclusive forum for the resolution of any complaint asserting a cause of action arising under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act.
The choice of forum provisions above may limit a stockholder’s ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that it finds favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers or other employees or could result in increased costs for a stockholder to bring a claim, both of which may discourage such lawsuits against us and our directors, officers and other employees. Alternatively, if a court were to find the choice of forum provision contained in our certificate of incorporation to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could harm our business, operating results and financial condition.
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It may be difficult to enforce civil liabilities in the U.S. under Canadian securities laws.
We are incorporated in the State of Delaware and our corporate headquarters are located in New York. A majority of our directors and executive officers and certain of the experts named in this prospectus reside principally in the U.S. and the majority of our assets and all or a substantial portion of the assets of these persons is located outside of Canada. It may be difficult for investors who reside in Canada to effect service of process upon these persons in Canada, or to enforce a Canadian court judgment predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the Canadian securities laws against us or any of these persons. U.S. courts may refuse to hear a claim based on an alleged violation of Canadian securities laws against us or these persons on the grounds that the U.S. is not the most appropriate forum in which to bring a claim. Even if a U.S. court agrees to hear a claim, it may determine that U.S. law and not Canadian law is applicable to the claim. If Canadian law is found to be applicable, the content of applicable Canadian law must be proved as a fact, which can be a time-consuming and costly process. Certain matters of procedure will also be governed by U.S. law.
We will be an SEC foreign issuer under Canadian securities laws and, therefore, will be exempt from certain requirements of Canadian securities laws applicable to other Canadian reporting issuers.
Although we intend to be a reporting issuer in Canada, we will be an “SEC foreign issuer” as defined in National Instrument 71-102 – Continuous Disclosure and Other Exemptions Relating to Foreign Issuers, and will be exempt from certain Canadian securities laws relating to continuous disclosure obligations and proxy solicitation if we comply with certain reporting requirements applicable in the U.S., provided that the relevant documents filed with the SEC are filed in Canada and sent to our stockholders in Canada to the extent and in the manner and within the time required by applicable U.S. requirements. In some cases, the disclosure obligations applicable in the U.S. are different or less onerous than the comparable disclosure requirements applicable in Canada for a Canadian reporting issuer that is not exempt from Canadian disclosure obligations. Therefore, there may be less or different publicly available information about us than would be available if we were a Canadian reporting issuer that is not exempt from such Canadian disclosure obligations. While we expect to be an SEC foreign issuer for the foreseeable future, we may lose the ability to rely upon such exemption in the event of a significant increase in the number of our Canadian resident stockholders and/or in the event of a significant change in the administration of our business or the location of our assets, which would in turn require us, as a consequence, to comply with the Canadian disclosure requirements in addition to those of the U.S., thereby necessitating the devotion of further administrative and legal resources in order to meet such requirement.
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
Cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law, and enforcement of cannabis laws could change.
We are currently engaged in the cannabis industry in the United States, both directly and indirectly, where local and state laws permit such activities. However, investors are cautioned that cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance pursuant to the United States Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. § 811) (the “CSA”), and is illegal under U.S. federal law. Even in those states in which the use of cannabis has been legalized, its use, cultivation, sale and distribution remains a violation of federal law. Since federal law criminalizing the use of cannabis preempts state laws that legalize its use, strict enforcement of federal law regarding cannabis would harm our business, prospects, results of operation, and financial condition.
Unlike in Canada, which has federal legislation uniformly governing the cultivation, distribution, sale and possession of medical and adult-use cannabis, for both adult-use and medical purposes, cannabis is largely regulated at the state level in the United States. To date, the cultivation and sale of cannabis for medical uses has been legalized in 36 states, four of five permanently inhabited U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. The adult-use of cannabis has been legalized in 18 states and the District of Columbia, though the voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing adult-use cannabis in South Dakota is currently being challenged. Although certain U.S. states have legalized the sale of medical or adult-use cannabis, the sale, distribution, and cultivation of cannabis and cannabis-related products remains illegal under U.S. federal law pursuant to the CSA. The CSA classifies cannabis
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as a Schedule I controlled substance, and as such, medical and adult-use cannabis use is illegal under U.S. federal law.
Unless and until the United States Congress (“Congress”) amends the CSA with respect to cannabis (and the President approves such amendment), there is a risk that federal authorities may enforce current federal law. If that occurs, we may be deemed to be producing, cultivating or dispensing cannabis and drug paraphernalia in violation of federal law. Any person connected to the cannabis industry in the United States may be at risk of federal criminal prosecution and civil liability in the United States. Any investments may be subject to civil or criminal forfeiture and total loss.
We are directly or indirectly engaged in the medical and adult-use cannabis industry in the United States where local state law permits such activities. Although our activities are believed to be compliant with applicable state and local laws, strict compliance with state and local laws with respect to cannabis may neither absolve us from liability under United States federal law, nor may it provide a defense to any federal proceeding which may be brought against us. There can be no assurances that the federal government of the United States will not seek to enforce the applicable laws against us. Enforcement of federal law regarding cannabis is a significant risk and would greatly harm our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
Due to the conflicting views between state legislatures and the federal government regarding cannabis, cannabis businesses are subject to inconsistent laws and regulations. The Obama administration attempted to address the inconsistent treatment of cannabis under state and federal law in August 2013 in a memorandum which then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole sent to all U.S. District Attorneys (the “Cole Memorandum”). The Cole Memorandum outlined certain priorities for the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) relating to the prosecution of cannabis offenses and noted that, in jurisdictions that have enacted laws legalizing cannabis in some form and that have also implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, processing, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis, conduct in compliance with such laws and regulations was not a priority for the DOJ. However, the DOJ did not provide (and has not provided since) specific guidelines for what regulatory and enforcement systems would be deemed sufficient under the Cole Memorandum.
On January 4, 2018, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally issued a memorandum (the “Sessions Memorandum”) which rescinded the Cole Memorandum effective upon its issuance. The Sessions Memorandum stated, in part, that current law reflects “Congress’ determination that cannabis is a dangerous drug and cannabis activity is a serious crime,” and Mr. Sessions directed all U.S. Attorneys to enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to cannabis activities.
As a result of the Sessions Memorandum, federal prosecutors are now free to utilize their prosecutorial discretion to decide whether to prosecute cannabis activities, despite the existence of state-level laws that may be inconsistent with federal prohibitions. No direction was given to federal prosecutors in the Sessions Memorandum as to the priority they should ascribe to such cannabis activities, and thus it is uncertain how active U.S. federal prosecutors will be in relation to such activities.
There can be no assurance that the federal government will not enforce federal laws relating to cannabis and seek to prosecute cases involving cannabis businesses that are otherwise compliant with state laws in the future. Mr. Sessions resigned as U.S. Attorney General on November 7, 2018. On February 14, 2019, William Barr was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General. On January 7, 2021, then President-elect Joe Biden announced his nomination of current Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Merrick Garland, to succeed Mr. Barr as the U.S. Attorney General. Merrick Garland was officially sworn in as Attorney General of the United States on March 11, 2021. It is unclear what impact this development will have on U.S. federal government enforcement policy.
We may be subject to action by the U.S. federal government.
Since the cultivation, processing, production, distribution and sale of cannabis for any purpose, medical, adult-use or otherwise, remain illegal under U.S. federal law, it is possible that we may be forced to cease activities. The
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U.S. federal government, through, among others, the DOJ, its sub-agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration (the “DEA”), and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), has the right to actively investigate, audit and shut down cannabis growing facilities, processors and retailers. The U.S. federal government may also attempt to seize our property. Any action taken by the DOJ, the DEA and/or the IRS to interfere with, seize or shut down our operations will have an adverse effect on our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
Because federal law criminalizing the use of cannabis preempts state laws that legalize its use, the federal government can assert criminal violations of federal law despite state laws permitting the use of cannabis. While it does not appear that federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies are focusing resources on licensed cannabis related businesses that are operating in compliance with state law, this could change at any time. Additionally, while the MORE Act was passed by the House of Representatives on December 4, 2020, there is no assurance that the bill will be passed by the Senate or signed into law by the President. The MORE Act was not passed by the Senate prior to the end of the 116th Congress and would need to be reintroduced and passed by the House of Representatives and Senate and signed into law by the president. As the rescission of the Cole Memorandum and the implementation of the Sessions Memorandum demonstrate, the DOJ may at any time issue additional guidance that directs federal prosecutors to devote more resources to prosecuting cannabis related businesses. If the DOJ under the Biden administration aggressively pursues financiers or equity owners of cannabis-related businesses, and U.S. Attorneys follow the DOJ policies through pursuing prosecutions, then we could face:
seizure of our cash and other assets used to support or derived from our cannabis subsidiaries;
the arrest of our employees, directors, officers, managers and investors;
ancillary criminal violations of the Controlled Substances Act for aiding and abetting, and conspiracy to violate the Controlled Substances Act by providing financial support to cannabis companies that service or provide goods to state-licensed or permitted cultivators, processors, distributors and/or retailers of cannabis; and
the barring of our employees, directors, officers, managers and investors who are not U.S. citizens from entry into the United States for life.
Because the Cole Memorandum was rescinded, the DOJ under the current or new administration or an aggressive federal prosecutor could allege that us and our Board, our executive officers and, potentially, our stockholders, “aided and abetted” violations of federal law by providing finances and services to our portfolio cannabis companies. Under these circumstances, federal prosecutors could seek to seize our assets, and to recover the “illicit profits” previously distributed to stockholders resulting from any of our financing or services. In these circumstances, our operations would cease, stockholders may lose their entire investments and directors, officers and/or stockholders may be left to defend any criminal charges against them at their own expense and, if convicted, be sent to federal prison.
Additionally, there can be no assurance as to the position the new administration under President Biden may take on cannabis, and the new administration could decide to enforce the federal laws strongly. Any enforcement of current federal cannabis laws could cause significant financial damage to us and our stockholders. Further, President Biden’s administrations may choose to treat cannabis differently and potentially enforce the federal laws more aggressively.
Violations of any federal laws and regulations could result in significant fines, penalties, administrative sanctions, convictions or settlements arising from civil proceedings conducted by either the federal government or private citizens, or criminal charges, including, but not limited to, disgorgement of profits, cessation of business activities or divestiture. These results could have a material adverse effect on us, including our reputation and ability to conduct business, our holding (directly or indirectly) of cannabis licenses in the United States, the listing of our Class A common stock on various stock exchanges, our financial position, operating results, profitability or liquidity or the market price of our shares of Class A common stock. In addition, it is difficult to estimate the time or resources that would be needed for the investigation or final resolution of any such matters because: (i) the time and resources that may be needed depend on the nature and extent of any information requested by the authorities involved, and (ii) such time or resources could be substantial.
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U.S. State regulation of cannabis is uncertain.
Our activities are, and will continue to be, subject to evolving regulation and interpretation by various governmental authorities. The medical and adult-use cannabis industries are subject to various local, state and federal laws, regulations, guidelines, and licensing requirements relating to the manufacture, sale, distribution, management, transportation, storage, and disposal of cannabis, as well as being subject to laws and regulations relating to health and safety, the conduct of operations, and the protection of the environment. There is no assurance that state laws legalizing and regulating the sale and use of cannabis will not be repealed or overturned, or that local governmental authorities will not limit the applicability of state laws within their respective jurisdictions. Given the current regulatory environment in the United States, new risks may emerge, and management may not be able to predict all such risks. If the U.S. federal government begins to enforce U.S. federal laws relating to cannabis in states where the sale and use of cannabis is currently legal, or if existing state laws are repealed or curtailed, our business or operations in those states or under those laws would be materially and adversely affected. Federal actions against any individual or entity engaged in the cannabis industry or a substantial repeal of cannabis related legislation could adversely affect us, our business and our assets or investments.
As a result of the conflicting views between state legislatures and the federal government regarding cannabis, the rulemaking process at the state level that applies to cannabis operators in any state will be ongoing and result in frequent changes. As a result, a compliance program is essential to manage regulatory risk. All of our implemented operating policies and procedures are compliance-based and are derived from the state regulatory structure governing ancillary cannabis businesses and their relationships to state-licensed or permitted cannabis operators, if any. Notwithstanding our efforts and diligence, regulatory compliance and the process of obtaining regulatory approvals can be costly and time-consuming. No assurance can be given that we will receive or will continue to hold the requisite licenses, permits or cards to operate our businesses as currently operated or as proposed to be operated in the future, or that we will be able to complete business transactions, including acquisitions or transfers of licenses, permits, cards or other property.
In addition, local laws and ordinances could restrict our business activity. Although our operations are legal under the laws of the states in which we operate, local governments have the ability to limit, restrict and ban cannabis businesses from operating within their jurisdiction. Land use, zoning, local ordinances and similar laws could be adopted or changed and have a material adverse effect on our business.
Multiple states where medical and/or adult-use cannabis is legal have or are considering special taxes or fees on businesses in the cannabis industry. It is uncertain at this time whether other states are in the process of reviewing such additional taxes and fees. The implementation of special taxes or fees could have a material adverse effect upon our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
We are affected by the dynamic laws and regulations of the industry.
The success of our business strategy depends on the legality of the cannabis industry. The constant evolution of laws and regulations affecting the cannabis industry could detrimentally affect us. Our current and proposed operations are subject to a variety of local, state and federal medical cannabis laws and regulations relating to the manufacture, management, transportation, storage and disposal of cannabis, as well as laws and regulations relating to consumable products health and safety, the conduct of operations and the protection of the environment. These laws and regulations are broad in scope and subject to evolving interpretations, which could require us to incur substantial costs associated with compliance or alter certain aspects of their business plans.
In addition, violations of these laws, or allegations of such violations, could disrupt certain aspects of our business plans and result in a material adverse effect on certain aspects of its planned operations. These laws and regulations are rapidly evolving and subject to change with minimal notice. Regulatory changes may adversely affect our profitability or cause us to cease operations entirely. If cannabis is legalized at the federal level, our business and operations could be negatively affected if such legalization permits cannabis to be transported or sold across state lines, which could disrupt wholesale pricing in states with high wholesale prices. The cannabis industry may come under the scrutiny or further scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the “FDA”), SEC, the
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DOJ, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority or other federal or applicable state or nongovernmental regulatory authorities or self-regulatory organizations that supervise or regulate the production, distribution, sale or use of cannabis for medical or adult-use purposes in the United States.
It is impossible to determine the extent of the impact of any new laws, regulations or initiatives that may be proposed, or whether any proposals will become law. The medical and adult-use cannabis industries are subject to significant regulatory change at both the state and federal level. The regulatory uncertainty surrounding the industries may adversely affect our business and operations, including without limitation, the costs to remain compliant with applicable laws and the impairment of its business or the ability to raise additional capital. In addition, we will not be able to predict the nature of any future laws, regulations, interpretations or applications, and it is possible that regulations may be enacted in the future that will be directly applicable to its business. For example, see “Risk Factors - We may be subject to heightened scrutiny by Canadian regulatory authorities” below.
State regulatory agencies may require us to post bonds, maintain large insurance policies or post significant fees.
There is a risk that a greater number of state regulatory agencies will begin requiring entities engaged in certain aspects of the legal cannabis industry to post a bond or significant fees when applying, for example, for a dispensary license or renewal as a guarantee of payment of sales and franchise taxes. We are not able to quantify at this time the potential scope of such bonds or fees in the states in which we currently operate or may in the future operate. Any bonds or fees of material amounts could have a negative impact on the ultimate success of our business.
We may be subject to heightened scrutiny by Canadian regulatory authorities.
Following the completion of this offering, we anticipate that our Class A common stock we will be traded on the CSE and quoted on the OTCQX in the United States. Our business, operations and investments in the United States, and any future business, operations or investments, may become the subject of heightened scrutiny by regulators, stock exchanges and other authorities in Canada and the United States. As a result, we may be subject to significant direct and indirect interaction with public officials. There can be no assurance that this heightened scrutiny will not in turn lead to the imposition of certain restrictions on our ability to operate or invest in the United States or any other jurisdiction.
In 2017, there were concerns that the Canadian Depository for Securities Limited, through its subsidiary CDS Clearing and Depository Services Inc. (“CDS”), Canada’s central securities depository (clearing and settling trades in the Canadian equity, fixed income and money markets), would refuse to settle trades for cannabis issuers that have investments in the United States. However, CDS has not implemented this policy.
On February 8, 2018, the Canadian Securities Administrators published Staff Notice 51-352 describing the Canadian Securities Administrators’ disclosure expectations for specific risks facing issuers with cannabis-related activities in the U.S. Staff Notice 51-352 confirms that a disclosure-based approach remains appropriate for issuers with U.S. cannabis-related activities. Staff Notice 51-352 includes additional disclosure expectations that apply to all issuers with U.S. cannabis-related activities, including those with direct and indirect involvement in the cultivation and distribution of cannabis, as well as issuers that provide goods and services to third parties involved in the U.S. cannabis industry.
On February 8, 2018, following discussions with the Canadian Securities Administrators and recognized Canadian securities exchanges, the TMX Group, which is the owner and operator of CDS, announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with Aequitas NEO Exchange Inc., the CSE, the Toronto Stock Exchange and the TSX Venture Exchange. The MOU outlines the parties’ understanding of Canada’s regulatory framework applicable to the rules, procedures and regulatory oversight of the exchanges and CDS as it relates to issuers with cannabis-related activities in the United States. The MOU confirms, with respect to the clearing of listed securities, that CDS relies on the Canadian securities exchanges to review the conduct of listed issuers.
The MOU notes that securities regulation requires that the rules of each of the exchanges must not be contrary to the public interest and that the rules of each of the exchanges have been approved by the securities regulators.
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Pursuant to the MOU, CDS will not ban accepting deposits of or transactions for clearing and settlement of securities of issuers with cannabis-related activities in the United States.
Although the MOU indicated that there are no plans to ban the settlement of securities through CDS, there can be no guarantee that this approach to regulation will continue in the future. If such a ban were implemented at a time when shares of Class A common stock are listed on a Canadian stock exchange, it would have a material adverse effect on the ability of holders of shares of Class A common stock to make and settle trades. In particular, the shares of Class A common stock would become highly illiquid until an alternative (if available) was implemented, and investors would have no ability to effect a trade of shares of Class A common stock through the facilities of the applicable Canadian stock exchange.
We face risks associated with a change in U.S. administrations.
The inauguration of President Joseph Biden Jr. in January 2021 has created political uncertainty with respect to the regulation of cannabis in the U.S. federally. This uncertainty may include issues such as enforcement of the U.S. federal laws including those with respect to the cannabis industry. Implementation by the U.S. of new legislative or regulatory regimes could impose additional costs on us, decrease U.S. demand for our products or otherwise negatively impact us, which may have a material adverse effect on the Company’s business, financial condition and operations.
We may face limitations on ownership of cannabis licenses.
In certain states, the cannabis laws and regulations limit not only the number of cannabis licenses and types of licenses issued, but also the number of cannabis licenses and types that one person or entity may own. We believe that, where such restrictions apply, the Company may still recognize revenue in the market through wholesale sales, exclusive marketing relations, the provision of management or support services, and joint ventures or similar contractual relationships with other operators to ensure continued compliance with the applicable regulatory guidelines. In addition, states may require that certain qualified applicants or individuals participate in the ownership of the licensed entity. Currently, we have joint ventures or contractual relationships with third parties in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. Nevertheless, such limitations on the ownership of additional licenses within certain states may limit our ability to expand in such states.
We face risks associated with licensing relating to supply, supply chain and market constraints.
The cannabis laws and regulations of states in which we operate limit the granting and number of licenses granted for dispensaries and cultivation and production facilities. The number of licenses by category, and issuance of individual licenses, may be limited, delayed, denied or otherwise unissued. This separate treatment of individual licenses as well as license categories, along with limits set on the number of licenses granted in each of these operating categories, can result in market and supply chain risks including, for example, mismatch between cultivation and production facilities and dispensaries relating to availability and production of cannabis products. This can result in, among other things, market, pricing and supply risks, which may have a material effect on the Company’s business, financial condition and operations.
We may become subject to FDA or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) regulation.
Cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance under U.S. federal law. If the federal government reclassifies cannabis to a Schedule II controlled substance, it is possible that the FDA would seek to regulate cannabis under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938. Additionally, the FDA may issue rules and regulations, including good manufacturing practices, related to the growth, cultivation, harvesting, processing and labeling of medical cannabis. Clinical trials may be needed to verify the efficacy and safety of cannabis. It is also possible that the FDA would require facilities where medical use cannabis is grown to register with the FDA and comply with certain federally prescribed regulations. If some or all of these regulations are imposed, the impact they would have on the cannabis industry is unknown, including the costs, requirements and possible prohibitions that may be
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enforced. If we are unable to comply with the potential regulations or registration requirements prescribed by the FDA, it may have an adverse effect on our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
It is also possible that the federal government could seek to regulate cannabis under the ATF. The ATF may issue rules and regulations related to the use, transporting, sale and advertising of cannabis or cannabis products, including smokeless cannabis products.
Cannabis businesses are subject to applicable anti-money laundering laws and regulations and have restricted access to banking and other financial services.
We are subject to a variety of laws and regulations in the United States that involve money laundering, financial record-keeping and proceeds of crime, including the U.S. Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act of 1970 (the “Bank Secrecy Act”) as amended by Title III of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (which we refer to as the USA Patriot Act), and any related or similar rules, regulations or guidelines, issued, administered or enforced by governmental authorities in the United States. Since the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of cannabis remains illegal under the CSA, banks and other financial institutions providing services to cannabis-related businesses risk violation of federal anti-money laundering statutes (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957) and the Bank Secrecy Act, among other applicable federal statutes. Accordingly, pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act, banks or other financial institutions that provide a cannabis business with a checking account, debit or credit card, small business loan or any other service could be criminally prosecuted for willful violations of money laundering statutes, in addition to being subject to other criminal, civil, and regulatory enforcement actions.
Banks often refuse to provide banking services to businesses involved in the cannabis industry due to the present state of the laws and regulations governing financial institutions in the U.S. The lack of banking and financial services presents unique and significant challenges to businesses in the cannabis industry. The potential lack of a secure place in which to deposit and store cash, the inability to pay creditors through the issuance of checks and the inability to secure traditional forms of operational financing, such as lines of credit, are some of the many challenges presented by the unavailability of traditional banking and financial services. The above-mentioned laws and regulations can impose criminal liability for engaging in certain financial and monetary transactions with the proceeds of a “specified unlawful activity” such as distributing controlled substances, including cannabis, which are illegal under federal law, and for failing to identify or report financial transactions that involve the proceeds of cannabis-related violations of the CSA. We may also be exposed to the foregoing risks.
In February 2014, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued a memorandum (the “FinCEN Memorandum”) providing instructions to banks seeking to provide services to cannabis-related businesses. The FinCEN Memorandum echoed the enforcement priorities of the Cole Memorandum and states that in some circumstances, it is permissible for banks to provide services to cannabis-related businesses without risking prosecution for violation of federal money laundering laws. The FinCEN Memorandum directed prosecutors to apply the enforcement priorities of the Cole Memorandum in determining whether to charge individuals or institutions with crimes related to financial transactions involving the proceeds of cannabis-related conduct.
The revocation of the Cole Memorandum has not yet affected the status of the FinCEN Memorandum, nor has FinCEN given any indication that it intends to rescind the FinCEN Memorandum itself. Shortly after the Sessions Memorandum was issued, FinCEN did state that it would review the FinCEN Memorandum, but FinCEN has not yet issued further guidance.
Although the FinCEN Memorandum remains intact, it is unclear whether the current administration will continue to follow its guidelines. The DOJ continues to have the right and power to prosecute crimes committed by banks and financial institutions, such as money laundering and violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, that occur in any state including states that have in some form legalized the sale of cannabis. Further, the conduct of the DOJ’s enforcement priorities could change for any number of reasons. A change in the DOJ’s priorities could result in the prosecution of banks and financial institutions for crimes that were not previously prosecuted.
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If our operations, or proceeds thereof, dividend distributions or profits or revenues derived from our operations were found to be in violation of money laundering legislation or otherwise, such transactions may be viewed as proceeds from a crime (the sale of a Schedule I drug) under the Bank Secrecy Act’s money laundering provisions. This may restrict our ability to declare or pay dividends or effect other distributions.
The FinCEN Memorandum does not provide any safe harbors or legal defenses from examination or regulatory or criminal enforcement actions by the DOJ, FinCEN or other federal regulators. Thus, most banks and other financial institutions in the United States do not appear comfortable providing banking services to cannabis-related businesses or relying on this guidance given that it has the potential to be amended or revoked by the current administration. There are no assurances that this position will change under the Biden administration. In addition to the foregoing, banks may refuse to process debit card payments and credit card companies generally refuse to process credit card payments for cannabis-related businesses. As a result, we may have limited or no access to banking or other financial services in the United States. In addition, federal money laundering statutes and Bank Secrecy Act regulations discourage financial institutions from working with any organization that sells a controlled substance, regardless of whether the state it operates in permits cannabis sales. Our inability or limitation of our ability to open or maintain bank accounts, obtain other banking services and/or accept credit card and debit card payments may make it difficult for us to operate and conduct our business as planned or to operate efficiently.
Other potential violations of U.S. federal law resulting from cannabis-related activities include the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). RICO is a federal statute providing criminal penalties in addition to a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. Under RICO, it is unlawful for any person who has received income derived from a pattern of racketeering activity (which includes most felonious violations of the CSA), to use or invest any of that income in the acquisition of any interest, or the establishment or operation of, any enterprise which is engaged in interstate commerce. RICO also authorizes private parties whose properties or businesses are harmed by such patterns of racketeering activity to initiate a civil action against the individuals involved. Although RICO suits against the cannabis industry are rare, a few cannabis businesses have been subject to a civil RICO action. Defending such a case has proven extremely costly, and potentially fatal to a business’ operations.
On March 18, 2021, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (the “SAFE Banking Act”) was reintroduced in the House of Representatives. On March 23, 2021, the bill was reintroduced in the Senate as well. The House previously passed the SAFE Banking Act in September 2019, but the measure stalled in the Senate. As written, the SAFE Banking Act would allow financial institutions to provide their services to state-legal cannabis clients and ancillary businesses serving state-legal cannabis businesses without fear of federal sanctions. There is no guarantee the SAFE Banking Act will become law in its current form, if at all.
In the event that any of our operations, or any proceeds thereof, any dividends or distributions therefrom, or any profits or revenues accruing from such operations in the United States were found to be in violation of money laundering legislation or otherwise, such transactions may be viewed as proceeds of crime under one or more of the statutes noted above or any other applicable legislation. This could restrict or otherwise jeopardize our ability to declare or pay dividends, effect other distributions or subsequently repatriate such funds back to Canada, and subject us to civil and/or criminal penalties. Furthermore, in the event that a determination was made that the proceeds from our operations (or any future operations or investments in the United States) could reasonably be shown to constitute proceeds of crime, we may decide or be required to suspend declaring or paying dividends without advance notice and for an indefinite period of time. We could likewise be required to suspend or cease operations entirely.
We operate in a highly regulated sector and may not always succeed in complying fully with applicable regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where we carry on business.
Our business and activities are heavily regulated in all jurisdictions where we carry on business. Our operations are subject to various laws, regulations and guidelines by state and local governmental authorities relating to the manufacture, marketing, management, transportation, storage, sale, pricing and disposal of cannabis and cannabis oil, and also including laws and regulations relating to health and safety, insurance coverage, the conduct of operations and the protection of the environment. Laws and regulations, applied generally, grant government
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agencies and self-regulatory bodies broad administrative discretion over our activities, including the power to limit, require, or restrict business activities as well as impose additional disclosure requirements on our products and services. Achievement of our business objectives is contingent, in part, upon compliance with regulatory requirements enacted by these governmental authorities and obtaining all necessary regulatory approvals for the manufacture, production, storage, transportation, sale, import and export, as applicable, of our products, and as may be required in connection with any business transactions, including acquisition or transfer of licenses, permits, cards or other property. The commercial cannabis industry is still a new industry at the state and local level. The effect of relevant governmental authorities’ administration, application and enforcement of their respective regulatory regimes and delays in obtaining, or failure to obtain, applicable regulatory approvals which may be required may significantly delay or impact the development of markets, products and sales initiatives and could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
While we endeavor to comply with all relevant laws, regulations and guidelines and we are in compliance or are in the process of being assessed for compliance with all such laws, regulations and guidelines, any failure to comply with the regulatory requirements applicable to our operations may lead to possible sanctions including the revocation or imposition of additional conditions on licenses to operate our business; the suspension or expulsion from a particular market or jurisdiction or of our key personnel; the imposition of additional or more stringent inspection, testing and reporting requirements; and the imposition of fines and censures. In addition, changes in regulations, more vigorous enforcement thereof or other unanticipated events could require extensive changes to our operations, increase compliance costs or give rise to material liabilities and/or revocation of our licenses and other permits, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Furthermore, governmental authorities may change their administration, application or enforcement procedures at any time, which may adversely impact our ongoing costs relating to regulatory compliance.
We may face difficulties in enforcing our contracts.
Because our contracts involve cannabis and other activities that are currently illegal under U.S. federal law and the laws of certain other jurisdictions, we may face difficulties in enforcing our contracts in U.S. federal courts and certain state courts.
More specifically, some courts have determined that contracts relating to state legal cultivation and sale of cannabis are unenforceable on the grounds that they are illegal under federal law and therefore void as a matter of public policy. This could substantially impact the rights of parties making or defending claims involving us and any of our lenders or members.
It is a fundamental principle of law that a contract will not be enforced if it involves a violation of law or public policy. Notwithstanding that cannabis related businesses operate pursuant to the laws of states in which such activity is legal under state law, judges have on a number of occasions refused to enforce contracts for the repayment of money when the loan was used in connection with activities that violate federal law, even if there is no violation of state law. There remains doubt and uncertainty that we will be able to legally enforce contracts we enter into if necessary. As we cannot be assured that we will have a remedy for breach of contract, investors must bear the risk of the uncertainty in the law. If borrowers fail or refuse to repay loans and we are unable to legally enforce our contracts, we may suffer substantial losses for which we have no legal remedy. The inability of us to enforce any of our contracts could have a material adverse effect on our business, revenues, operating results, financial condition or prospects.
We have limited trademark and intellectual property protection.
As long as cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance pursuant to the CSA, the benefit of certain federal laws which may be available to most businesses, such as federal trademark protection, may not be available to us. Because producing, manufacturing, processing, possessing, distributing, selling and using cannabis is illegal under the CSA, the United States Patent and Trademark Office will not permit the registration of any trademark that identifies cannabis products. As a result, our intellectual property may never be adequately or sufficiently protected against use or misappropriation by third-parties. In addition, since the
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regulatory framework of the cannabis industry is in a constant state of flux, we can provide no assurance that we will ever obtain any protection of its intellectual property, whether on a federal, state or local level.
Any infringement or misappropriation of our intellectual property could damage its value and limit our ability to compete. We may have to engage in litigation to protect the rights to our intellectual property, which could result in significant litigation costs and require a significant amount of our time.
Competitors may also harm our sales by designing products that mirror our products or processes without infringing on our intellectual property rights. If we do not obtain sufficient protection for our intellectual property, or if we are unable to effectively enforce our intellectual property rights, our competitiveness could be impaired, which would limit our growth and future revenue.
We may also find it necessary to bring infringement or other actions against third parties to seek to protect our intellectual property rights. Litigation of this nature, even if successful, is often expensive and time-consuming to prosecute and there can be no assurance that we will have the financial or other resources to enforce our rights or be able to prevent other parties from developing similar products or processes or designing around our intellectual property.
We are and may continue to be subject to constraints on marketing our products.
We have committed and expect to continue committing significant resources and capital to develop and market existing products and new products and services. The development of our business and operating results may be adversely affected by applicable restrictions on sales and marketing activities imposed by regulatory bodies. Certain of the states in which we operate have enacted strict regulations regarding marketing and sales activities on cannabis products. There may be restrictions on sales and marketing activities imposed by government regulatory bodies that can hinder the development of our business and operating results. Restrictions may include regulations that specify what, where and to whom product information and descriptions may appear and/or be advertised. Marketing, advertising, packaging and labeling regulations also vary from state to state, potentially limiting the consistency and scale of consumer branding communication and product education efforts. The regulatory environment in the U.S. limits our ability to compete for market share in a manner similar to other industries. If we are unable to effectively market our products and compete for market share, or if the costs of compliance with government legislation and regulation cannot be absorbed through increased selling prices for our products, our sales and operating results could be adversely affected.
We face risks related to the results of future clinical research.
Research regarding the medical benefits, viability, safety, efficacy, dosing and social acceptance of cannabis or isolated cannabinoids (such as cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, and tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC) remains in early stages. There have been relatively few clinical trials on the benefits of cannabis or isolated cannabinoids (such as CBD and THC). Although we believe that various articles, reports and studies support our beliefs regarding the medical benefits, viability, safety, efficacy, dosing and social acceptance of cannabis, future research and clinical trials may prove such statements to be incorrect, or could raise concerns regarding, and perceptions relating to, cannabis. Further, the federal illegality of cannabis and associated limits on our ability to properly fund and conduct research on cannabis and the lack of formal FDA oversight of cannabis, there is limited information about the long-term safety and efficacy of cannabis in its various forms, when combusted or combined with various cannabis and/or non-cannabis derived ingredients and materials or when ingested, inhaled, or topically applied. Future research or oversight may reveal negative health and safety effects, which may significantly impact our reputation, operations and financial performance.
Given these risks, uncertainties and assumptions, prospective purchasers of shares of Class A common stock should not place undue reliance on such articles and reports. Future research studies and clinical trials may draw opposing conclusions to those stated in this prospectus or reach negative conclusions regarding the medical benefits, viability, safety, efficacy, dosing, social acceptance or other facts and perceptions related to cannabis, which could
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have a material adverse effect on the demand for our products, with the potential to have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
We face risks related to U.S. tax provisions related to controlled substances.
Limits on U.S. deductibility of certain expenses may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. Section 280E (“Section 280E”) of the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”), prohibits businesses from deducting certain expenses associated with the trafficking of controlled substances (within the meaning of Schedule I and II of the CSA). The IRS has applied Section 280E broadly in tax audits against various cannabis businesses in the U.S. that are permitted under applicable state laws, seeking substantial sums in tax liabilities, interest and penalties resulting from under payment of taxes due to the lack of deductibility of otherwise ordinary business expenses the deduction of which is prohibited by Section 280E. Although the IRS issued a clarification allowing the deduction of certain expenses that can be categorized as cost of goods sold, the scope of such items is interpreted very narrowly, and the bulk of operating costs and general administrative costs are not permitted to be deducted. While there are currently several pending cases before various administrative and federal courts challenging these restrictions, there is no guarantee that these courts will issue an interpretation of Section 280E that is favorable to cannabis businesses.
If our tax filing positions were to be challenged by federal, state and local or foreign tax jurisdictions, we may not be wholly successful in defending our tax filing positions. We record reserves for unrecognized tax benefits based on our assessment of the probability of successfully sustaining tax filing positions. Management exercises significant judgment when assessing the probability of successfully sustaining tax filing positions, and in determining whether a contingent tax liability should be recorded and, if so, estimating the amount. If our tax filing positions are successfully challenged, payments could be required that are in excess of reserved amounts or we may be required to reduce the carrying amount of our net deferred tax asset, either of which result could be significant to our financial condition or results of operations.
We lack access to U.S. bankruptcy protections.
Because cannabis is illegal under U.S. federal law, and bankruptcy is a strictly federal proceeding, many courts have denied cannabis businesses federal bankruptcy protections, thus making it very difficult for lenders to recoup their investments in the cannabis industry in the event of a bankruptcy. If we were to seek protection from creditors pursuant to applicable bankruptcy or insolvency laws, there is no guarantee that U.S. federal bankruptcy protections would be available to our United States operations, which would have a material adverse effect on us, our lenders and other stakeholders. While state-level receivership options do exist in some states as an alternative to bankruptcy, the efficacy of these alternatives cannot be guaranteed.
Cannabis businesses may be subject to civil asset forfeiture.
As an entity that conducts business in the cannabis industry, we will potentially be subject to federal and state forfeiture laws (criminal and civil) that permit the government to seize the proceeds of criminal activity. Civil forfeiture laws could provide an alternative enforcement mechanism for the federal government, any state, or local police force that wants to discourage residents from conducting transactions with cannabis related businesses but believes criminal liability is too difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Individuals may be required to forfeit property considered to be from proceeds of crime even if the individual is not convicted of a criminal offense, and the standard of proof in a civil forfeiture matter is lower than the burden in a criminal matter. Depending on the applicable law, whether federal or state, rather than having to establish liability beyond a reasonable doubt, the federal government or the state, as applicable, may be required to prove that the money or property at issue is proceeds of a crime only by either clear and convincing evidence or a mere preponderance of the evidence.
Our stockholders that are located in states where cannabis remains illegal may be at risk of prosecution under federal and/or state conspiracy, aiding and abetting, and money laundering statutes, and may be at further risk of losing their investments or proceeds thereof under forfeiture statutes. Many states remain able to take action to prevent the proceeds of cannabis businesses from entering their state. Because state legalization is relatively new, it
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remains to be seen whether these states would take such action and whether a court would approve it. Our stockholders and prospective stockholders should be aware of these potentially relevant federal and state laws in considering whether to invest in our securities.
We are subject to proceeds of crime statutes.
We will be subject to a variety of laws that concern money laundering, financial recordkeeping and proceeds of crime. These include: the Bank Secrecy Act, as amended by Title III of the USA Patriot Act, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (Canada), the rules and regulations under the Criminal Code of Canada and any related or similar rules, regulations or guidelines, issued, administered or enforced by governmental authorities in the United States and Canada.
In the event that any of our license agreements, or any proceeds thereof, in the United States were found to be in violation of money laundering legislation or otherwise, such transactions may be viewed as proceeds of crime under one or more of the statutes noted above, or any other applicable legislation. This could have a material adverse effect on us and, among other things, could restrict or otherwise jeopardize our ability to declare or pay dividends, effect other distributions or subsequently repatriate such funds back to Canada.
We face security risks.
The business premises of our operating locations are targets for theft. While we have implemented security measures at each location and continue to monitor and improve such security measures, our cultivation, processing and dispensary facilities could be subject to break-ins, robberies and other breaches in security. If there was a breach in security and we fell victim to a robbery or theft, the loss of cannabis plants, cannabis oils, cannabis flowers, other cannabis goods and cultivation and processing equipment could have a material adverse impact on our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
As our business involves the movement and transfer of cash which is collected from dispensaries or patients/customers and deposited into our bank, there is a risk of theft or robbery during the transport of cash. Our transport, distribution, and delivery of finished cannabis goods inventory including but not limited to wholesale delivery of finished products to retail customers and delivery of finished goods to end consumers and other intermediaries, also is subject to risks of theft and robbery. We have engaged a security firm to provide security in the transport and movement of large amounts of cash and products. Employees sometimes transport cash and/or products and, if requested, may be escorted by armed guards. While we have taken robust steps to prevent theft or robbery of cash during transport, there can be no assurance that there will not be a security breach during the transport and the movement of cash involving the theft of product or cash.
Additionally, we store certain personally identifiable information, credit and debit card information and other confidential information of our customers on our systems. We may experience attempts by third parties to obtain unauthorized access to the personally identifiable information, credit and debit card information and other confidential information of our customers. This information could also be otherwise exposed through human error or malfeasance. The unauthorized access or compromise of this personally identifiable information, credit and debit card information and other confidential information could have could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operation.
We have not been materially impacted by the security risks described herein.
We are a holding company.
We are a holding company and substantially all of our assets are the capital stock of our subsidiaries in our five geographic markets, including Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio. As a result, our stockholders are subject to the risks attributable to our subsidiaries and each individual state laws, rules, and regulatory schemes. As a holding company, we conduct substantially all of our business through our subsidiaries, which generate substantially all of our revenues. Consequently, our cash flows and ability to complete current or desirable future
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enhancement opportunities are dependent on the earnings of our subsidiaries and the distribution of those earnings to us. The ability of these entities to pay dividends and other distributions depends on their operating results and is subject to applicable laws and regulations, which require that solvency and capital standards be maintained by our subsidiaries and contractual restrictions are contained in the instruments governing their debt. In the event of a bankruptcy, liquidation or reorganization of any of our material subsidiaries, holders of indebtedness and trade creditors may be entitled to payment of their claims from the assets of those subsidiaries before us.
Competition for the acquisition and leasing of properties suitable for the cultivation, production and sale of medical and adult-use cannabis may impede our ability to make acquisitions or increase the cost of these acquisitions, which could adversely affect our operating results and financial condition.
We compete for the acquisition of properties suitable for the cultivation, production and sale of medical and adult-use cannabis with entities engaged in agriculture, real estate investment, consumer products manufacturing and retail activities, including corporate agriculture companies, cultivators, producers and sellers of cannabis. These competitors may prevent us from acquiring and leasing desirable properties, may cause an increase in the price we must pay for properties or may result in us having to lease our properties on less favorable terms than we expect. Our competitors may have greater financial and operational resources than we do and may be willing to pay more for certain assets or may be willing to accept more risk than we believe can be prudently managed. Larger companies may enjoy significant competitive advantages that result from, among other things, a lower cost of capital and enhanced operating efficiencies. Our competitors may also adopt transaction structures similar to ours, which would decrease our competitive advantage in offering flexible transaction terms. In addition, due to a number of factors, including but not limited to potential greater clarity of the laws and regulations governing medical use cannabis by state and federal governments, the number of entities and the amount of funds competing for suitable investment properties may increase, resulting in increased demand and increased prices paid for these properties. If we pay higher prices for properties or enter into leases for such properties on less favorable terms than we expect, our profitability and ability to generate cash flow and make distributions to our stockholders may decrease. Increased competition for properties may also preclude us from acquiring those properties that would generate attractive returns to us.
We face risks due to industry immaturity or limited comparable, competitive or established industry best practices.
As a relatively new industry, there are not many established operators in the medical and adult-use cannabis industries whose business models we can follow or build upon. Similarly, there is no or limited information about comparable companies available for potential investors to review in deciding about whether to invest in us.
Stockholders and investors should consider, among other factors, our prospects for success considering the risks and uncertainties encountered by companies, like us, that are in their early stages. For example, unanticipated expenses and problems or technical difficulties may occur, which may result in material delays in the operation of our business. We may fail to successfully address these risks and uncertainties or successfully implement our operating strategies. If we fail to do so, it could materially harm our business to the point of having to cease operations and could impair the value of the shares of Class A common stock to the extent that investors may lose their entire investments.
Our business is subject to the risks inherent in agricultural operations.
Medical and adult-use cannabis is an agricultural product. There are risks inherent in the cultivation business, such as insects, plant diseases and similar agricultural risks. Although the products are usually grown indoors or in greenhouses under climate-controlled conditions, with conditions monitored, there can be no assurance that natural elements will not have a material adverse effect on the production of our products and, consequentially, on the anticipated business, financial condition or results of our operations.
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We may be adversely impacted by rising or volatile energy costs and dependent on inputs.
Our cannabis cultivation operations consume considerable energy, which makes it vulnerable to rising energy costs. Accordingly, rising or volatile energy costs may adversely affect our business and our ability to operate profitably.
In addition, our business is dependent on a number of key inputs and their related costs, including raw materials and supplies related to our growing operations, as well as electricity, water and other utilities. Any significant interruption or negative change in the availability or economics of the supply chain for key inputs could materially impact our financial condition and operating results. Any inability to secure required supplies and services or to do so on appropriate terms could have a materially adverse impact on our business, financial condition and operating results.
We may encounter unknown environmental risks.
There can be no assurance that we will not encounter hazardous conditions, such as asbestos or lead, at the sites of the real estate used to operate our businesses, which may delay the development of our businesses. Upon encountering a hazardous condition, work at our facilities may be suspended. If we receive notice of a hazardous condition, we may be required to correct the condition prior to continuing construction. If additional hazardous conditions were present, it would likely delay construction and may require significant expenditure of our resources to correct the conditions. Such conditions could have a material impact on our investment returns.
We are dependent on key inputs, suppliers and skilled labor.
The cannabis industry is dependent on a number of key inputs and their related costs, including raw materials and supplies related to growing operations, as well as electricity, water and other local utilities. Any significant interruption or negative change in the availability or economics of the supply chain for key inputs, such as the raw material cost of cannabis, or natural or other disruptions to power or other utility systems, could materially impact our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects. Some of these inputs may only be available from a single supplier or a limited group of suppliers. If a sole source supplier was to go out of business, we might be unable to find a replacement for such source in a timely manner, or at all. If a sole source supplier were to be acquired by a competitor, that competitor may elect not to sell to us in the future. Any inability to secure required supplies and services, or to do so on appropriate terms, could have a materially adverse impact on our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
Our ability to compete and grow will be dependent on us having access, at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner, to skilled labor, equipment, parts and components. No assurances can be given that we will be successful in maintaining our required supply of skilled labor, equipment, parts and components. This could have an adverse effect on our financial results.
We must attract and maintain key personnel or our business will fail.
Our success is dependent upon the ability, expertise, judgment, discretion and good faith of our senior management and key personnel. We compete with other companies both within and outside the cannabis industry to recruit and retain competent employees. If one or more of our executive officers are unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, we may not be able to replace them readily, if at all. We may also incur additional expenses to recruit and retain new executive officers.
Our continuing ability to attract and retain highly qualified personnel will also be critical to our success because we will need to hire and retain additional personnel as our business grows. There can be no assurance that we will be able to attract or retain highly qualified personnel. We face significant competition for skilled personnel in our industries. In particular, if the cannabis industry continues to grow, demand for personnel may become more competitive. This competition may make it more difficult and expensive to attract, hire, and retain qualified managers and employees. Because of these factors, we may not be able to effectively manage or grow our business,
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which could adversely affect our financial condition, operations or prospects. As a result, the value of an investment in our securities could be significantly reduced or completely lost. If we cannot maintain qualified employees to meet the needs of our anticipated growth, our business and financial condition could be materially adversely affected.
We may be subject to growth-related risks.
We may be subject to growth-related risks, including capacity constraints and pressure on our internal systems and controls. Our ability to manage growth effectively will require us to continue to implement and improve our operational and financial systems and to expand, train and manage our employee base. Our inability to deal with this growth may have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
Our growth strategy is dependent upon expanding our product and service offerings into new business areas or new geographic markets. There can be no assurance that any new business areas and geographic markets will generate the clients and revenue anticipated. In addition, any expansion into new business areas or geographic markets could expose us to new risks, including compliance with applicable laws and regulations, changes in the regulatory or legal environment, differing customer preferences or habits, adverse exchange rate fluctuations, adverse tax consequences, difficulties staffing and managing new operations, infringement of third-party intellectual property rights, new costs to adapting our products and services for new markets, and difficulties collecting accounts receivable. As a result of such expansion, we may incur losses or otherwise fail to enter new markets successfully.
We face an inherent risk of product liability and similar claims.
As a distributor of products designed to be ingested by humans, we face an inherent risk of exposure to product liability claims, regulatory action and litigation if our products are alleged to have failed to meet expected standards or to have caused significant loss or injury. In addition, the sale of our products involves the risk of injury to consumers due to tampering by unauthorized third parties or product contamination. Previously unknown adverse reactions resulting from human consumption of our products alone or in combination with other medications or substances could occur. We may be subject to various product liability claims, including, among others, that our products caused injury, illness or death, include inadequate instructions for use or include inadequate warnings concerning possible side effects or interactions with other substances. As an agricultural product, the quality of cannabis is inherently variable, and consumers may raise claims that our quality control or labeling processes have not sufficiently ensured that our grown and manufactured processes are sufficient to meet expected standards.
A product liability claim or regulatory action against us could result in increased costs, could adversely affect our reputation with our clients and consumers generally and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. There can be no assurances that we will be able to obtain or maintain product liability insurance on acceptable terms or with adequate coverage against potential liabilities. Such insurance is expensive and may not be available in the future on acceptable terms, or at all. The inability to obtain sufficient insurance coverage on reasonable terms or to otherwise protect against potential product liability claims could prevent or inhibit the commercialization of our potential products.
We may be exposed to infringement or misappropriation claims by third parties, which, if determined adversely to us, could subject us to significant liabilities and other costs.
Our success may depend on our ability to use and develop new extraction technologies, recipes, know-how and new strains of cannabis without infringing the intellectual property rights of third parties. We cannot assure that third parties will not assert intellectual property claims against us. We are subject to additional risks if entities licensing intellectual property to us do not have adequate rights to the licensed materials. If third parties assert copyright or patent infringement or violation of other intellectual property rights against us, we will be required to defend ourselves in litigation or administrative proceedings, which can be both costly and time consuming and may significantly divert the efforts and resources of management personnel. An adverse determination in any such litigation or proceedings to which we may become a party could subject us to significant liability to third parties,
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require us to seek licenses from third parties, require us to pay ongoing royalties or subject us to injunctions that may prohibit the development and operation of our applications.
Our products may be subject to product recalls.
Manufacturers, distributors and retailers of products are sometimes subject to the recall or return of their products for a variety of reasons, including product defects, such as contamination, unintended harmful side effects or interactions with other substances, packaging safety and inadequate or inaccurate labeling disclosure. If any of our products or products sold at our retail stores are recalled due to an alleged product defect or for any other reason, we could be required to incur the unexpected expense of the recall and any legal proceedings that might arise in connection with the recall.
We may lose a significant amount of sales and may not be able to replace those sales at an acceptable margin, if at all. In addition, a product recall may require significant management attention. Although we have detailed procedures in place for testing our products and requiring compliant labeling of third-party products we sell, there can be no assurance that any quality, potency or contamination problems will be detected in time to avoid unforeseen product recalls, regulatory action or lawsuits. Additionally, if any of our brands were subject to recall, our image and the image of that brand could be harmed. A recall for any of the foregoing reasons could lead to decreased demand for our products and could have a material adverse effect on the results of our operations and financial condition. Additionally, product recalls may lead to increased scrutiny of our operations by the FDA, or other regulatory agencies, requiring further management attention and potential legal fees and other expenses.
We may face unfavorable publicity or consumer perception.
Our ability to generate revenue and be successful in the implementation of our business plan is dependent on consumer acceptance of and demand for our product lines. Management believes the medical and adult-use cannabis industry is highly dependent upon consumer perception regarding the safety, efficacy and quality of the cannabis produced.
Acceptance of our products depends on several factors, including availability, cost, ease of use, familiarity of use, convenience, effectiveness, safety and reliability. If customers do not accept our products, or if such products fail to adequately meet customers’ needs and expectations, our ability to continue generating revenues could be affected.
Consumer perception of our current or proposed products may be significantly influenced by scientific research or findings, regulatory investigations, litigation, media attention and other publicity regarding the consumption of cannabis products. There can be no assurance that future scientific research, findings, regulatory proceedings, litigation, media attention or other research findings or publicity will be favorable to the cannabis market or any particular product, or consistent with earlier publicity. Future research reports, findings, regulatory proceedings, litigation, media attention or other publicity that is perceived as less favorable than, or questions earlier research reports, findings or publicity could have a material adverse effect on the demand for our products. Our dependence upon consumer perceptions means that such adverse reports, whether or not accurate or with merit, could ultimately have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
Further, adverse publicity reports or other media attention regarding the safety, efficacy and quality of cannabis in general, or our products specifically, or associating the consumption of cannabis with illness or other negative effects or events, could have such a material adverse effect on us. Although we use quality control processes and procedures to ensure our consumer packaged goods meet our standards, a failure or alleged failure of such processes and procedures could result in negative consumer perception of our products or legal claims against us. Adverse publicity reports or other media attention could arise even if the adverse effects associated with such products resulted from consumers’ failure to consume such products appropriately or as directed.
Certain of our products are e-vapor or “vape” products. The use of vape products and vaping may pose health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control, vape products may contain ingredients that are known to be
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toxic to humans and may contain other ingredients that may not be safe. Because clinical studies about the safety and efficacy of vape products have not been submitted to the FDA, consumers currently have no way of knowing whether they are safe for their intended use or what types or concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals or by-products are found in these products. It is also uncertain what implications the use of vape or other inhaled products, such as flower that is smoked, may have on respiratory illnesses such as that caused by COVID-19. Adverse findings, regulatory investigations, litigation, media attention and other publicity regarding the consumption of vape or other inhaled products, including adverse publicity regarding underage use of vape or other inhaled products, may adversely affect us.
We face intense competition.
We face intense competition from other companies, some of which have longer operating histories and more financial resources and manufacturing, retail and marketing experience than us. Increased competition by larger and better financed competitors could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Because of the early stage of the industry in which we operate, we face additional competition from new entrants. If the number of consumers of cannabis in the states in which we operate our business increases, the demand for products and qualified talent will increase and we expect that competition will become more intense, as current and future competitors begin to offer an increasing number of diversified products. To remain competitive, we will require a continued high level of investment in research and development, marketing, sales, talent retention and client support. We may not have sufficient resources to maintain research and development, marketing, sales and client support efforts on a competitive basis, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of our operations.
Adverse changes in the wholesale and retail prices could result in earnings declines.
The cannabis industry is a margin-based business in which gross profits depend on the excess of sales prices over costs. Consequently, profitability is sensitive to shifts in wholesale and retail prices caused by changes in supply (which itself depends on other factors such as new entrants into retail markets, new entrants into the cultivation markets or cultivation expansions by existing operators, weather, fuel, equipment and labor costs, shipping costs, economic situation and demand), taxes, government programs and policies for the cannabis industry (including price controls and wholesale price restrictions that may be imposed by government agencies responsible for the sale of cannabis), and other market conditions, all of which are factors beyond our control. Our operating income may be significantly and adversely affected by a decline in the price of cannabis and will be sensitive to changes in the price of cannabis and the overall condition of the cannabis industry, as our profitability is directly related to the price of cannabis. There is currently not an established market price for cannabis and the price of cannabis is affected by numerous factors beyond our control. Any price decline may have a material adverse effect on us.
A decline in the price of the shares of Class A common stock could affect our ability to raise further capital and adversely impact our ability to continue operations.
A prolonged decline in the price of the shares of Class A common stock could result in a reduction in the liquidity of the shares of Class A common stock and a reduction in our ability to raise capital. Because a significant portion of our operations have been and will be financed through the sale of equity securities, a decline in the price of our common stock could be especially detrimental to our liquidity and our operations. Such reductions may force us to reallocate funds from other planned uses and may have a significant negative effect on our business plan and operations, including our ability to develop new products and continue our current operations. If our stock price declines, there can be no assurance that we will be able to raise additional capital or generate funds from operations sufficient to meet our obligations. If we are unable to raise sufficient capital in the future, we may not be able to have the resources to continue our normal operations.
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Our business is highly dependent upon our brand recognition and reputation, and the erosion or degradation of our brand recognition or reputation would likely adversely affect our business and operating results.
We believe that our business is highly dependent on the Ascend brand identity and our reputation, which is critical to our ability to attract and retain customers and consumers. We also believe that the importance of our brand recognition and reputation will continue to increase as competition in the markets in which we operate continues to develop. Our success in this area will depend on a wide range of factors, some of which are within our control and some of which are not. The factors affecting our brand recognition and reputation that are within our control include the following:
the efficacy of our marketing efforts;
our ability to maintain high satisfaction among consumers and customers;
the quality of our products;
our ability to successfully differentiate our products from competitors’ products; and
our compliance with laws and regulations.
In addition, our brand recognition and reputation may be affected by factors that are outside our control, such as:
actions of competitors or other third parties;
consumers’ experiences with our services or products;
positive or negative publicity, including with respect to events or activities attributed to us, our employees, partners or others associated with any of these parties; and
litigation or regulatory developments.
Damage to our reputation and loss of brand equity from one or more of the factors listed above may reduce demand for our products and have an adverse effect on our business, operating results and financial condition. Moreover, any attempts to rebuild our reputation and restore the value of our brand may be costly and time-consuming, and such efforts may not ultimately be successful.
We may face competition from synthetic production and technological advances.
The pharmaceutical industry may attempt to dominate the cannabis industry, and in particular, legal cannabis, through the development and distribution of synthetic products which emulate the effects and treatment of organic cannabis. If they are successful, the widespread popularity of such synthetic products could change the demand, volume and profitability of the cannabis industry. This could materially adversely affect our ability to secure long-term profitability and success through the sustainable and profitable operation of its business. There may be unknown additional regulatory fees and taxes that may be assessed in the future.
We may have increased labor costs based on union activity.
Labor unions are working to organize workforces in the cannabis industry in general. Currently, there is no labor organization that has been recognized as a representative of our employees. However, it is possible that certain retail and/or manufacturing locations will be organized in the future, which could lead to work stoppages or increased labor costs and adversely affect our business, profitability and our ability to reinvest into the growth of our business. We cannot predict how stable our relationships with U.S. labor organizations would be or whether we would be able to meet any unions’ requirements without impacting our financial condition. Labor unions may also limit our flexibility in dealing with our workforce. Work stoppages and instability in our union relationships could delay the production and sale of our products, which could strain relationships with customers and cause a loss of revenues which would adversely affect our operations.
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Risks Related to Our Finances and Capital Requirements
We may face difficulties acquiring additional or traditional financing.
Due to the present state of the laws and regulations governing financial institutions in the U.S., banks often refuse to provide banking services to businesses involved in the cannabis industry. Consequently, it may be difficult for us to obtain financing from large U.S. financial institutions.
We have historically, and continue to have, access to equity and debt financing from non-public (i.e., private placement) markets. Our business plan continues to include aggressive growth, both in the form of additional acquisitions and through facility expansion and improvements. Accordingly, we may require equity and/or debt financing to support ongoing operations, to undertake capital expenditures or to undertake acquisitions and/or other business combination transactions. There can be no assurance that additional financing will be available to us when needed or on terms which are acceptable. Our inability to raise financing through traditional banking to fund ongoing operations, capital expenditures or acquisitions could limit our growth and may have a material adverse effect upon our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
Our ability to utilize our net operating loss carryforwards and certain other tax attributes may be limited.
Under Section 382 and related provisions of the Code, if a corporation undergoes an “ownership change” (generally defined as a greater than 50% change (by value) in its equity ownership over a rolling three year period), the corporation’s ability to use its pre-change net operating loss carryforwards and other pre-change tax attributes to offset its post-change income may be limited. We may, in the future as a result of subsequent shifts in our stock ownership, experience, an “ownership change.” Thus, our ability to utilize carryforwards of our net operating losses and other tax attributes to reduce future tax liabilities may be substantially restricted for federal or state tax purposes.
Material acquisitions, dispositions and other strategic transactions involve a number of risks for us.
Material acquisitions, dispositions and other strategic transactions involve a number of risks for us, including: (i) potential disruption of our ongoing business; (ii) distraction of management; (iii) increased financial leverage; (iv) the anticipated benefits and cost savings of those transactions may not be realized or may take longer to realize than anticipated; (v) increased scope and complexity of our operations; and (vi) loss or reduction of control over certain of our assets.
Additionally, we may issue additional shares of Class A common stock in connection with such transactions, which would dilute a stockholder’s holdings in us.
The presence of one or more material liabilities of an acquired company that are known, but believed to be immaterial, or unknown to us at the time of acquisition could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition. A strategic transaction may result in a significant change in the nature of our business, operations and strategy. In addition, we may encounter unforeseen obstacles or costs in implementing a strategic transaction or integrating any acquired business into our operations.
We may experience risks relating to the closing of acquisitions or investments.
We may experience risks relating to the challenges and costs of closing an acquisition or investment, including the transfers of licenses, permits, cards or other property, and the risk that an announced transaction may not close. Completion of certain acquisition and investment transactions are conditioned upon, among other things, the receipt of necessary approvals, including the receipt of required regulatory clearances which could delay the completion a transaction for a significant period of time or prevent it from occurring at all.
In particular, the completion of our pending acquisitions of each of Hemma LLC, BCCO, LLC and Marichron Pharma LLC remain subject in all respects to approval by the relevant regulatory authorities in Ohio; the completion
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of our pending acquisition of Chicago Alternative Health Center, LLC and Chicago Alternative Health Center Holdings, LLC remain subject in all respects to approval by the relevant regulatory authorities in Illinois; and our investment in MedMen NY, Inc. remains subject in all respects to approval by the relevant regulatory authorities in New York. Although we have no reason to believe we will not receive the requisite approvals for the foregoing transactions, there is a possibility that such approvals may not be received. Any combination of the failure to complete the foregoing transactions could have a material adverse effect on us and would prevent us from realizing the anticipated benefits of such transaction(s). We may also be liable for certain transaction costs, including legal and accounting fees, whether or not a transaction is completed.
We may invest in pre-revenue and other revenue-generating cannabis companies which may not be able to meet anticipated revenue targets in the future.
We may make investments in companies with no significant sources of operating cash flow and no revenue from operations. Our investments in such companies will be subject to risks and uncertainties that new companies with no operating history may face. In particular, there is a risk that our investment in these pre-revenue companies will not be able to meet anticipated revenue targets or will generate no revenue at all. The risk is that underperforming pre-revenue companies may lead to these businesses failing, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
There can be no assurance that our current and future contractual relationships or strategic alliances or expansions of scope of existing relationships will have a beneficial impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We currently have, and may in the future enter into, additional strategic alliances and partnerships with third parties that we believe will complement or augment our existing business. Our ability to complete strategic alliances is dependent upon, and may be limited by, the availability of suitable candidates and capital. In addition, strategic alliances could present unforeseen integration obstacles or costs, may not enhance our business and may involve risks that could adversely affect us, including significant amounts of management time that may be diverted from operations in order to pursue and complete such transactions or maintain such strategic alliances. Future strategic alliances could result in the incurrence of additional debt, costs and contingent liabilities, and there can be no assurance that future strategic alliances will achieve, or that our existing strategic alliances will continue to achieve, the expected benefits to our business or that we will be able to consummate future strategic alliances on satisfactory terms, if at all. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our sales are difficult to forecast.
As a result of recent and ongoing regulatory and policy changes in the medical and adult-use cannabis industries and unreliable levels of market supply, the market data available is limited and unreliable. We must rely largely on our own market research to forecast sales, as detailed forecasts are not generally obtainable from other sources in the states in which our business operates. Additionally, any market research and our projections of estimated total retail sales, demographics, demand and similar consumer research, are based on assumptions from limited and unreliable market data. Projections are inherently subject to varying degrees of uncertainty and their achievability depends on the timing and probability of a complex series of future events. There is no assurance that the assumptions upon which these projections are based will be realized. Actual results may differ materially from projected results for a number of reasons including increases in operating expenses, changes or shifts in regulations or applicable laws, undiscovered or unanticipated adverse industry and economic conditions, and unanticipated competition. Accordingly, our stockholders should not rely on any projections to indicate the actual results we might achieve.
Changes in our customer, product or competition mix could cause our product margin to fluctuate.
From time to time, we may experience changes in our customer mix, our product mix or our competition mix. Changes in our customer mix may result from geographic expansion or contractions, legislative or enforcement priority changes affecting the products we distribute, selling activities within current geographic markets and
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targeted selling activities to new customer sectors. Changes in our product mix may result from marketing activities to existing customers, the needs communicated to us from existing and prospective customers and from legislative changes. Changes in our competition mix may result from well-financed competitors entering into our business segment. If customer demand for lower-margin products increases and demand for higher-margin products decreases, our business, results of operations and financial condition may suffer.
We have a limited operating history and a history of net losses and negative cash flows from operating activities, and we may not achieve or maintain profitability or positive cash flows in the future.
We began operating in May 2018 and have yet to generate a profit. We generated a net loss of $25.4 million ($61.7 million after giving effect to: the acquisition of MOCA, LLC, the acquisition of Chicago Alternative Health Center Holdings, LLC and Chicago Alternative Health Center Holdings, LLC and the investment in MedMen NY, Inc.; see the unaudited consolidated statement of operations of AWH giving effect to such transactions as if they each occurred on January 1, 2020 attached as Exhibit 99.7 to the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part) and $31.9 million for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. We had negative cash flows from operating activities of $6.0 million and $40.9 million during the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. Our “cash and cash equivalents” as of December 31, 2020 was approximately $56.5 million. We intend to continue to expend significant funds to expand our cultivation and processing facilities, make acquisitions and to fund our working capital. We cannot guarantee we will have a positive cash flow status in the future. To the extent we have negative cash flow in any future period, certain of the proceeds from the offering may be used to fund such negative cash flow from operating activities.
Our efforts to grow our business may be more costly than we expect and we may not be able to increase our revenue enough to offset higher operating expenses. We may incur significant losses in the future for a number of reasons, including as a result of unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications and delays, the other risks described in this prospectus and other unknown events. The amount of future net losses will depend, in part, on the growth of our future expenses and our ability to generate revenue. If we continue to incur losses in the future, the net losses and negative cash flows incurred to date, together with any such future losses, will have an adverse effect on our stockholders’ equity and working capital. Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with producing cannabis products, as outlined herein, we are unable to accurately predict when, or if, we will be able to achieve profitability. Even if we achieve profitability in the future, we may not be able to sustain profitability in subsequent periods. If we are unable to achieve and sustain profitability, the market price of our Class A common stock may significantly decrease and our ability to raise capital, expand our business or continue our operations may be impaired. A decline in our value may also cause you to lose all or part of your investment.
We will incur increased costs as a result of operating as a public company and our management will be required to devote substantial time to new compliance initiatives.
Historically, we have operated as a private company. As a public company, we will incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. In addition, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and rules implemented by SEC, and CSE, and equivalent rules and regulations in Canada, impose various requirements on public companies, including requirements to file certain periodic and event-driven reports with respect to our business and financial condition and operations and establish and maintain effective disclosure and financial controls and corporate governance practices. In addition, we will incur costs in connection with the Conversion and this offering, including costs related to a contingent beneficial conversion feature which may result in a non-cash expense of approximately $27.4 million, as described further in “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Other Matters”,
Our management and other personnel have limited experience operating a public company, which may result in operational inefficiencies or errors, or a failure to improve or maintain effective internal controls over financial reporting, and disclosure controls and procedures, necessary to ensure timely and accurate reporting of operational and financial results. Our existing management team will need to devote a substantial amount of time to these compliance initiatives, and we may need to hire additional personnel to assist us with complying with these
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requirements. Moreover, these rules and regulations will increase our legal and financial compliance costs and will make some activities more time consuming and costly.
In addition, changing laws, regulations and standards relating to corporate governance and public disclosure are creating uncertainty for public companies, increasing legal and financial compliance costs and making some public company required activities more time consuming. These laws, regulations and standards are subject to varying interpretations, in many cases due to their lack of specificity and, as a result, their application in practice may evolve over time as new guidance is provided by regulatory and governing bodies. This could result in continuing uncertainty regarding compliance matters and higher costs necessitated by ongoing revisions to disclosure and governance practices. We intend to invest resources to comply with evolving laws, regulations and standards, and this investment may result in increased general and administrative expenses and divert management’s time and attention from revenue generating activities to compliance activities. If our efforts to comply with new laws, regulations and standards differ from the activities intended by regulatory or governing bodies, regulatory authorities may initiate legal proceedings against us and our business may be harmed.
We also expect that being a public company and complying with applicable rules and regulations will make it more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance, and we may be required to incur substantially higher costs to obtain and maintain the same or similar coverage that is currently in place. These factors could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified executive officers and members of our Board.
There is no assurance that our management’s past experience will be sufficient to enable us to operate successfully as a public company.
There is no guarantee that our current cash position, expected revenue growth and anticipated financing transactions will be sufficient to fund our operations for the next twelve months.
We have an accumulated deficit of $63,592 and $38,153 as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively, as well as a net loss and negative cash flows from operating activities for the reporting periods then-ended. The recurring net losses and negative cash flows from operating activities are indicators of substantial doubt as to our ability to continue as a going concern for at least one year from issuance of the audited financial statements included in this prospectus. If we are unable to raise additional capital on favorable terms, if at all, during the next twelve months, we may be forced to decelerate or curtail certain of our operations until such time as additional capital becomes available.
See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Liquidity and Capital Resources” for a discussion regarding management’s belief that the substantial doubt of our ability to continue as a going concern for at least one year from the issuance of the financial statements included in this prospectus has been alleviated.
We are subject to a number of restrictive debt covenants under our loan agreements.
Many of our loan agreements contain certain restrictive covenants, which restrict our ability to, among other things, incur additional indebtedness, incur certain liens on our assets or sell assets, make investments, make capital expenditures, pay dividends and make other restricted payments. Many of our loan agreements also require us to maintain specified financial ratios under certain conditions and satisfy financial condition tests, including minimum cash balances and debt to assets ratios.
Our ability to meet those financial ratios and tests and otherwise comply with our financial covenants may be affected by the factors described herein and other factors outside our control, and we may not be able to meet those ratios, tests and covenants. Our ability to generate sufficient cash from operations to meet our debt obligations will depend upon our future operating performance, which will be affected by general economic, financial, competitive, business and other factors beyond our control. A breach of any of these covenants, ratios, tests or restrictions, as applicable, or any inability to pay interest on, or principal of, our outstanding debt as it becomes due could result in an event of default. Upon an event of default, if not waived by our lenders, our lenders may declare all amounts
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outstanding as due and payable. Such an acceleration of the maturity of our indebtedness may, among other things, prevent or limit us from engaging in transactions that benefit us, including responding to changing business and economic conditions and taking advantage of attractive business opportunities.
General Risk Factors
Additional issuances of shares of Class A common stock may result in further dilution.
We may issue additional equity or convertible debt securities in the future, which may dilute an existing stockholder’s holdings. Our certificate of incorporation permits the issuance of 750,000,000 shares of our Class A common stock, and existing stockholders will have no preemptive rights in connection with such further issuances. Our Board has discretion to determine the price and the terms of further issuances, and such terms could include rights, preferences and privileges superior to those existing holders of shares of Class A common stock. To the extent holders of our options or other convertible securities convert or exercise their securities and sell shares of Class A common stock they receive, the trading price of the shares of Class A common stock may decrease due to the additional amount of shares of Class A common stock available in the market. We cannot predict the size or nature of future issuances or the effect that future issuances and sales of shares of Class A common stock will have on the market price of the shares of Class A common stock. Issuances of a substantial number of additional shares of Class A common stock, or the perception that such issuances could occur, may adversely affect prevailing market prices for the shares of Class A common stock. With any additional issuance of shares of Class A common stock, our investors will suffer dilution to their voting power and economic interest.
Sales of substantial amounts of shares of Class A common stock by our existing stockholders in the public market may have an adverse effect on the market price of the shares of Class A common stock.
Sales of a substantial number of shares of Class A common stock in the public market could occur at any time, subject to certain restrictions described below. These sales, or the perception in the market that holders of many shares intend to sell shares, or the availability of such securities for sale, could adversely affect the prevailing market prices for the shares of Class A common stock. A decline in the market prices of the shares of Class A common stock could impair our ability to raise additional capital through the sale of securities should it desire to do so.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish or cease publishing research or reports or publish misleading, inaccurate or unfavorable research about us, our business or our market, our stock price and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for our shares of Class A common stock will be influenced by the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us, our business, our market or our competitors. If no or few securities or industry analysts cover us, the trading price and volume of our shares would likely be negatively impacted. If one or more of the analysts who covers us downgrades our shares or publishes inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, or provides more favorable relative recommendations about our competitors, our stock price would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts ceases coverage of us or fails to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our shares could decrease, which could cause our stock price or trading volume to decline.
We are eligible to be treated as an “emerging growth company” as defined in the JOBS Act, and we cannot be certain if the reduced disclosure requirements applicable to emerging growth companies will make the shares of Class A common stock less attractive to investors.
We are an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the JOBS Act. For as long as we continue to be an emerging growth company, we may take advantage of exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies, including (1) not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, (2) reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in this prospectus and periodic reports and proxy statements, and (3) exemptions from the requirements of holding a nonbinding advisory vote on executive compensation and stockholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved. We could be an
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emerging growth company for up to five years, although circumstances could cause us to lose that status earlier, including if the market value of the shares of Class A common stock held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million as of the last business day of our most recently completed second fiscal quarter, or if we have total annual gross revenue of $1.07 billion or more during any fiscal year before that time, in which case we would no longer be an emerging growth company as of the following December 31. Additionally, if we issue more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt during any three-year period before December 31, 2026, we would cease to be an emerging growth company immediately. We cannot predict if investors will find the shares of Class A common stock less attractive because we may rely on these exemptions. If some investors find the shares of Class A common stock less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for the shares of Class A common stock, and the stock price may be more volatile.
Under the JOBS Act, emerging growth companies can also delay adopting new or revised accounting standards until such time as those standards apply to private companies.
We have broad discretion in the use of our cash, cash equivalents, and investments, including the net proceeds from this offering, and may not use them effectively.
Our management will have broad discretion in the application of our cash, cash equivalents, and investments, including the net proceeds from this offering, and could spend the proceeds in ways that do not improve our results of operations or enhance the value of our Class A common stock. We intend to use the proceeds from this offering as described in “Use of Proceeds.” We could spend the proceeds in ways that our stockholders may not agree with. The failure by our management to apply these funds effectively could result in financial losses that could have a material adverse impact on our business, cause the price of our Class A common stock to decline, and delay the development of additional products or the opening of new locations. Pending their use, we may invest our cash, cash equivalents, and investments, including the net proceeds from this offering, in a manner that does not produce income or that loses value. See the section titled “Use of Proceeds” appearing elsewhere in this prospectus.
Changes in U.S. tax law may adversely affect us or our investors.
The rules dealing with U.S. federal, state and local income taxation are constantly under review by persons involved in the legislative process and by the IRS and the U.S. Treasury Department. Changes to tax laws (which changes may have retroactive application) could adversely affect us or holders of our common stock. In recent years, many changes have been made and changes are likely to continue to occur in the future.
For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was enacted in 2017 and made significant changes to corporate taxation, including the reduction of the corporate tax rate from a top marginal rate of 35% to a flat rate of 21%, which is a historically low rate. On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which included certain changes in tax law intended to stimulate the U.S. economy in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, including temporary beneficial changes to the treatment of net operating losses, interest deductibility limitations and payroll tax matters.
In light of the election of Joseph Biden, it cannot be predicted whether, when, in what form, or with what effective dates, new tax laws may be enacted, or regulations and rulings may be enacted, promulgated or issued under existing or new tax laws, which could result in an increase in our or our stockholders’ tax liability or require changes in the manner in which we operate in order to minimize or mitigate any adverse effects of changes in tax law or in the interpretation thereof.
If enacted, the proposed “Made in America Tax Plan” would increase our federal corporate tax rate requiring us to pay more in federal taxes, thus reducing our net revenue.
On March 31, 2021, the current presidential administration proposed the “American Jobs Plan” to create domestic jobs, rebuild national infrastructure and increase American competitiveness. To fund its expected $2 trillion cost, the administration also proposed the “Made in America Tax Plan,” which is intended to raise that amount or more over 15 years through several methods including higher income tax rates on corporations. If
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enacted, our federal corporate income tax rate would increase from 21% to 28%. Any increase in our federal corporate tax rate would require us to pay more in federal taxes, thus reducing our net revenue.
We face exposure to fraudulent or illegal activity by employees, contractors and consultants.
We face exposure to the risk that employees, independent contractors or consultants may engage in fraudulent or other illegal activities. Misconduct by these parties could be intentional, reckless and/or negligent conduct. There may be disclosure of unauthorized activities that violate government regulations, manufacturing standards, healthcare laws, abuse laws and other financial reporting laws. Further, it may not always be possible for us to identify and deter misconduct by our employees and other third parties, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent these activities may not always be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses, or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to be in compliance with such laws or regulations. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business, including the imposition of civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, monetary fines, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings, or curtailment of our operations, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects.
Our reputation and ability to do business may be negatively impacted by the improper conduct by our business partners, employees or agents.
In certain states, we depend on third-party suppliers to produce and ship our orders. Products purchased from our suppliers are resold to our customers. These suppliers could fail to produce products to our specifications or quality standards and may not deliver units on a timely basis. Any changes in our suppliers’ production or product availability could impact our ability to fulfill orders and could also disrupt our business due to delays in finding new suppliers.
Furthermore, we cannot provide assurance that our internal controls and compliance systems will protect us from acts committed by our employees, agents or business partners in violation of U.S. federal or state or local laws. Any improper acts or allegations could damage our reputation and subject us to civil or criminal investigations and related stockholder lawsuits, could lead to substantial civic and criminal monetary and non-monetary penalties and could cause us to incur significant legal and investigatory fees.
We face risks related to our information technology systems, and potential cyber-attacks and security breaches.
Our operations depend, in part, on how well we and our suppliers protect networks, equipment, information technology (“IT”) systems and software against damage and threats, including, but not limited to, cable cuts, damage to physical plants, natural disasters, intentional damage and destruction, fire, power loss, hacking, computer viruses, vandalism and theft. We are susceptible to operational, financial and information security risks resulting from cyber-attacks and/or malfunctioning technology. Our operations also depend on the timely maintenance and replacement of network equipment, IT systems and software, as well as preemptive expenses to mitigate associated risks. Any of the foregoing and other events could result in information system failures, delays, increase in capital expenses, financial losses, the inability to process transactions, the unauthorized release of customer information and reputational risk. If there was a breach in security or if there was a failure in information systems, it could adversely affect our reputation and business continuity.
Additionally, we may store and collect personal information about customers and are responsible for protecting that information from privacy breaches that may occur through procedural or process failure, IT malfunction or deliberate unauthorized intrusions. We are subject to laws, rules and regulations in the United States and other jurisdictions relating to the collection, processing, storage, transfer and use of personal data. Our ability to execute transactions and to possess and use personal information and data in conducting our business subjects us to legislative and regulatory burdens that may require us to notify regulators and customers, employees and other individuals of a data security breach. Any such theft or privacy breach would have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects, revenue, results of operation and financial condition.
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In addition, non-compliance could result in proceedings against us by governmental entities and/or significant fines, could negatively impact our reputation and may otherwise adversely impact our business, financial condition and operating results.
We have not experienced any material losses to date relating to cyber-attacks or other information security breaches, but there can be no assurance that we will not incur such losses in the future. Our risk and exposure to these matters cannot be fully mitigated because of, among other things, the evolving nature of these threats. As a result, cyber security and the continued development and enhancement of controls, processes and practices designed to protect systems, computers, software, data and networks from attack, damage or unauthorized access is a priority. As cyber threats continue to evolve, we may be required to expend additional resources to continue to modify or enhance protective measures or to investigate and remediate any security vulnerabilities.
We face risks related to our insurance coverage and uninsurable risks.
Our business is subject to a number of risks and hazards generally, including adverse environmental conditions, accidents, labor disputes, destruction from civil unrest and changes in the regulatory environment. Such occurrences could result in damage to assets, personal injury or death, environmental damage, delays in operations, monetary losses and possible legal liability.
Although we intend to continue to maintain insurance to protect against certain risks in such amounts as we consider to be reasonable, our insurance will not cover all the potential risks associated with our operations. We may also be unable to maintain insurance to cover these risks at economically feasible premiums. Insurance coverage may not continue to be available or may not be adequate to cover any resulting liability. Moreover, insurance against risks such as environmental pollution or other hazards encountered in our operations is not generally available on acceptable terms. We might also become subject to liability for pollution or other hazards which it may not be insured against or which we may elect not to insure against because of premium costs or other reasons. Losses from these events may cause us to incur significant costs that could have a material adverse effect upon our financial performance and results of operations.
We may be subject to litigation.
We may become party to litigation from time to time in the ordinary course of business, which could adversely affect our business. Should any litigation in which we become involved be determined against us, such a decision could adversely affect our ability to continue operating and the market price for the shares of Class A common stock and could potentially use significant resources. Even if we are successful in litigation, litigation can redirect our significant resources and/or the significant resources of our subsidiaries.
We may be negatively impacted by challenging global economic conditions.
Our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow may be negatively impacted by challenging global economic conditions. For example and as discussed in more detail below, since early 2020, the U.S. and other world economies have experienced turmoil due to the outbreak of a novel strain of coronavirus (“COVID-19”), which has resulted in global economic uncertainty.
A global economic slowdown would cause disruptions and extreme volatility in global financial markets, increased rates of default and bankruptcy and declining consumer and business confidence, which can lead to decreased levels of consumer spending. These macroeconomic developments could negatively impact our business, which depends on the general economic environment and levels of consumer spending. As a result, we may not be able to maintain our existing customers or attract new customers, or we may be forced to reduce the price of our products. We are unable to predict the likelihood of the occurrence, duration or severity of such disruptions in the credit and financial markets or adverse global economic conditions. Any general or market-specific economic downturn could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
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Additionally, the U.S. has imposed and may impose additional quotas, duties, tariffs, retaliatory or trade protection measures or other restrictions or regulations and may adversely adjust prevailing quota, duty or tariff levels, which can affect both the materials that we use to package our products and the sale of finished products. For example, the tariffs imposed by the U.S. on materials from China are impacting materials that we import for use in packaging in the U.S. Measures to reduce the impact of tariff increases or trade restrictions, including geographical diversification of our sources of supply, adjustments in packaging design and fabrication or increased prices, could increase our costs, delay our time to market and/or decrease sales. Other governmental action related to tariffs or international trade agreements has the potential to adversely impact demand for our products and our costs, customers, suppliers and global economic conditions and cause higher volatility in financial markets. While we actively review existing and proposed measures to seek to assess the impact of them on our business, changes in tariff rates, import duties and other new or augmented trade restrictions could have a number of negative impacts on our business, including higher consumer prices and reduced demand for our products and higher input costs.
We are subject to risks arising from epidemic diseases, such as the outbreak of the COVID-19 illness.
In December 2019, COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China. Since then, it has spread to several other countries and infections have been reported around the world. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a global pandemic. A public health epidemic, including COVID-19, or the fear of a potential pandemic, poses the risk that we or our employees, contractors, suppliers, and other partners may be prevented from conducting business activities for an indefinite period of time, including due to shutdowns or other preventative measures taken to limit the potential impact from a public health epidemic that may be requested or mandated by governmental authorities.
Our priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic are protecting the health and safety of our employees and our customers, following the recommended actions of government and health authorities. In the future, the pandemic may cause reduced demand for our products and services if, for example, the pandemic results in a recessionary economic environment. Our operations are currently ongoing as the cultivation, processing and sale of cannabis products is currently considered an essential business by all states in which we operate with respect to all customers (except in Massachusetts where only medical use cannabis has been deemed essential). Our ability to continue to operate without any significant negative operational impact from the COVID-19 pandemic will in part depend on our ability to protect our employees, customers and supply chain, as well as our continued designation as “essential” in states where we do business that currently or in the future impose restrictions on business operations.
While it is not possible at this time to estimate the impact that COVID-19 (or any other actual or potential pandemic) could have on our business, the continued spread of COVID-19 (or any other actual or potential pandemic) and the measures taken by the governments of countries affected could disrupt the supply chain and the manufacture or shipment or sale of our products and adversely impact our business, financial condition or results of operations. It could also affect the health and availability of our workforce at our facilities, as well as those of our suppliers, particularly those in China and India. The COVID-19 outbreak and mitigation measures may also have an adverse impact on global economic conditions which could have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition. The extent to which the COVID-19 outbreak impacts our results will depend on future developments that are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, including new information that may emerge concerning the severity of the virus and the actions to contain its impact. Because cannabis remains federally illegal, it is possible that we would not be eligible to participate in any government relief programs (such as federal loans or access to capital) resulting from COVID-19 or any other actual or potential pandemic.
Our internal controls over financial reporting may not be effective, and our independent auditors may not be able to certify as to their effectiveness, which could have a significant and adverse effect on our business.
We are subject to various SEC reporting and other regulatory requirements. We have incurred and will continue to incur expenses and, to a lesser extent, diversion of our management’s time in our efforts to comply with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 regarding internal controls over financial reporting. Effective internal controls over financial reporting are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports and, together with adequate disclosure controls and procedures, are designed to prevent fraud. Any failure to implement required new or
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improved controls, or difficulties encountered in their implementation could cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations. In addition, any testing by us conducted in connection with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or the subsequent testing by our independent registered public accounting firm when required, may reveal deficiencies in our internal controls over financial reporting that are deemed to be material weaknesses or that may require prospective or retrospective changes to our consolidated financial statements or identify other areas for further attention or improvement. Inferior internal controls could also cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which could have a negative effect on the trading price of our shares of Class A common stock.
Our internal controls over financial reporting may not be effective and our independent registered public accounting firm may not be able to certify as to their effectiveness, which could have a significant and adverse effect on our business and reputation.
As a public company, we will be required to evaluate our internal controls over financial reporting. Furthermore, at such time as we cease to be an “emerging growth company,” as more fully described in these Risk Factors, we shall also be required to comply with Section 404. At such time we may identify material weaknesses that we may not be able to remediate in time to meet the applicable deadline imposed upon us for compliance with the requirements of Section 404. In addition, if we fail to achieve and maintain the adequacy of our internal controls, as such standards are modified, supplemented or amended from time to time, we may not be able to ensure that we can conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal controls over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404. We cannot be certain as to the timing of completion of our evaluation, testing and any remediation actions or the impact of the same on our operations. If we are not able to implement the requirements of Section 404 in a timely manner or with adequate compliance, our independent registered public accounting firm may issue an adverse opinion due to ineffective internal controls over financial reporting and we may be subject to sanctions or investigation by regulatory authorities, such as the SEC. As a result, there could be a negative reaction in the financial markets due to a loss of confidence in the reliability of our financial statements. In addition, we may be required to incur costs in improving our internal control system and the hiring of additional personnel. Any such action could negatively affect our results of operations and cash flows.
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CAUTIONARY NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This prospectus contains “forward-looking statements” that involve risks and uncertainties, as well as assumptions that, if they never materialize or prove incorrect, could cause our results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. The statements contained in this prospectus that are not purely historical are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of applicable securities legislation. Forward-looking statements are identified by the use of words such as, but not limited to, “anticipate,” “believe,” “continue,” “could,” “estimate,” “prospects,” “forecasts,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “will,” “plan,” “target,” and similar expressions or variations intended to identify forward-looking statements. These statements are based on the beliefs and assumptions of our management based on information currently available to management. Such forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and other important factors that could cause actual results and the timing of certain events to differ materially from future results expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to, factors discussed in the section entitled “Risk Factors” in this prospectus.
By way of example, and without implied limitation, such risks and uncertainties include:
the effect of the volatility of the market price and liquidity risks on shares of our Class A common stock;
the effect of the voting control exercised by holders of Class B common stock;
our ability to attract and maintain key personnel;
our ability to continue to open new retail locations, processing facilities and cultivation facilities as anticipated;
our ability to increase production capacity as anticipated;
the illegality of cannabis under federal law;
our ability to comply with state and federal regulations;
the uncertainty regarding enforcement of cannabis laws;
the effect of restricted access to banking and other financial services;
the effect of constraints on marketing and risks related to our products;
the effect of unfavorable tax treatment for cannabis businesses;
the effect of security risks;
the effect of infringement or misappropriation claims by third parties;
our ability to comply with potential future FDA regulations;
our ability to enforce our contracts;
the effect of unfavorable publicity or consumer perception;
the effect of risks related to material acquisitions, dispositions and other strategic transactions;
the effect of agricultural and environmental risks;
the effect of risks related to information technology systems;
the effect of product liability claims and other litigation to which we may be subjected;
the effect of risks related to the results of future clinical research;
the effect of intense competition in the industry;
the effect of outbreaks of pandemic diseases, fear of such outbreaks or economic disturbances due to such outbreaks, particularly the impact of the COVID-19 illness; and
the effect of general economic risks, such as the unemployment level, interest rates and inflation, and challenging global economic conditions.
For more information regarding these and other uncertainties and factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from what we have anticipated in our forward-looking statements or otherwise could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or operating results, see the section entitled “Risk Factors” in this prospectus. The risks and uncertainties described above and in the section entitled “Risk Factors” in this prospectus are not exclusive and further information concerning us and our business, including factors that potentially could materially affect our financial results or condition, may emerge from time to time. We assume no obligation to update, amend or clarify any forward-looking statement or departures from them, except as required by applicable law.
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MARKET AND INDUSTRY DATA
This prospectus contains statistical data and estimates regarding market and industry data. Unless otherwise indicated, information concerning our industry and the markets in which we operate, including our general expectations, market position, market opportunity and market size, are based on our management’s knowledge and experience in the markets in which we operate, together with currently available information obtained from various sources, including publicly available information, industry reports and publications, surveys, our customers, trade and business organizations and other contacts in the markets in which we operate. Certain information is based on management estimates, which have been derived from third-party sources, as well as data from our internal research, and are based on certain assumptions that we believe to be reasonable. Industry publications, surveys and forecasts generally state that the information contained therein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. We have not independently verified any of the information from third-party sources nor have we ascertained the validity or accuracy of the underlying economic assumptions relied upon therein. Actual outcomes may vary materially from those forecast in the reports or publications referred to herein, and the prospect for material variation can be expected to increase as the length of the forecast period increases. Because this information involves a number of assumptions and limitations, you are cautioned not to give undue weight to these estimates. The industry in which we operate is subject to a high degree of uncertainty and risk due to a variety of factors, including those described in the section entitled “Risk Factors.”
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MARKET RISK
Market risk is the risk of loss arising from adverse changes in market rates and prices, such as interest rates, foreign exchange rates, raw material and other commodity prices.
Interest Rate Risk. Interest rate risk is the risk that the fair value or future cash flows of a financial instrument will fluctuate because of changes in market interest rates. Cash and cash equivalents bear interest at market rates. Our financial debts have fixed rates of interest and therefore expose us to a limited interest rate fair value risk.
Commodities Price Risk. Price risk is the risk of variability in fair value due to movements in equity or market prices. The primary raw materials we use, aside from those cultivated internally, are labels and packaging. Management believes a hypothetical 10% change in the price of these materials would not have a significant effect on our consolidated annual results of operations or cash flows, as these costs are generally passed through to our customers. However, such an increase could have an impact on our customers’ demand for our products, and we are not able to quantify the impact of such potential change in demand on our annual results of operations or cash flows.
COVID-19 Risk. We are monitoring COVID-19 closely, and although our operations have not been materially affected by the COVID-19 outbreak to date, the ultimate severity of the outbreak and its impact on the economic environment is uncertain. Our operations are ongoing as the cultivation, processing and sale of cannabis products is currently considered an essential business by the states in which we operate with respect to all customers (except for Massachusetts, where cannabis has been deemed essential only for medical patients). In all locations where regulations have been enabled by governmental authorities, we have expanded consumer delivery options and curbside pickup to help protect the health and safety of our employees and customers. The pandemic has not materially impacted our business operations or liquidity position to date. We continue to generate operating cash flows to meet our short-term liquidity needs. The uncertain nature of the spread of COVID-19 may impact our business operations for reasons including the potential quarantine of our employees or those of our supply chain partners or a change in our designation as “essential” in states where we do business that currently or in the future impose restrictions on business operations.
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CORPORATE CONVERSION AND CORPORATE STRUCTURE
Immediately prior to the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part, we will engage in the following transactions, which we refer to collectively as the Conversion:
we will convert from a Delaware limited liability company to a Delaware corporation by filing a certificate of conversion with the Delaware Secretary of State; and
we will change our name from “Ascend Wellness Holdings, LLC” to “Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc.”
As part of the Conversion:
we will create two classes of authorized common stock, Class A common stock and Class B common stock;
we will give effect to a two-for-one reverse split of our outstanding equity (the “Reverse Split”);
holders of Series Seed Preferred and Series Seed Preferred+ Units of AWH will receive one share of Class A common stock of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. for each unit of Series Seed Preferred and Series Seed Preferred+ Units held immediately prior to the Conversion, as adjusted for the Reverse Split, rounded down to the nearest whole share;
holders of Real Estate Preferred Units of AWH will receive, for each unit of Real Estate Preferred Units of AWH, a number of shares of Class A common stock of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. equal to (x) one plus (y) (A) the original purchase price of such Real Estate Preferred Unit multiplied by 1.5, divided by (B) the price at which we are offering Class A common stock pursuant to this offering, as adjusted for the Reverse Split, rounded down to the nearest whole share;
holders of common units of AWH will receive one share of Class A common stock of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. for each common unit held immediately prior to the Conversion, as adjusted for the Reverse Split, rounded down to the nearest whole share;
holders of restricted common units issued under the 2020 Incentive Plan (as defined below) will receive one share of Class A common stock of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. for each restricted common unit held immediately prior to the Conversion, as adjusted for the Reverse Split, rounded down to the nearest whole share;
holders of warrants to acquire 7,062,285 common units of AWH at an exercise price of $2.00 per share will receive warrants to acquire an equal number of shares Class A common stock, as adjusted for the Reverse Split, rounded down to the nearest whole share; and
AGP will receive 65,000 shares of Class B common stock, which will constitute all of the outstanding shares of Class B common stock of AWH.
While we anticipate the Conversion, including the Reverse Split, will be approved by our board of managers, it has not been formally approved and is not effective as of the date hereof.
Effective as of the closing of this offering, holders of convertible notes will convert into shares of Class A common stock in accordance with the terms of the note purchase agreement, dated June 12, 2019, between the Company and the purchasers of the 2019 Convertible Notes. The holders of 2019 Convertible Notes will receive a number of shares of Class A common stock equal to the outstanding principal and accrued and unpaid interest under the notes divided by a price per share equal to the lesser of (a) (i) a 20% discount to the price per share of Class A common stock offered pursuant to this offering in the event the offering occurs on or before 12 months from the closing date; (ii) a 25% discount to the price per share of Class A common stock offered pursuant to this offering in the event the offering occurs after 12 months from the closing date, but before the maturity date; and (b) $2.96, which represents the price per share resulting from a pre-money valuation of the company of $295,900,000, taking into account the Reverse Split.
Effective as of the closing of this offering, holders of convertible notes will convert into shares of Class A common stock in accordance with the terms of the note purchase agreement, dated January 6, 2021, between the Company and the purchasers of the 2021 Convertible Notes. The holders of 2021 Convertible Notes will receive a number of shares of Class A common stock equal to the outstanding principal and accrued and unpaid interest under the notes divided by a price per share equal to the lesser of (a) (i) a 20% discount to the price per share of Class A
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common stock offered pursuant to this offering in the event the offering occurs on or before 12 months from the closing date; (ii) a 25% discount to the price per share of Class A common stock offered pursuant to this offering in the event the offering occurs after 12 months from the closing date, but before the maturity date; and (b) $6.00 per share of Class A common stock, taking into account the Reverse Split.
Following the Conversion, Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. will be deemed to be the same entity as AWH, and as a result will continue to hold all property and assets of AWH and will remain liable for all of the debts and obligations of AWH. After effecting the Conversion, we will be governed by a certificate of incorporation to be filed with the Delaware Secretary of State and bylaws.
Following the Conversion, we will have two classes of authorized common stock, Class A common stock and Class B common stock. Each share of Class A common stock will be entitled to one vote per share. Each share of Class B common stock will be entitled to 1,000 votes per share. Holders of Class A common stock and Class B common stock will vote together as a single class on all matters (including the election of directors) submitted to a vote of stockholders, unless otherwise required by law or our certificate of incorporation. Each share of Class B common stock will automatically convert into one share of Class A common stock on the final conversion date, as defined in our certificate of incorporation. Each share of Class B common stock will also be convertible at any time at the option of the holder into one share of Class A common stock. In addition, each share of Class B common stock will convert automatically into one share of Class A common stock upon any transfer, whether or not for value, except for certain transfers described in our certificate of incorporation, including, without limitation, transfers for tax and estate planning purposes, so long as the transferring holder of Class B common stock continues to hold exclusive voting and dispositive power with respect to the shares transferred. Once converted into a share of Class A common stock, a converted share of Class B common stock will not be reissued. Following the conversion of all outstanding shares of Class B common stock, no further shares of Class B common stock will be issued. See “Description of Capital Stock.”
On the effective date of the Conversion, the members of the board of managers of AWH will become the members of the Board of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc., with the exceptions described in this prospectus, and the officers of AWH will become the officers of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. Following the Conversion, we will consummate the initial public offering of our Class A common stock.
The following diagram illustrates our corporate structure following the completion of the Conversion and the closing of the offering. See Exhibit 21.1 to the registration statement of which this prospectus is a part for a list of our subsidiaries. All lines represent 100% ownership of outstanding securities of the applicable subsidiary unless otherwise noted. In part, the complexity of our organization structure is due to state licensing requirements that mandate that we maintain the corporate identity of our operating license holders.
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https://cdn.kscope.io/451e5156b305c96b6c6a60ca004953c2-pospectussummary1c1.jpg
__________________
(1) In process of transfer to AWH. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is currently reviewing the transfer application.
(2) The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program is currently reviewing transfer requests for Hemma, LLC and BCCO, LLC. We have entered into an agreement to acquire Marichron Pharma, LLC, but cannot submit a transfer request until Marichron Pharma, LLC receives a certificate of operation.
Legend for state of incorporation:
https://cdn.kscope.io/451e5156b305c96b6c6a60ca004953c2-image7a.jpg
In this prospectus, except as otherwise indicated or the context otherwise requires, all information is presented giving effect to the Conversion. The purpose of the Conversion is to reorganize our structure so that the entity that is offering our Class A common stock to the public in this offering is a Delaware corporation rather than a Delaware limited liability company, and so that our existing investors will own our Class A common stock rather than equity interests in a limited liability company.
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USE OF PROCEEDS
We estimate that the net proceeds to us from our issuance and sale of 12.5 million shares of Class A common stock in this offering will be approximately $105 million, after deducting the underwriting commission and estimated offering expenses payable by us. This estimate assumes an initial public offering price of $9.00 per share, the midpoint of the price range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus. If the underwriters exercise their over-allotment option in full to purchase additional shares from us, we estimate that our net proceeds will be approximately $120.9 million, after deducting the underwriting commission and estimated offering expenses payable by us.
Each $1.00 increase (decrease) in the assumed initial public offering price of $9.00 per share would increase (decrease) our net proceeds by approximately $11.8 million, assuming the number of shares offered by us, as set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, remains the same, after deducting the underwriting commission and estimated offering expenses payable by us. Each increase (decrease) of 1.0 million shares in the number of shares offered by us would increase (decrease) the net proceeds from this offering by approximately $8.5 million, assuming the assumed initial public offering price remains the same, after deducting the underwriting commission and estimated offering expenses payable by us. The information discussed above is illustrative only and will adjust based on the actual initial public offering price and other terms of this offering determined at pricing. Any increase or decrease in the net proceeds would not change our intended use of proceeds.
We currently expect to use the balance of net proceeds of this offering to increase our capitalization and financial flexibility. We intend to use the net proceeds from this offering to fund the expansion of our cultivation and processing facilities, for future acquisitions, to fund working capital and for general corporate purposes. Specifically, we expect to use (i) approximately $31,000,000 of the proceeds for the pending investment in MedMen NY, Inc., (ii) approximately $7,000,000 to consummate the transactions for our proposed acquisitions of (a) Hemma, LLC and (b) BCCO, LLC, both of which are in Ohio, though we are not certain when or if such transactions will be consummated, or the terms upon which they will ultimately be completed, as each remains subject to regulatory approval in all respects, (iii) approximately $20,000,000 for capital expenditures, and (iv) the remainder for future M&A transactions, general administration, tax liabilities, working capital and general corporate purposes, including additional financing provided to MedMen NY, Inc. prior to closing.
Our objective with respect to the proceeds allocated to capital expenditures is to increase our canopy and annual production capacity, in connection with which we intend to build-out our Lansing, Michigan and Athol, Massachusetts cultivation facilities. Of the approximately $20,000,000 of the proceeds allocated to capital expenditures, approximately $10,000,000 will be used to complete the build-out of the Lansing, Michigan cultivation facility and approximately $10,000,000 will be used to complete the build-out of the Athol, Massachusetts cultivation facility. The build-out of these facilities and the anticipated associated production capacity are intended to be used to feed our owned retail stores in Michigan and Massachusetts as well sell finished goods to other third-party dispensaries. Completion for each facility is expected in the second half of 2021.
Additionally, we may use a portion of the net proceeds to acquire or invest in businesses, products, services or technologies. Pending the use of proceeds from this offering as described above, we may invest the net proceeds that we receive in this offering in short-term, investment grade, interest-bearing instruments.
For the year ended December 31, 2020, we had a net loss of $25.4 million, or $61.7 million after giving effect to the acquisition of each primary business. We may have negative cash flow from operating activities and net losses in future periods as revenue from commercial activities continues to increase. A portion of the proceeds from the offering may be used to fund negative cash flow from operating activities in future periods. See “Risk Factors – We have a limited operating history and a history of net losses and negative cash flows from operating activities, and we may not achieve or maintain profitability or positive cash flows in the future.”
The expected use of proceeds from this offering represent our intentions based upon our current plans and business conditions. The amounts and timing of our actual expenditures may vary significantly depending on numerous factors and any unforeseen cash needs. As a result, management will retain broad discretion over the
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allocation of the net proceeds from this offering. See “Risk Factors - We may experience risks relating to the closing of acquisitions or investments.
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DIVIDEND POLICY
Following the Conversion, we do not intend to pay any cash dividends on our capital stock in the foreseeable future. We currently intend to reinvest all future earnings to finance the development and growth of our business and team. Any future determination to pay distributions will be at the discretion of the Board and will depend on the financial condition, business environment, operating results, capital requirements, any contractual restrictions on the payment of distributions and any other factors that the Board deems relevant. Our future ability to pay cash dividends on our capital stock may be limited by any future debt instruments or preferred securities. Accordingly, you may need to sell your Class A common stock to realize a return on your investment and you may not be able to sell your shares at or above the price you paid for them.
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CAPITALIZATION
The following table sets forth our cash and cash equivalents and our capitalization as of the dates set forth below:
AWH and its subsidiaries on an actual basis as of December 31, 2020;
Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. and its subsidiaries on a pro forma basis after giving effect to the Conversion and Reverse Split, including the conversion of outstanding convertible notes; and
Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. and its subsidiaries on a pro forma after giving effect to the Conversion and Reverse Split, including the conversion of outstanding convertible notes, further adjusted to include the sale of shares of Class A common stock in this offering at an assumed initial public offering price of $9.00 per share (which is the midpoint of the price range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus), after deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses that we expect to pay, the application of the net proceeds from this offering as described under “Use of Proceeds”.
This table should be read in conjunction with “Use of Proceeds”, “Selected Financial Data”, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations”, and the consolidated financial statements and notes thereto appearing elsewhere in this prospectus. The data presented below gives effect to a two-for-one Reverse Split. While we anticipate the Reverse Split will be approved by our board of managers, it has not been formally approved and is not effective as of the date hereof.
 AS OF DECEMBER 31, 2020
 (in thousands, except per share amounts)
Ascend Wellness Holdings, LLC
Actual
 
Pro Forma Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc.
(unaudited)(2)
Pro Forma
As Adjusted Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc.(unaudited)(3)
Cash and cash equivalents$56,547 $106,047 $211,051 
Debt, including current portion$211,607 $136,123 $136,123 
Stockholders’ equity (deficit)
Preferred stock, par value $0.001, 10,000 shares authorized on a pro forma and pro forma as adjusted basis, no shares issued and outstanding on a pro forma and pro forma as adjusted basis— — — 
Class A common stock, par value $0.001, 750,000 shares authorized, 155,989 shares issued and outstanding on a pro forma basis(1); 168,489 shares issued and outstanding on a pro forma as adjusted basis
— $156 $168 
Class B common stock, par value $0.001, 100 shares authorized on a pro forma and pro forma as adjusted basis, 65 shares issued and outstanding on a pro forma and pro forma as adjusted basis— $0.1 $0.1 
Members’ equity
Additional paid-in capital$67,378 $232,308 $337,300 
Accumulated deficit$(63,592)$(90,953)$(90,953)
Total members’/stockholders’ equity$3,786 $141,511 $246,515 
Total capitalization $215,393 $277,634 $382,638 

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(1)The pro forma number of shares of our Class A common stock to be outstanding after this offering set forth reflects: the conversion of our previously outstanding Common Units (including vested restricted stock units as of December 31, 2020), Series Seed Preferred Units, Series Seed+ Preferred Units, and Real Estate Preferred Units (which includes 3.0 million additional shares issued per the conversion terms); 37.4 million shares assumed to be issued in the conversion of our convertible notes immediately prior to the closing of this offering (based on outstanding principal plus accrued interest thereon assumed through May 1, 2021); 4.5 million restricted stock units with acceleration clauses that would become vested immediately prior to the closing of this offering; and the conversion of 5.1 million common units issued during 2021. The pro forma number of shares excludes: 1.1 million gross shares of Class A common stock issuable upon the exercise of warrants outstanding as of December 31, 2020 at an exercise price of $3.20 per share; 3.5 million gross shares of Class A common stock issuable upon the exercise of warrants outstanding as of December 31, 2020 at an exercise price of $4.00 per share; and 2.8 million unvested restricted stock units.
(2)The pro forma adjustments reflect $49.5 million of cash receipts from convertible notes issued in 2021 and includes an estimated adjustment to accumulated deficit for the 3.0 million additional shares issuable upon conversion of the Real Estate Preferred Units. The pro forma adjustments exclude the impact on accumulated deficit from incremental interest expense of approximately $7 million that would have been incurred in 2021 on the convertible notes through the Conversion. The pro forma adjustments exclude the impact of any potential beneficial conversion feature charges that may result in the Conversion.
(3)This pro forma as adjusted information assumes the maximum number of 12.5 million shares offered by us, as set forth on this cover page of this prospectus at an assumed initial public offering price of $9.00 per share, which is the midpoint of the range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, remains the same and after deducting estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us. The estimated underwriting discounts and commissions assume a 3% fee on $25 million of the gross proceeds and a 6% fee on the remaining $87.5 million gross proceeds. The estimated total offering expenses payable by us is $1.5 million. This pro forma as adjusted information is illustrative only and will depend on the actual initial public offering price and other terms of this offering determined at pricing.

A $1.00 increase (decrease) in the assumed initial public offering price of $9.00 per share, which is the midpoint of the price range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, would increase (decrease) the pro forma as adjusted amount of each of cash and cash equivalents, additional paid-in capital, total stockholders’ equity and total capitalization by $11.8 million, assuming that the number of shares offered by us, as set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, remains the same and after deducting estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us.
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OPTIONS TO PURCHASE SECURITIES
The following table sets forth the aggregate number of warrants to purchase Class A common stock and Class B common stock that will be outstanding upon the closing of this offering, including after giving effect to the Conversion. See “Corporate Conversion and Corporate Structure.”
CategoryNumber of warrants exercisable to acquire Class A common stockNumber of warrants exercisable to acquire Class B common stockExercise PriceExpiration Date
Executive Officers and Former Executive Officers NilNilN/AN/A
Directors (other than those who are also executive officers) and Former Directors NilNilN/AN/A
Other Current and Former Employees NilNilN/AN/A
Consultants NilNilN/AN/A
TotalNilNil
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DILUTION
Pursuant to the registration statement of which this prospectus is a part, we may offer or sell shares of our Class A common stock. If you invest in our Class A common stock in this offering, your interest in the Company will be immediately diluted to the extent of the difference between the public offering price per share of Class A common stock and the as adjusted net tangible book value per share of our Class A common stock immediately after this offering. The data presented below gives effect to a two-for-one Reverse Split. While we anticipate the Reverse Split will be approved by our board of managers, it has not been formally approved and is not effective as of the date hereof.
Our historical net tangible book value as of December 31, 2020 was ($69.5) million, or ($0.33) per historical member unit then outstanding. Our historical net tangible book value is the amount of our total tangible assets less our total liabilities. Historical net tangible book value per historical common unit equivalent represents net tangible book value divided by 212.2 million member units outstanding as of December 31, 2020.
Our pro forma net tangible book value as of December 31, 2020 was $68.3 million, or $0.44 per share of Class A common stock. Pro forma net tangible book value per share of Class A common stock is determined by subtracting our total liabilities from the total book value of our tangible assets and dividing the difference by the number of shares of Class A common stock deemed to be outstanding, after giving effect to the Conversion, including: the conversion of our previously outstanding Common Units (including vested restricted stock units as of December 31, 2020), Series Seed Preferred Units, Series Seed+ Preferred Units, and Real Estate Preferred Units (which includes 3.0 million additional shares issued per the conversion terms); 37.4 million shares assumed to be issued in the conversion of our convertible notes immediately prior to the closing of this offering; 4.5 million restricted stock units with acceleration clauses that would become vested immediately prior to the closing of this offering; and 5.1 million common shares issued during 2021 prior to the Conversion.
After giving further effect to the sale of 12.5 million shares of Class A common stock in this offering at an assumed initial public offering price of $9.00 per share, which is the midpoint of the price range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, and after deducting estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us, our pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value as of December 31, 2020 would have been $173.3 million, or $1.03 per share. This represents an immediate increase in pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share of $1.36 to existing stockholders and immediate dilution of $7.97 pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share to new investors purchasing shares of common stock in this offering. We determine dilution by subtracting the pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share of Class A common stock after this offering from the amount of cash that a new investor paid for a share of Class A common stock. The following table illustrates this dilution:
Assumed initial public offering price per share$9.00 
Historical net tangible book value per share as of December 31, 2020$(0.33)
Increase per share attributable to the pro forma adjustments described above$0.77 
Pro forma net tangible book value per share as of December 31, 2020 immediately before this offering$0.44 
Increase in pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share attributable to investors in this offering$0.59 
Pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share immediately after this offering$1.03 
Dilution in pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share to new common stock investors in this offering$7.97 
A $1.00 increase (decrease) in the assumed initial public offering price of $9.00 per share of Class A common stock, which is the midpoint of the price range listed on the cover page of this prospectus, would increase (decrease) the pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share of Class A common stock after this offering by
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approximately $0.07, and dilution in pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share of Class A common stock to new investors by approximately $0.93, assuming that the number of shares of Class A common stock offered by us, as set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, remains the same and after deducting estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us.
If the underwriters exercise their over-allotment option to purchase additional shares of Class A common stock from us in full, the pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value after the offering would be $1.11 per share of Class A common stock, the increase in pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share of Class A common stock to existing stockholders would be $1.44 per share of Class A common stock and the dilution in pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value to new investors would be $0.08 per share of Class A common stock, in each case assuming an initial public offering price of $9.00 per share of Class A common stock, which is the midpoint of the price range listed on the cover page of this prospectus.
The following table summarizes, as of December 31, 2020, after giving effect to this offering, the number of shares of Class A common stock purchased from us, the total consideration paid, or to be paid, to us and the average price per share of Class A common stock paid, or to be paid, by existing stockholders and by the new investors. The calculation below is based on an assumed initial public offering price of $9.00 per share of Class A common stock, which is the midpoint of the price range listed on the cover page of this prospectus, before deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us.
Shares PurchasedTotal Consideration Average Price Per Share
NumberPercentAmountPercent
Existing stockholders158,832,104 94 %$267,611,183 75 %$1.68 
New investors(1)9,722,222 %$87,500,000 25 %$9.00 
Total168,554,326 100 %$355,111,183 100 %
(1)Assumes all investors on the Presidents’ List are existing investors.
Each $1.00 increase (decrease) in the assumed initial public offering price of $9.00 per share of Class A common stock would increase (decrease) the total consideration paid by new investors and the total consideration paid by all stockholders by $12.5 million, assuming the number of shares of Class A common stock offered by us remains the same.
Except as otherwise indicated, the discussion and the tables above assume no exercise of the underwriters' over-allotment option to purchase additional shares of Class A common stock from us. The number of shares of our Class A common stock outstanding after this offering as shown in the tables above is based on the number of shares of Class A common stock outstanding as of December 31, 2020, after giving effect to the Conversion and excludes:
3.5 million shares of Class A common stock issuable upon the exercise of warrants outstanding as of December 31, 2020, at an exercise price of $4.00 per share of Class A common stock;
1.1 million shares of Class A common stock issuable upon the exercise of warrants outstanding as of December 31, 2020, at an exercise price of $3.20 per share of Class A common stock; and
2.8 million unvested restricted stock units.
.
To the extent any of the outstanding warrants are exercised, there will be further dilution to new investors. If the underwriters exercise their over-allotment option to purchase additional shares of Class A common stock from us in full:
the percentage of shares of Class A common stock held by the existing stockholders will decrease to approximately 93% of the total number of shares of our Class A common stock outstanding after this offering; and
the number of shares held by new investors will increase to 11,597,222, or approximately 7% of the total number of shares of our Class A common stock outstanding after this offering.
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SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
The following table sets forth our selected consolidated financial data for the periods, and as of the dates, indicated. The (i) consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019 and (ii) consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2020 and 2019 have been derived from the audited consolidated financial statements of the Company and its subsidiaries, which are included elsewhere in this prospectus.
The data set forth below should be read in conjunction with “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and the consolidated financial statements and the accompanying notes presented in this prospectus. Our consolidated financial statements have been prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP and on a going-concern basis that contemplates continuity of operations and realization of assets and liquidation of liabilities in the ordinary course of business.
Year Ended December 31,
(in thousands except per share data)20202019
Revenue, net$143,732 $12,032 
Cost of goods sold$(82,818)$(8,744)
Gross profit$60,914 $3,288 
Total operating expenses$53,067 $29,409 
Other income (expense)$(12,986)$(6,454)
Net loss attributable to AWH$(25,439)$(31,895)
Net loss per share attributable to AWH $(0.13)$(0.18)
Total assets$427,748 $195,931 
Noncurrent liabilities$308,677 $145,045 

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MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
This management discussion and analysis, which we refer to as the “MD&A”, of the financial condition and results of operations of Ascend Wellness Holdings, LLC (the “Company” or “AWH”) is for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019. It is supplemental to, and should be read in conjunction with, the consolidated financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, and the accompanying notes thereto (the “Annual Financial Statements”). The Annual Financial Statements were prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, which we refer to as “GAAP”.
The following discussion should be read in conjunction with, and is qualified in its entirety by, the Annual Financial Statements and the accompanying notes thereto. In addition to historical information, the discussion in this section contains forward-looking statements and forward-looking information (collectively, forward-looking information”) that involve risks and uncertainties. Generally, forward-looking information may be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as “plans,” “expects,” “does not expect,” “proposed,” “is expected,” “budgets,” “scheduled,” “estimates,” “forecasts,” “intends,” “anticipates,” “does not anticipate,” “believes,” or variations of such words and phrases, or by the use of words or phrases which state that certain actions, events, or results may, could, would, or might occur or be achieved. There can be no assurance that such forward-looking information will prove to be accurate, and actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such forward-looking information. Forward-looking information is subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause the actual results, level of activity, performance, or achievements of the Company to be materially different from those or implied by such forward-looking information. Such risks and other factors may include, but are not limited to: general business, economic, competitive, political and social uncertainties; general capital market conditions and market prices for securities; delay or failure to receive board or regulatory approvals; the actual results of future operations; operating and development costs; competition; changes in legislation or regulations affecting the Company; the timing and availability of external financing on acceptable terms, if at all; favorable production levels and outputs; the stability of pricing of cannabis products; the level of demand for cannabis product; the availability of third-party service providers and other inputs for the Company’s operations; and lack of qualified, skilled labor or loss of key individuals. Although the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in forward-looking information, including those set forth under the “Risk Factors” section and elsewhere in this Prospectus, there may be other factors that cause results not to be as anticipated, estimated or intended. Readers are cautioned that the foregoing list of factors is not exhaustive. Readers are further cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking information as there can be no assurance that the plans, intentions or expectations upon which they are placed will occur. Forward-looking information contained in this MD&A is expressly qualified by this cautionary statement.
Financial information presented in this MD&A is presented in thousands of United States dollars (“$”), unless otherwise indicated. We round amounts in this MD&A to the thousands and calculate all percentages and per-share data from the underlying whole-dollar amounts. Thus, certain amounts may not foot, crossfoot, or recalculate based on reported numbers due to rounding. Unless otherwise indicated, all references to years are to our fiscal year, which ends on December 31.
This MD&A was prepared by management of the Company and is dated and presented as of April 15, 2021.
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BUSINESS OVERVIEW
We are a vertically integrated multi-state operator focused on adult-use or near-term adult-use cannabis states in limited license markets. Our core business is the cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution of cannabis consumer packaged goods, which we sell through our company-owned retail stores and to third-party licensed retail cannabis stores. We were founded in 2018 and initially pursued cultivation and dispensary licensing opportunities in Massachusetts. In December 2018, we entered the Illinois market with the acquisition of Revolution Cannabis-Barry LLC, an existing cultivation facility. We also acquired HealthCentral, LLC (“HCI”) and its related entities, which owned two operational medical dispensaries in Illinois. We have since expanded our operational footprint, primarily through acquisitions and now have direct or indirect operations or financial interests in five U.S. geographic markets: Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio. During 2020, our growth was further fueled by the legalization of adult-use cannabis in the state of Illinois. We also acquired three dispensaries in the Chicago, Illinois area, along with a cultivation site and dispensary location in New Jersey. Additionally, we opened four new dispensaries during 2020 and expanded our cultivation operations.
We believe in bettering lives through cannabis. Our mission is to improve the lives of our employees, patients, customers and the communities we serve through the use of the cannabis plant. We are committed to providing safe, reliable and high-quality products and providing consumers options and education to ensure they are able to identify and obtain the products that fit their personal needs. As of April 15, 2021, we have direct or indirect operations or financial interests in five U.S. markets and employ approximately 1,000 people.
We are committed to being vertically integrated in every state we operate in, which entails controlling the entire supply chain from seed to sale. We are currently vertically integrated in two out of the five states in which we operate with expansion plans underway to achieve vertical integration in all five states. While we have been successful in opening facilities and dispensaries, we expect continued growth to be driven by opening new operational facilities and dispensaries under our current licenses, expansion of our current facilities, and increased consumer demand.
Our consumer products portfolio is generated primarily from plant material that we grow and process ourselves. We produce our consumer packaged goods in five manufacturing facilities with 74,000 square feet of current operational canopy and total current capacity of 38,000 pounds annually. We are undergoing expansions to 285,000 square feet of cumulative canopy, which is estimated to have a total production capacity of 142,000 pounds annually post build-out. As of April 15, 2021, our product portfolio consists of 102 stock keeping units (“SKUs”), across a range of cannabis product categories, including flower, pre-rolls, concentrates, vapes, edibles, and other cannabis-related products. As of April 15, 2021, we have 16 open and operating retail locations, including pending acquisitions in Illinois and Ohio, which we anticipate will expand to 23 locations open and operating by the end of calendar year 2021. Our new store opening plans are flexible and will ultimately depend on market conditions, local licensing, construction, and other regulatory permissions. All of our expansion plans are subject to capital allocations decisions, the evolving regulatory environment, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Results of Operations
Year Ended December 31, 2020 Compared with the Year Ended December 31, 2019
Year Ended December 31,
($ in thousands)20202019Increase / (Decrease)
Revenue, net$143,732 $12,032 $131,700 NM*
Cost of goods sold(82,818)(8,744)74,074 NM*
Gross profit60,914 3,288 57,626 NM*
Gross profit %42.4 %27.3 %
Operating expenses
General and administrative53,067 29,409 23,658 80%
Total operating expenses53,067 29,409 23,658 80%
Operating profit (loss)7,847 (26,121)33,968 130%
Other income (expense)
Interest expense(12,993)(6,477)6,516 101%
Other, net23 (16)(70)%
Total other income (expense)(12,986)(6,454)6,532 101%
Loss before income taxes(5,139)(32,575)(27,436)(84)%
Income tax expense(18,702)(667)18,035 NM*
Net loss$(23,841)$(33,242)(9,401)(28)%
Less: net income (loss) attributable to non-controlling interests1,598 (1,347)2,945 219%
Net loss attributable to AWH$(25,439)$(31,895)$6,456 20%
*Not meaningful
Revenue
Revenue in 2020 was $143,732, compared to $12,032 in 2019, representing an increase of $131,700, primarily driven by growth from our existing businesses as well as new site openings and acquisitions. Revenue at our existing dispensaries increased by $71,298, primarily due to the approval of adult recreational use in Illinois in January 2020. We opened four new dispensaries during 2020 which contributed $5,912 of revenue during the year, and the acquisition of four dispensaries contributed additional $15,445 of the total growth. Increased production and sales from our existing cultivation and manufacturing sites contributed $38,929 to our revenue growth, primarily driven by a full year of sales at our Illinois facility, as compared to one quarter during 2019, and the commencement of cultivation and production at our Massachusetts and Michigan facilities during 2020. By the end of 2020, we had 87 SKUs for our cultivation products, compared to 33 at the end of 2019.
Cost of Goods Sold and Gross Profit
Cost of goods sold in 2020 was $82,818, compared to $8,744 in 2019, representing an increase of $74,074. Cost of goods sold represent direct and indirect expenses attributable to the production of wholesale products as well as direct expenses incurred in purchasing products from other wholesalers. The increase in cost of goods sold in 2020 was driven by expansion of our operations, including $8,096 of incremental costs from acquisitions. Gross profit for 2020 was $60,914, representing a gross margin of 42.4%, compared to gross profit of $3,288 and gross margin of 27.3% in 2019. The increase in gross margin was primarily driven by an increase in scale as well as efficiency improvements at our Illinois cultivation facility relative to its operations in 2019.
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General and Administrative Expenses
General and administrative expenses were $53,067 in 2020, compared to $29,409 in 2019, representing an increase of $23,658 or 80%. The increase was primarily related to:
a $7,873 increase in rent and utilities, driven by eight new operating leases that we entered into during 2020 and an increase in related utilities expenses to support the expansion of our operations;
a $7,155 increase in compensation expense resulting from an increase in headcount from approximately 270 at the end of 2019 to approximately 900 by the end of 2020 to support our expanded operations;
a $4,336 increase in depreciation and amortization expense due to $4,530 of amortization related to in-place leases that were acquired during 2019, and $583 of incremental amortization from licenses acquired during 2020.
a $2,633 increase in professional services, driven by an increase in consulting, accounting, and tax services;
an increase of $709 related to insurance expenses;
a $545 increase in marketing expenses associated with new dispensary openings; and
a $286 loss related to the sale of one of our capital assets during 2020.
Certain general and administrative expenses, primarily rent and utilities and amortization of in-place leases, were incurred in 2020 ahead of new store openings, particularly in Michigan. As such, expenses incurred exceeded revenue at certain locations; however, the Company does not anticipate recurring losses at these locations in the future as the business begins to operate at scale. The Company did not identify indicators of potential impairment of intangible assets or goodwill during 2020 or 2019.
Interest Expense
Interest expense was $12,993 in 2020, compared to $6,477 in 2019, an increase of $6,516, due to an increase in the principal amount of Company debt outstanding during 2020. During 2020, the Company had an average outstanding debt balance of $107,791 with a weighted-average interest rate of 10.8%, compared to an average debt balance of $45,643 during 2019 with a weighted-average interest rate of 12.2%.
Income Tax Expense
Income tax expense is recognized based on the expected tax payable on the taxable income for the year, using tax rates enacted at year-end. Since the Company operates in the cannabis industry, it is subject to the limitations of Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) Section 280E, which prohibits businesses engaged in the trafficking of Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances from deducting ordinary and necessary business expenses from gross profit. Cannabis businesses operating in states that align their tax codes with IRC Section 280E are also unable to deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses for state tax purposes. Ordinary and necessary business expenses deemed non-deductible under IRC Section 280E are treated as permanent book-to-tax differences. Therefore, the effective tax rate can be highly variable and may not necessarily correlate with pre-tax income or loss.
The statutory federal tax rate was 21% during 2019 and 2020. The Company has operations in five U.S. geographic markets: Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio, which have state tax rates ranging from 4% to 9.5%. Certain states, including Michigan, do not align with IRC Section 280E for state tax purposes and permit the deduction of ordinary and necessary business expenses from gross profit in the calculation of state taxable income.
In 2020, income tax expense was $18,702, which was approximately 30.7% of Gross Profit, compared to income tax expense of $667 in 2019, which was approximately 20.3% of Gross Profit. The percentage increase was primarily driven by an increase in state tax expense incurred as a result of a significant increase in gross profit from operations in states which align with the provisions of IRC Section 280E for state tax purposes, relative to other states, such as Michigan, which do not.
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Effective January 1, 2020, AWH elected to be treated as a C-Corporation for Federal income tax purposes. AWH did not recognize any deferred taxes as a result of this change, as AWH did not have any temporary book-to-tax differences prior to this election, largely due to the limitations of IRC Section 280E.
On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) was enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other provisions, the CARES Act allows net operating loss carryforwards incurred in 2018, 2019, and 2020 to be carried back to each of the five preceding taxable years to generate a refund of previously paid income taxes. The Company is currently evaluating the impact of the CARES Act, but at present does not expect it to have a material impact on its provision due to the limitations of IRC Section 280E.
NON-GAAP FINANCIAL MEASURES
We define “Adjusted Gross Profit” as gross profit excluding non-cash inventory costs. We define “Adjusted Gross Margin” as Adjusted Gross Profit as a percentage of net revenue. Our “Adjusted EBITDA” is a non-GAAP measure used by management that is not defined by U.S. GAAP and may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other companies. We define “Adjusted EBITDA Margin” as Adjusted EBITDA as a percentage of net revenue. Management calculates Adjusted EBITDA as the reported net loss, adjusted to exclude: income tax expense; other (income) expense; interest expense, depreciation and amortization; depreciation and amortization included in cost of goods sold; loss on sale of assets; non-cash inventory adjustments; equity based compensation; start-up costs; and transaction-related and other legal expenses. Accordingly, management believes that Adjusted EBITDA provides meaningful and useful financial information, as this measure demonstrates the operating performance of the business. Non-GAAP financial measures may be considered in addition to the results prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP, but they should not be considered a substitute for, or superior to, U.S. GAAP results.
The following table presents Adjusted Gross Profit for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019:
Year Ended December 31,
($ in thousands)20202019
Gross Profit$60,914 $3,288 
Depreciation and amortization included in cost of goods sold3,696 323 
Non-cash inventory adjustments146 (589)
Adjusted Gross Profit$64,756 $3,022 
Adjusted Gross Margin45.1 %25.1 %
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The following table presents Adjusted EBITDA for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019:
Year Ended December 31,
(in thousands)20202019
Net income (loss)$(23,841)$(33,242)
Income tax expense18,702 667 
Other (income) expense(7)(23)
Interest expense12,993 6,477 
Depreciation and amortization7,914 3,578 
Depreciation and amortization included in cost of goods sold3,696 323 
Loss on sale of assets286 — 
Non-cash inventory adjustments146 (589)
Equity based compensation680 311 
Start-up costs(1)
8,097 10,096 
Transaction-related and other legal expenses(2)
2,164 — 
Adjusted EBITDA$30,830 $(12,402)
Adjusted EBITDA Margin21.4 %(103.1)%
(1)Represents certain expenses incurred before commencement of operations at various locations. Such expenses include: rent and utilities of $5,538 and $3,231 during 2020 and 2019, respectively; compensation and related expenses of $664 and $2,420 during 2020 and 2019, respectively; one-time costs associated with acquiring real estate or obtaining licenses and permits totaling $296 and $2,553 during 2020 and 2019, respectively; and other expenses, largely consisting of professional services expenses, totaling $1,599 and $1,892 during 2020 and 2019, respectively.

(2)In addition to other legal expenses incurred for potential future business development and expansion, this amount includes acquisition-related costs for MOCA LLC, Greenleaf Compassion Center, and Chicago Alternative Health Center, LLC totaling $526 during 2020 and legal and professional fees associated with the Company’s potential go-public transaction totaling $688 during 2020.

LIQUIDITY AND CAPITAL RESOURCES
We are an emerging growth company and our primary sources of liquidity are operating cash flows, borrowings through the issuances of notes payable, and funds raised through the issuance of equity securities. We are generating cash from sales and deploying our capital reserves to acquire and develop assets capable of producing additional revenue and earnings over both the immediate and long term. Capital reserves are being utilized for acquisitions in the medical and adult use cannabis markets, for capital expenditures and improvements in existing facilities, product development and marketing, as well as customer, supplier, and investor and industry relations.
Financing History and Future Capital Requirements
To date, we have used private financing as a source of liquidity for short-term working capital needs and general corporate purposes. During 2018, we raised $28,675 through the issuance of notes payable and $14,651 through the issuance of membership units to fund the commencement of our operations. During 2019, we raised $64,742 through the issuance of notes payable and $38,481 through the issuance of membership units to help finance our expanded operations and provide funds for investments in our capital assets and acquisitions. During 2020, we raised an additional $101,886 through the issuance of notes payable to further finance our expanded operations. During 2021, we raised $49,500 through the issuance of notes payable to further finance our expanded operations and acquisitions.
Our future ability to fund operations, to make planned capital expenditures, to acquire other entities or investments, to make scheduled debt payments, and to repay or refinance indebtedness depends on our future
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operating performance, cash flows, and ability to obtain equity or debt financing, which are subject to prevailing economic conditions, as well as financial, business, and other factors, some of which are beyond our control.
As reflected in the Annual Financial Statements, the Company had an accumulated deficit as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, as well as a net loss and negative cash flows from operating activities for the reporting periods then-ended. Management believes that substantial doubt of our ability to continue as a going concern for at least one year from the issuance of our Annual Financial Statements has been alleviated due to: (i) capital raised subsequent to December 31, 2020 and (ii) continued sales growth from our consolidated operations. Management plans to continue to access capital markets for additional funding through debt and/or equity financings to supplement future cash needs, as may be required. However, management cannot provide any assurances that the Company will be successful in accomplishing its business plans. If we are unable to raise additional capital on favorable terms, if at all, whenever necessary, we may be forced to decelerate or curtail certain of its operations until such time as additional capital becomes available.
As of December 31, 2020 and 2019, the Company had total current liabilities of $115,285 and $16,046, respectively, and total current assets of $134,547 and $57,376, respectively, which includes cash and cash equivalents of $56,547 and $10,555, respectively, to meet its current obligations. As of December 31, 2020, the Company had working capital of $19,262, compared to $41,330 as of December 31, 2019.
Approximately 95% and 94% of the Company’s cash and cash equivalents balance as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively, is on deposit with banks, credit unions, or other financial institutions. We have not experienced any material impacts related to banking restrictions applicable to cannabis businesses (see “Risk Factors – Cannabis businesses are subject to applicable anti-money laundering laws and regulations and have restricted access to banking and other financial services”). Our cash and cash equivalents balance is not restricted for use by variable interest entities.
Cash Flows
Year Ended December 31,
(in thousands)20202019
Net cash used in operating activities$(6,004)$(40,929)
Net cash used in investing activities(30,872)(65,551)
Net cash provided by financing activities82,168 111,062 
Operating Activities
Net cash used in operating activities decreased by $34,925 during 2020, as compared to 2019. The decrease was primarily driven by: the year-over-year decrease in our net loss and increases in non-cash income and expense items impacting net loss, as well as a decrease in net investments in working capital, including inventory partially offset by the timing of accounts receivable and income taxes payable.
Investing Activities
Net cash used in investing activities decreased by $34,679 during 2020, as compared to 2019. The decrease primarily resulted from lower purchases of intangible assets, lower cash investments in capital assets, and an increase in proceeds from the sale of assets, partially offset by an increase in cash paid in business acquisitions.
Financing Activities
Net cash provided by financing activities decreased by $28,894 during 2020, as compared to 2019. The decrease was primarily driven by lower proceeds from the issuance of membership units, lower proceeds from sale-leaseback transactions, and an increase in repayments of debt, partially offset by higher proceeds from the issuance of debt.
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Contractual Obligations and Other Commitments and Contingencies
The following table summarizes the Company’s future contractual obligations as of December 31, 2020:
(in thousands)Commitments Due by Period
Contractual ObligationsTotal20212022 - 20232024 - 2025Thereafter
Term notes(1)
$155,608 $28,222 $85,762 $41,624 $— 
Sellers’ Notes(2)
45,803 31,517 14,286 — — 
Finance arrangements(3)
19,873 2,022 4,225 4,477 9,149 
Operating leases(4)
427,971 20,345 42,599 45,084 319,943 
Total$649,255 82,106 $146,872 $91,185 $329,092 
(1)Principal payments due under term notes payable.
(2)Consists of amounts owed for acquisitions or other purchases. Certain cash payments include an interest accretion component.
(3)Reflects our contractual obligations to make future payments under non-cancelable operating leases that did not meet the criteria to qualify for sale-leaseback treatment.
(4)Reflects our contractual obligations to make future payments under non-cancelable operating leases.
Other Commitments
In December 2020, the Company submitted a state application to acquire BCCO, LLC, a medical dispensary license holder in Ohio for cash consideration of approximately $3,500, subject to certain adjustments at closing. The Company may settle the outstanding balances due under a note receivable and a working capital loan as part of the purchase price at closing. The Company expects to enter into a definitive purchase agreement following the state approval of the license transfer. Though precise timing is difficult to estimate given the uncertainties around receipt of the requisite regulatory approvals, if the proposed transaction is completed during 2021, the Company has adequate cash on hand to consummate the proposed transaction and anticipates allocating certain of the proceeds from the offering to this transaction, as indicated in “Use of Proceeds.
In December 2020, the Company submitted a state application to acquire Hemma, LLC, the owner of a medical cultivation site in Ohio, for cash consideration of approximately $9,570, subject to certain adjustments at closing. The Company may settle the outstanding balances due under a note receivable and a working capital loan as part of the purchase price at closing. The Company expects to enter into a definitive purchase agreement following the state approval of the license transfer. Though precise timing is difficult to estimate given the uncertainties around receipt of the requisite regulatory approvals, if the proposed transaction is completed during 2021, the Company has adequate cash on hand to consummate the proposed transaction and anticipates allocating certain of the proceeds from the offering to this transaction, as indicated in “Use of Proceeds.
Capital Expenditures
We anticipate cash capital expenditures, net of tenant improvement allowances, of approximately $90,000 during 2021. This includes new projects we expect to initiate in 2021, as well as payments related to projects that began in 2020. During 2021, we anticipate completing the build-outs of the greenhouse at our Barry, Illinois cultivation facility and the cultivation and processing facility in Lansing, Michigan. We also anticipate completing the phase 2 expansion at our Athol, Massachusetts cultivation facility, as well as the expansion of our Franklin, New Jersey cultivation and processing facility. Spending at our cultivation and processing facilities includes both construction and the purchase of capital equipment such as extraction equipment, Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, manufacturing equipment and general maintenance capital expenditures. Additionally, we expect to complete the build-outs of 7 total dispensaries across Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Michigan that are expected to open in 2021. In addition, dispensary-related capital expenditures include anticipated costs to rebrand all dispensaries to the Ascend retail brand and general maintenance of our retail locations.
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As of December 31, 2020, our construction in progress (“CIP”) balance was $25,139 and relates to capital spending of assets that were not yet complete. This balance includes approximately $15,000 related to the Lansing, Michigan cultivation and processing facility. Production operations at this location are expected to begin during the first quarter of 2021 and cultivation activities are expected to commence during the second quarter of 2021. Approximately $4,000 of the CIP balance relates to the construction of a greenhouse at our Barry, Illinois cultivation facility, which is expected to be completed in the second or third quarter of 2021. The remaining balance of approximately $6,000 relates to the active construction projects related to certain licensed dispensaries that were not yet open as of December 31, 2020.
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements
As of the date of this MD&A, we do not have any off-balance-sheet arrangements, as defined by applicable regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission, that have, or are reasonably likely to have, a current or future effect on the results of our operations or financial condition, including, and without limitation, such considerations as liquidity and capital resources.
Related Party Transactions
AWH has a management services agreement (“MSA”) with AGP Partners, LLC (“AGP”) under which AGP provides management services to AWH in connection with the monitoring and oversight of AWH’s financial and business functions. The founder of AGP is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of AWH. Pursuant to the MSA, AWH pays AGP a quarterly fee of $100. As of December 31, 2020 and 2019, $100 and $200, respectively, of these fees are included in “Accounts payable and other accrued expenses” on the Consolidated Balance Sheets. We recognized expenses of $400 during each of 2020 and 2019, respectively, that are included in “General and administrative expenses” on the Consolidated Statements of Operations. AGP is entitled to receive $2,000 upon the termination of the MSA in the event of an initial public offering or a change of control. This payout is contingent upon the beneficial owners of AGP who serve as officers of the Company entering into lock-up agreements that extend for 180 days following such event. Pursuant to the MSA, each such lock-up agreement shall contain a provision whereby AWH’s Board of Managers may waive, in whole or in part, such extended lock-up thereto if AWH’s Board of Managers determines, in its sole discretion and in accordance with AWH’s governing documents and applicable law, that such waiver will not have an adverse effect on AWH and its equity holders, business, financial condition and prospects.
Additionally, $1,000 of the Company’s convertible notes are with related party entities that are managed by one of the founders of the Company.
In December 2020, one of the founders of AWH assigned his interest in Ascend Michigan to AWH. Following the assignment, AWH retains a 99.9% ownership interest in Ascend Michigan. Please see the description of the transaction below for additional information.
On April 14, 2021, the Company entered into a warrant cancellation agreement with One Tower Atlantic, LLC, holder of warrants to acquire 2,187,500 common units of AWH at an exercise price of $1.60 per unit (the “$1.60 Warrants”). Upon the completion of the proposed offering, the $1.60 Warrants will be cancelled and cashed out in exchange for a payment of $4,156,250 (or $3.50 per share assuming cashless exercise) from cash on hand. Chris Leavy, a member of the board of managers of the Company, is a partial owner of the general partner of One Tower Atlantic, LLC, and approximately 3% of the equity interest in One Tower Atlantic, LLC, and has an interest in the transaction valued at approximately $125,000. Mr. Leavy will not be a member of the board of directors following the Conversion.
Other Matters
As of December 31, 2020, there are 45,602 of Real Estate Preferred Units outstanding, 28,505 of Series Seed Preferred Units outstanding, and 41,964 of Series Seed+ Preferred Units outstanding (collectively, the “Preferred Units”), in addition to 96,094 common units. The Preferred Units are convertible at the option of the Holder into
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common units on a one-for-one basis. In addition, if a go-public transaction were to occur, then each common unit, Series Seed Preferred Unit, and Series Seed+ Preferred Unit would convert on a one-for-one basis. Each Real Estate Preferred Unit would convert at a rate of (i) one (ii) plus (A) the original purchase price of such Real Estate Preferred Unit multiplied by 1.5, divided by (B) the price at which the securities are sold to the public. This conversion feature for the Real Estate Preferred Units is considered a contingent beneficial conversion feature that would only be recognized if the event occurs, and is quantifiable only at the date of such event. We anticipate this contingent beneficial conversion feature may result in a charge of approximately $27,400 that could adversely impact our operating results upon the conversion.
As of December 31, 2020, there are 19,887 of restricted common units issued, of which 5,252 are vested. The Company recognized $313 as compensation expense in connection with these units during 2020, which is included in “General and administrative expenses” on the Consolidated Statement of Operations in the Annual Financial Statements. As of December 31, 2020, total unrecognized compensation cost related to incentive units was $1,802, which is expected to be recognized over the weighted-average remaining vesting period of 1.4 years. Approximately 8,960 of the unvested restricted common units have an acceleration clause upon a go-public transaction. The accelerated vesting provisions could result in additional compensation charges up to $1,084, related to these awards.
In December 2020, the sole member of FPAW Michigan 2, Inc. (“Ascend Michigan”) assigned his interests to AWH, thereby making AWH the majority member, retaining 99.9% of the membership interests in Ascend Michigan. The previous member is a founder of the Company and has a significant equity interest in the Company. Ascend Michigan was previously accounted for as a variable interest entity (“VIE”) because the Company possessed the power to direct the significant activities of the VIE and had the obligation to absorb losses or the right to receive benefits from the VIE. Subsequent to the assignment of the member interests, Ascend Michigan is considered a wholly owned subsidiary. The assignment had no significant impact on the Company’s results, as Ascend Michigan was previously consolidated as a VIE and will continue to be consolidated as a subsidiary. No impairment of assets or impact on results of operations occurred with the transfer of member interests.
Subsequent Transactions
Investments
On February 25, 2021, we entered into a definitive investment agreement (the “Investment Agreement”) with MedMen Enterprises Inc. (“MedMen”), under which we will, subject to regulatory approval, complete an investment (the “Investment”) of approximately $73,000 in MedMen NY, Inc. (“MMNY”), a licensed medical cannabis operator in New York. In connection with the Investment, and subject to regulatory approval, MMNY will engage our services pursuant to a management agreement (the “Management Agreement”) under which we will advise on MMNY’s operations pending regulatory approval of the Investment transaction.
Under the terms of the Investment, at closing, MMNY will assume approximately $73,000 of MedMen’s existing secured debt, AWH will invest $35,000 in cash in MMNY, and AWH New York, LLC will issue a senior secured promissory note in favor of MMNY’s senior secured lender in the principal amount of $28,000, guaranteed by AWH, which cash investment and note will be used to reduce the amounts owed to MMNY’s senior secured lender. Following its investment, AWH will hold a controlling interest in MMNY equal to approximately 86.7% of the equity in MMNY, and be provided with an option to acquire MedMen’s remaining interest in MMNY in the future. AWH must also make an additional investment of $10,000 in exchange for additional equity in MMNY, which investment will also be used to repay MMNY’s senior secured lender if adult-use cannabis sales commence in MMNY’s dispensaries.
The transactions contemplated by the Investment Agreement are subject to customary closing conditions, including approval from the New York State Department of Health and other applicable regulatory bodies.
The audited financial statements of MMNY for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations of MMNY for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, and the unaudited consolidated statement of operations of AWH giving effect to the acquisition of
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MOCA, the acquisition of Midway, and the investment in MMNY are attached as Exhibits 99.5, 99.6, and 99.7, respectively, to the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part. Such financial statements were prepared to satisfy requirements of the Canadian securities regulatory authorities in connection with our concurrent Canadian public offering. Those financial statements were prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP and audited in accordance with International Standards on Auditing; and are provided solely for the purposes of the Canadian securities regulatory authorities and not with respect to any SEC regulation or the Securities Act.
Leases
Subsequent to December 31, 2020, new operating leases with ROU assets and related lease liabilities of approximately $7,400 have commenced.
Notes Payable
In January 2021, the Company entered into a convertible note purchase agreement (the “2021 AWH Convertible Promissory Notes”). The Company issued $49,500 of 2021 AWH Convertible Promissory Notes through the date of this report. Each note matures two years from its issue date and can either be paid in full at maturity or converted into common units. Each note bears interest at 8% for the first twelve months, 10% for months thirteen through fifteen, and 13% thereafter through maturity. Interest is paid-in-kind and added to the outstanding balance of the note, to be paid at maturity or upon conversion.
These notes are convertible into common units of the Company on occurrence of certain events, such as a change of control or an initial public offering (“IPO”) (which events had not occurred as of the date of the Annual Financial Statements). Upon the occurrence of an IPO, each note, including interest thereon less applicable withholding taxes, will automatically convert into equity securities issued in connection with the IPO, with the number of securities issued on the basis of a price equal to the lesser of: (a)(i) a 20% discount to the issue price if an IPO occurs on or before 12 months from each note issuance; (ii) a 25% discount to the issue price if an IPO occurs after 12 months of each note issuance, but before maturity; and (b) the conversion price then in effect based on a defined pre-money valuation of the Company. If the Company does not consummate an IPO prior to the maturity date, at maturity the holder may elect the outstanding principal amount and accrued and unpaid interest to be paid in full in cash or convert into common units at a price of $3.00 per unit, subject to adjustments for splits, dividends or other similar recapitalization events.
CRITICAL ACCOUNTING POLICIES AND ESTIMATES
The preparation of consolidated financial statements in accordance with GAAP requires our management to make certain estimates that affect the reported amounts. The Company’s significant accounting policies are described in Note 2, “Basis of Presentation and Significant Accounting Policies,” in the Annual Financial Statements. The Company bases estimates on historical experience, known or expected trends, independent valuations, and various other assumptions that the Company believes to be reasonable under the circumstances. As future events and their effects cannot be determined with precision, actual results could differ significantly from these estimates. The Company believes the following critical accounting policies govern the more significant judgments and estimates used in the preparation of the Annual Financial Statements.
Estimated Useful Lives and Amortization of Intangible Assets
Amortization of intangible assets is recorded on a straight-line basis over their estimated useful lives, which do not exceed the contractual period, if any. Intangible assets that have indefinite useful lives are not subject to amortization and are tested annually for impairment, or more frequently if events or changes in circumstances indicate that they may be impaired.
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Business Combinations
Classification of an acquisition as a business combination or an asset acquisition depends on whether the assets acquired constitute a business, which can be a complex judgment. Whether an acquisition is classified as a business combination or asset acquisition can have a significant impact on the entries made on and after acquisition.
In determining the fair value of all identifiable assets and liabilities acquired, the most significant estimates relate to intangible assets. For any intangible asset identified, depending on the type of intangible asset and the complexity of determining its fair value, an independent valuation expert or management may develop the fair value, using appropriate valuation techniques, which are generally based on a forecast of the total expected future net cash flows.
Cannabis licenses are the primary intangible asset acquired in business combinations, as they provide us the ability to operate in each market. The key assumptions used in calculating the fair value of these intangible assets are cash flow projections that include discount rates and terminal growth rates. In calculating the fair value of the cannabis licenses acquired during 2020 and 2019, management selected discount rates ranging from 13% to 21%. The terminal growth rate represents the rate at which these businesses will continue to grow into perpetuity. Management selected a terminal growth rate of 3%. Other significant assumptions include revenue, gross profit, operating expenses and anticipated capital expenditures which are based upon the Company’s historical operations along with management projections.
The evaluations are linked closely to the assumptions made by management regarding the future performance of these assets.
Inventories
The net realizable value of inventories represents the estimated selling price for inventories in the ordinary course of business, less all estimated costs of completion and costs necessary to make the sale. The determination of net realizable value requires significant judgment, including consideration of factors such as shrinkage, the aging of and future demand for inventory, expected future selling price we expect to realize by selling the inventory, and the contractual arrangements with customers. Reserves for excess and obsolete inventory are based upon quantities on hand, projected volumes from demand forecasts and net realizable value. The estimates are judgmental in nature and are made at a point in time, using available information, expected business plans and expected market conditions. As a result, the actual amount received on sale could differ from the estimated value of inventory. Periodic reviews are performed on the inventory balance. The impact of changes in inventory reserves is reflected as cost of goods sold.
Goodwill Impairment
Goodwill is tested for impairment annually and whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of goodwill has been impaired. In order to determine if the value of goodwill has been impaired, the reporting unit to which goodwill has been assigned or allocated must be valued using present value techniques. When applying this valuation technique, we rely on a number of factors, including historical results, business plans, forecasts and market data. Changes in the conditions for these judgments and estimates can significantly affect the assessed value of goodwill.
In performing our annual goodwill impairment analysis we concluded that the implied fair value of our reporting units was substantially in excess of its carrying value and that no further evaluation of impairment was necessary. A 10% decrease in the estimated fair value of our reporting unit would not have resulted in a different conclusion.
Leases
For leases other than short-term leases (those with an initial term of twelve months or less), we recognize right-of-use (“ROU”) assets and lease liabilities on the Consolidated Balance Sheet. Operating lease liabilities are initially
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recognized based on the net present value of the fixed portion of our lease payments from lease commencement through the lease term. To calculate the net present value, we apply an incremental borrowing rate that is estimated as the rate of interest we would pay to borrow an amount equal to the lease payments on a collateralized basis over a similar term. We use quoted interest rates as an input to derive our incremental borrowing rate as the discount rate for the lease. We recognize ROU assets based on operating lease liabilities reduced by lease incentives, including tenant improvement allowances. We test ROU assets for impairment in the same manner as long-lived assets.
Consolidation
Judgment is applied in assessing whether we exercise control and have significant influence over entities in which we directly or indirectly own an interest. We have control when we have the power over the subsidiary, have exposure or rights to variable returns and have the ability to use our power to affect the returns. Significant influence is defined as the power to participate in the financial and operating decisions of the subsidiaries. Where we are determined to have control, these entities are consolidated. Additionally, judgment is applied in determining the effective date on which control was obtained.
Recently Adopted Accounting Standards and Recently Issued Accounting Pronouncements
For information about our recently adopted accounting standards and recently issued accounting standards not yet adopted, see Note 2, “Basis of Presentation and Significant Accounting Policies,” of the Annual Financial Statements.
QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK
We are exposed in varying degrees to a variety of financial instrument related risks. We mitigate these risks by assessing, monitoring and approving our risk management processes.
Credit Risk
Credit risk is the risk of a potential loss to us if a customer or third party to a financial instrument fails to meet its contractual obligations. The maximum credit exposure at December 31, 2020 is the carrying amount of cash and cash equivalents. We do not have significant credit risk with respect to our customers. All cash and cash equivalents are placed with major U.S. financial institutions. We provide credit to our customers in the normal course of business.
Liquidity Risk
Liquidity risk is the risk that we will not be able to meet our financial obligations associated with financial liabilities. We manage liquidity risk through the effective management of our capital structure. Our approach to managing liquidity is to ensure that we will have sufficient liquidity at all times to settle obligations and liabilities when due.
As reflected in the Annual Financial Statements, we had an accumulated deficit as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, as well as a net loss and negative cash flows from operating activities for the reporting periods then-ended. Management believes that substantial doubt of our ability to continue as a going concern for at least one year from the issuance of our Annual Financial Statements has been alleviated due to: (i) capital raised subsequent to December 31, 2020 and (ii) continued sales growth from our consolidated operations. Management plans to continue to access capital markets for additional funding through debt and/or equity financings to supplement future cash needs, as may be required. However, management cannot provide any assurances that we will be successful in accomplishing our business plans. If we are unable to raise additional capital on favorable terms, if at all, whenever necessary, we may be forced to decelerate or curtail certain of our operations until such time as additional capital becomes available.
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Market Risk
Market risk is the risk of loss arising from adverse changes in market rates and prices, such as interest rates, raw materials, and other commodity prices. Strategic and operational risks may arise if we fail to carry out business operations and/or raise sufficient equity and/or debt financing. Strategic opportunities or threats may arise from a range of factors that might include changing economic and political circumstances and regulatory approvals and competitor actions. We seek to mitigate such risks by consideration of potential development opportunities and challenges.
Interest Rate Risk
Interest rate risk is the risk that the fair value or future cash flows of a financial instrument will fluctuate because of changes in market interest rates. Cash and cash equivalents bear interest at market rates. Our financial debts have fixed rates of interest and therefore expose us to a limited interest rate fair value risk.
Commodities Price Risk
Price risk is the risk of variability in fair value due to movements in equity or market prices. The primary raw materials used by us aside from those cultivated internally are labels and packaging. Management believes a hypothetical 10% change in the price of these materials would not have a significant effect on our consolidated annual results of operations or cash flows, as these costs are generally passed through to our customers. However, such an increase could have an impact on our customers’ demand for our products, and we are not able to quantify the impact of such potential change in demand on our annual results of operations or cash flows.
COVID-19 Risk
We are monitoring COVID-19 closely, and although our operations have not been materially affected by the COVID-19 outbreak to date, the ultimate severity of the outbreak and its impact on the economic environment is uncertain. Our operations are ongoing as the cultivation, processing and sale of cannabis products is currently considered an essential business by the states in which we operate with respect to all customers (except for Massachusetts, where cannabis has been deemed essential only for medical patients). In all locations where regulations have been enabled by governmental authorities, we have expanded consumer delivery options and curbside pickup to help protect the health and safety of our employees and customers. The pandemic has not materially impacted our business operations or liquidity position to date. We continue to generate operating cash flows to meet our short-term liquidity needs. The uncertain nature of the spread of COVID-19 may impact our business operations for reasons including the potential quarantine of our employees or those of our supply chain partners or a change in our designation as “essential” in states where we do business that currently or in the future impose restrictions on business operations.
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BUSINESS
Overview
AWH is a vertically integrated multi-state operator focused on adult-use or near-term adult-use cannabis states in limited license markets. Our core business is the cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of cannabis consumer packaged goods, which we sell through our company-owned retail stores and to third-party licensed retail cannabis stores. We were founded in 2018 and initially pursued cultivation and dispensary licensing opportunities in Massachusetts. In December 2018, we entered the Illinois market with the acquisition of an existing cultivation facility through the acquisition of Revolution Cannabis-Barry LLC. We also acquired HCI and its related entities, which owned two operational medical dispensaries in Illinois. We have since expanded our operational footprint, primarily through acquisitions, and now have direct or indirect operations or financial interests in five U.S. geographic markets: Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio.
We believe in bettering lives through cannabis. Our mission is to improve the lives of our employees, patients, customers and the communities we serve through the use of the cannabis plant. We are committed to providing safe, reliable and high-quality products and providing consumers options and education to ensure they are able to identify and obtain the products that fit their personal needs. As of April 15, 2021, we have direct or indirect operations or financial interests in five U.S. geographic markets and employ approximately 1,000 people.
Currently, approximately one third of our portfolio of cultivation and dispensary assets are generating revenue and we expect the remainder of these assets to begin generating revenue over the course of 2021 and 2022. Our core business is the cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of cannabis consumer packaged goods, which we sell through our company-owned retail stores and to third-party licensed retail cannabis stores. We are committed to being vertically integrated in every state we operate in, which entails controlling the entire supply chain from seed to sale. We are currently vertically integrated in two out of our five states with expansion plans underway to achieve vertical integration in all five states. While we have been successful in opening facilities and dispensaries, we expect continued growth to be driven by opening new operational facilities and dispensaries under our current licenses, expansion of our current facilities and increased consumer demand.
Our consumer products portfolio is generated primarily from plant material that we grow and process ourselves. We produce our consumer-packaged goods in five manufacturing facilities with 74,000 square feet of current cumulative canopy and total current capacity of 38,000 pounds annually. We are undergoing expansions at our Barry, Illinois, Lansing, Michigan and Athol, Massachusetts cultivation facilities which are expected to be completed in 2021 and we expect to build facilities in Monroe, Ohio and New Jersey in 2022. The expansions are expected to add approximately 58,000, 28,000, 37,000, 35,000 and 56,000 square feet of canopy, respectively, or a total of approximately 285,000 square feet of cumulative canopy, which is estimated to have a total production capacity of 142,000 pounds annually post build-out, assuming production and yields are in line with the performance of our current operating canopy. Our product portfolio currently consists of 102 SKUs, across a range of cannabis product categories, including flower, pre-rolls, concentrates, vapes, edibles and other cannabis-related products. As of April 15, 2021, we have 16 open and operating retail locations, including pending acquisitions in Illinois and Ohio, which we anticipate will expand to 23 locations open and operating by the end of calendar year 2021. We are substantially complete on the build-out of three additional retail dispensaries, and the remaining four require additional funding of approximately $7 million in the aggregate, which we expect to be paid using cash on hand. Our new store opening plans are flexible and will ultimately depend on market conditions, local licensing, construction, and other regulatory permissions. All of our expansion plans are subject to capital allocation decisions, the evolving regulatory environment and the COVID-19 pandemic. See “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.
The following organizational chart describes our organizational structure as of April 15, 2021. See Exhibit 21.1 to the registration statement of which this prospectus is a part for a list of our subsidiaries. All lines represent 100% ownership of outstanding securities of the applicable subsidiary unless otherwise noted. In part, the complexity of
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our organization structure is due to state licensing requirements that mandate that we maintain the corporate identity of our operating license holders.
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(1)    In process of transfer to AWH.  The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is currently reviewing the transfer application.
(2)   The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program is currently reviewing transfer requests for Hemma, LLC and BCCO, LLC. We have entered into an agreement to acquire Marichron Pharma, LLC, but cannot submit a transfer request until Marichron Pharma, LLC receives a certificate of operation.
Legend for state of incorporation:
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Our registered office is located at 1209 Orange Street, Wilmington, DE 19801. Our headquarters are located at 1411 Broadway, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10018.
Operations Summary
The following is an overview of our assets by state that are currently operational, as well as our expected asset base once fully built out:
Illinois
We have an indoor cultivation and manufacturing facility in Barry, Illinois and eight open dispensaries, including our pending acquisition of Chicago Alternative Health Center LLC and Chicago Alternative Health Center Holdings LLC (collectively, “Midway Dispensary”).
Our Barry cultivation and manufacturing facility is a 75,000 square foot building with 55,000 square feet of double-stacked indoor canopy that has an annual production capacity of 28,000 pounds, an increase from 12,000 pounds annual production capacity in December 2019. We currently utilize both ethanol- and butane-based extraction on site. We are also currently building out an additional 110,000 square foot headhouse and greenhouse on the Barry site with 58,000 square feet of canopy. This build-out is funded through a sale lease-back transaction with Innovative Industrial Properties and is expected to add an additional 26,000 pounds of production capacity for total canopy of 114,000 square foot and annual capacity of 54,000 pounds at completion.
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We have four open dispensaries in Chicago and its immediate suburbs with two located in each of the Logan Square and River North neighborhoods, one located next to Chicago’s Midway Airport and one in Chicago Ridge. We also have two dispensaries in Springfield and two in the St. Louis area. The Fairview Heights location near St. Louis opened in March 2021 and the Chicago Ridge location opened in April 2021. Both of our dispensaries in the St. Louis area are located in retail corridors along major highways. Illinois rules and regulations impose a 10-dispensary cap on any one operator. Given our scale in Illinois, we view the acquisition of additional dispensaries in Illinois as a lower-risk, higher-return opportunity to move up from our current portfolio of eight dispensaries to ten dispensaries over time.
Massachusetts
We have an operational indoor cultivation and manufacturing facility in Athol, Massachusetts and three dispensaries fully permitted and currently under development.
Our Athol cultivation and manufacturing facility is a 360,000 square foot building with 17,000 square feet of double-stacked indoor canopy that has an annual production capacity of 9,000 pounds. We are also currently building out a 90,000 square foot Phase II expansion with 37,000 square feet of indoor single-stacked canopy. This expansion is also funded through a sale lease-back transaction with Innovative Industrial Properties and will add an additional 19,000 pounds of production capacity for total canopy of 54,000 square feet and annual capacity of 28,000 pounds at completion. We expect to add both ethanol and butane-based extraction capabilities in calendar year 2021.
Our dispensaries are located in downtown Boston, Newton and New Bedford, with all three dispensaries anticipated to open in 2021. The downtown Boston dispensary is located in the heart of downtown Boston on Friend Street, one block from TD Garden and North Station and approximately 0.5 miles from Faneuil Hall. We believe this location is the first adult-use dispensary in the downtown area of a major Northeast city.
New Jersey
Our New Jersey license grants the right to operate a cultivation and processing facility and up to three medical dispensaries in New Jersey. Our operations are vertically integrated in New Jersey. We currently operate a medical dispensary in Montclair and an indoor cultivation and manufacturing facility in Franklin.
Our Franklin cultivation and manufacturing facility is located in a 115,000 square foot building and currently has 2,300 square feet of indoor canopy that has an annual production capacity of 1,000 pounds. We are currently reviewing opportunities to expand our cultivation and processing capabilities ahead of adult-use sales in New Jersey in late calendar year 2021 to ensure the New Jersey medical and adult-use markets are adequately supplied.
In addition to our existing dispensary, we have a second dispensary site located in Rochelle Park near Paramus that is locally permitted and under development and a third site in Fort Lee that is locally permitted. Both of these sites were identified, zoned and permitted by the Ascend team utilizing our local zoning expertise. Our Rochelle Park location is on Route 17 in a major retail corridor and is a mile away from the Garden State Plaza. Our two satellite dispensaries are anticipated to open in calendar year 2021. We anticipate that New Jersey will remain a product-constrained market in the medium term, with a limited number of operators and insufficient canopy ahead of adult-use sales commencing. As such, we are pursuing an aggressive canopy expansion to supply our owned retail stores and wholesale to third-party stores.
Michigan
We have an indoor cultivation and manufacturing facility under development in Lansing, Michigan and six open dispensaries.
Our Lansing cultivation and manufacturing facility is a 144,000 square foot building that will have 28,000 square feet of single-stacked indoor canopy with an annual production capacity of 15,000 pounds at completion of
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its build-out. We expect to add both ethanol and butane-based extraction in calendar year 2021 and the site has adequate space for a second phase canopy build-out.
Our dispensaries are located in Ann Arbor, Morenci, Grand Rapids, Detroit and Battle Creek. We are also currently building out two additional dispensaries in Grand Rapids and Lansing, both of which are expected to be operational in calendar year 2021. Our existing Detroit dispensary currently serves medical customers only, but Detroit is expected to pass an adult-use ordinance in calendar year 2021. Our Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids -Scriber locations serves adult-use customers. Morenci, Battle Creek and Grand Rapids - 28th Street serve both medical and adult-use customers and patients.
New York
On February 25, 2021, we entered into the Investment Agreement with MedMen, under which we will, subject to regulatory approval, complete the Investment of approximately $73 million in MMNY, one of ten medical cannabis vertically integrated operators in New York. In connection with the Investment, and subject to regulatory approval, MMNY will engage our services pursuant to the Management Agreement under which we will advise on MMNY’s operations pending regulatory approval of the Investment transaction.
Under the terms of the Investment, at closing, MMNY will assume approximately $73 million of MedMen’s existing secured debt, AWH will invest $35 million in cash in MMNY, and AWH New York, LLC will issue a senior secured promissory note in favor of MMNY’s senior secured lender in the principal amount of $28 million, guaranteed by AWH, which cash investment and note will be used to reduce the amounts owed to MMNY’s senior secured lender. Following its investment, AWH will hold a controlling interest in MMNY equal to approximately 86.7% of the equity in MMNY, and be provided with an option to acquire MedMen’s remaining interest in MMNY in the future. AWH must also make an additional investment of $10 million in exchange for additional equity in MMNY, which investment will also be used to repay MMNY’s senior secured lender if adult-use cannabis sales commence in MMNY’s dispensaries.
The transactions contemplated by the Investment Agreement are subject to customary closing conditions, including approval from the New York State Department of Health and other applicable regulatory bodies.
MMNY operates a 11,000 square foot cultivation and manufacturing facility in Utica, New York, and has four operational medical cannabis dispensaries. The Utica facility sits on five acres and has a 21,000 square foot shell for future expansion already constructed. We also have an option to purchase an additional 5+ acres. MMNY’s dispensaries are in the Bryant Park neighborhood of New York City, Syracuse, Buffalo and Lake Success on Long Island. The MedMen flagship location on 5th Avenue is currently one of four dispensaries in Manhattan.
Ohio
We have entered into agreements to acquire a (i) licensed cultivator, (ii) processor and (iii) dispensary operator in Ohio. We are party to a consulting services agreement with the dispensary operator. Our contractual partners have one open medical dispensary and a cultivation and processing facility under development. The medical dispensary is located in Carroll, which is in the Columbus area. The cultivation and processing facilities will be located in Monroe. The 9,000 square foot processing facility and 9,000 square foot cultivation facility is currently under development and we are in the planning stage for a 55,000 square foot cultivation with 35,000 square feet of quad-stacked canopy capable of producing 18,000 pounds annually once complete. The Company is awaiting approval from regulators to move the existing sub-scale cultivation and co-locate a larger, greenfield cultivation on the same site as our processing facility; the Company has submitted an application and is awaiting feedback.
Licenses
The following chart summarizes as of April 15, 2021 the U.S. states in which we operate or have an investment, the nature of our operations, whether such activities carried on are direct, indirect or ancillary in nature, the number
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of dispensary, cultivation and other licenses held by each entity and whether such entity has any operation, cultivation or processing facilities.
StateEntityAdult-Use/MedicalDirect/Indirect/ AncillaryDispensary LicensesCultivation/ Processing/ Distribution LicensesOperational DispensariesOperational Cultivation/ Processing Facilities
IllinoisHealthCentral LLCAU, MDirect64
IllinoisRevolution Cannabis-Barry LLCAU, MDirect21
IllinoisMOCA LLCAU, MDirect32
IllinoisChicago Alternative Health Center, LLCAU, M
Ancillary(7)
32
Mass.MassGrow LLCAUDirect
2(1)
1
Mass.Ascend Mass LLCAUDirect
3(2)
New JerseyAscend New Jersey LLCMDirect
1(3)
111
New York
MedMen NY, Inc.(4)
M
Ancillary(5)
4141
MichiganFPAW Michigan LLCAU, MDirect9161
OhioAscend Ohio LLCM
Ancillary(6)
1
2(1)
1
Total309205
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(1)Provisionally licensed for processing.
(2)Two of these are provisionally licensed.
(3)An ATC permit enables the holder to pursue two additional satellite dispensary locations.
(4)On February 25, 2021, we entered into a definitive investment agreement with MedMen under which we will, subject to regulatory approval, complete an investment in MedMen NY, Inc.
(5)In the event of regulatory approval of the investment agreement with MedMen, our interest will become Direct.
(6)The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program is currently reviewing transfer requests for Hemma, LLC and BCCO, LLC. In the event either request is approved, our interest will become Direct.
(7)In the event of regulatory approval of our transfer request for the Midway Dispensary, our interest will become Direct.
Investment Highlights and Competitive Strengths
Leading Position Across Some of the Most Attractive U.S. Markets
We strive to become a leading player in each of the markets we operate in. While many of our competitors have focused on geographic breadth, our strategy has been to “go deep, not wide” in what we believe to be the most attractive markets. We seek to have scaled cultivation facilities and high-volume, flagship retail locations, alongside a portfolio of brands to create a dominant market position in each of the states in which we operate. Being vertically integrated not only enables operators to capture vertical margin from seed through retail sale, it also ensures availability of supply to owned dispensaries. Availability of supply is especially important in early-stage adult-use markets, where aggregate retail demand can exceed existing cultivation capacity. States with cannabis programs on the East Coast and in the Midwest are also largely limited license markets. We consider states and jurisdictions which have enacted regulations that restrict the number of licenses that may be issued to operate in the cannabis business or have caps on the amount of canopy per cultivation facility to be “limited license.” We believe these markets are characterized by prospects for stable pricing, reasonably predictable competitive forces and the potential for attractive returns for incumbent, vertically integrated operators. AWH operates in these limited license, East Coast and Midwest states and endeavors to capitalize on these favorable market dynamics. Additionally, we believe that our scale within our states should allow us to realize better margins than operators that have wider footprints and lower market shares within their markets on a relative basis. We remain vigilant regarding the allocation of our operational focus and deployment of capital to markets that we believe will afford us optimal returns.
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Established Ascend Brand with Focus on Flagship Retail
The Ascend retail brand elevates the cannabis shopping experience by combining consistent and convenient customer service with high-quality products and exclusive brand partnerships. Our stores are primarily located in high-traffic retail corridors, with sufficient parking and proximity to highways or main thoroughfares. Despite operating a number of high-throughput locations, our well-trained staff and omni-channel capabilities enable us to serve our customer efficiently, while also delivering a pleasant, informative and cultivated shopping experience. In Illinois, the Ascend retail brand is a recognized brand in the cannabis market and serves an average of 2,615 customers on a daily basis. We have also focused on opening flagship locations in or near major metropolitan areas including Chicago, Boston, St. Louis and the Greater New York City Area, where we expect to achieve higher customer traffic and drive mind-share for our retail brand. We have targeted and accessed these retail locations using our deep zoning and permitting expertise. Due to its location, we believe that our Boston location could become one of the highest volume dispensaries on the East Coast. Our flagship location in Collinsville has achieved even higher sales productivity than our Illinois average at $10,893 per square foot in the fourth quarter of 2020, making it one of the top grossing stores in the state. Collinsville served on average 1,262 customers per day during the same period with an average basket size of $133, compared to an average basket size of $110 across all dispensaries. Our Collinsville location offers over 600 SKUs across all suppliers, including house brands, in over 20 different form factors. Our focus on customer experience has led to a 4.5/5 rating on Google at our Collinsville location. We believe these flagship locations strengthen our brand awareness and will create a halo-effect around the rest of our retail portfolio. While the number of dispensaries and competition will likely increase over time, we anticipate that the combination our brand awareness and premium locations will enable us to outperform our competitors.
Omni-channel Customer Experience
As customer shopping preferences continue to evolve and customers increasingly shop across multiple channels, we strive to create a best-in-class, omni-channel customer experience. Although in-store experiences will continue to be the primary fulfillment point for orders, we believe that customers’ experiences in our stores are complemented by our omni-channel capabilities, a few of which include:
Reserve-Online-Pickup-in-Store, allowing customers to purchase merchandise through one of our websites and pick-up the merchandise in-store, which often drives incremental in-store sales. Over 90% of our customers in Collinsville utilize our Reserve-Online-Pickup-in-Store option;
Curbside Pickup, allowing customers to have their orders brought directly to their vehicles; and
Online Consultations and Real-time Chat, allowing customers to interact with associates, ask questions and build their basket ahead of their in-store visit, driving associate productivity and incremental sales.
We also believe that our loyalty programs are an important part of our omni-channel strategy as we aim to seamlessly interact and connect with customers across all touchpoints. We had approximately 53,000 SMS loyalty members across our 13 operating dispensaries as of December 31, 2020. We currently have approximately 67,000 SMS loyalty member, growing by 14,000 members or 28% sequentially. Under these programs, customers accumulate points primarily based on purchase activity. These rewards can then be redeemed for merchandise at the point of purchase. Our loyalty programs provide timely customer insights, creating stronger customer engagement while driving a higher average level of customer spend. In addition, we use our loyalty programs as a tool to stay connected to our customers through members-only offers, items and experiences.
Continued Innovation and Brand Partnerships to Expand Product Portfolio
Our product portfolio today includes standard form factors: flower, pre-rolls, distillate vapes and gummies. We believe standard form factors typically account for over 80% of market demand in medical and early-stage adult-use markets. However, as these markets mature, we expect customer preferences to evolve and the consumer will increasingly look toward new form factors and brands. We have a robust product development pipeline that includes a number of new form factors including live resin vapes, tablets, vegan gummies, cigarette-style pre-rolls and mints. We expect to launch five new internally-developed products over the next six months. In addition to developing products internally, we have also partnered with leading West Coast cannabis brands like Cookies Enterprises, 1906,
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and Airo Brands, to bring established brands with cannabis heritage and name recognition to our existing markets, while creating a halo effect around our retail stores with exclusive launch events and product releases.
Executing on Growth While Maintaining Profitability and Liquidity
We achieved $144 million of revenue in 2020. We will continue to work to open additional dispensaries and build out our existing cultivation facilities during the remainder of 2021 to achieve our goal of industry-leading growth in 2021. The figure below shows our quarterly revenue progression from Q1’19 through Q4’20, highlighting that our calendar year 2020 revenue is over 10x higher than revenue in calendar year 2019. Additionally, our gross profit in calendar year 2020 is over 17x higher than revenue in calendar year 2019 and our loss before income taxes decreased from $32.6 million in calendar year 2019 to $5.1 million in calendar year 2020. As of December 31, 2019, we had four open dispensaries and 32,000 square feet of operational canopy. As of December 31, 2020, we had 13 dispensaries open and 74,000 square feet of operational canopy with expectations to have 23 retail locations by the end of 2021 and 285,000 square feet of operational canopy by the end of calendar year 2022. We currently have 16 retail locations open, including pending acquisitions in Illinois and Ohio. See “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.
Managing significant growth in a capital-intensive industry while determining which opportunities to focus on requires a keen focus on disciplined capital allocation, which we believe will help us meet our goal to generate industry leading returns and become a top performing multi-state operator. We have worked to secure project financing for our expansion projects by partnering with Innovative Industrial Properties to fund cultivation build-outs through sale leaseback transactions with various financing sources to fund acquisition opportunities.
Our management team has significant capital markets success and has raised over $300 million of debt, equity, and sale-leaseback financing since inception. This proven ability to raise capital is especially important as we execute on our growth plans in a highly capital-intensive industry and as we explore potential acquisitions in the future. We believe that we will continue to be able to source capital in an efficient manner on a go-forward basis.
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Quarterly Net Revenue ($ in millions) (unaudited)
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History
Illinois
In December 2018, we entered the Illinois market with the acquisition of an existing cultivation facility, through the acquisition of Revolution Cannabis-Barry LLC. We expanded our presence in Illinois in January 2019 through the acquisition of HCI and its related entities, which owned two operational medical dispensaries in Springfield and Collinsville. Over the course of 2019, we aggressively scaled our cultivation and manufacturing capabilities in order to ensure adequate supply and customer access in our owned dispensaries for the start of adult-use sales in January 2020. Under the Illinois recreational act, existing operators were granted, as-right, a license to operate an additional adult-use dispensary for each existing medical dispensary they owned. These dispensaries were required to be in the same U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) Region as the existing medical dispensaries. A BLS Region is a geographic area designated by the BLS to gather and categorize certain employment and wage data. There are 17 such regions in Illinois.
We sited our two HCI expansion dispensaries in Springfield and Fairview Heights. Our second Springfield site opened in November 2020 and our Fairview Heights dispensary is currently under construction and is expected to open in Spring 2021. We entered into an agreement to acquire MOCA in August 2020, which operates two Chicago-area dispensaries. MOCA’s original dispensary in Logan Square has been operational since 2016 and is licensed for sales to both medical and adult-use customers. MOCA’s second dispensary, which opened in August 2020, is located in the River North area of downtown Chicago just outside of the Chicago Loop shopping district and serves adult-use customers. We received approval from the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation for the acquisition of MOCA on December 15, 2020, and we closed on the transaction on December 23, 2020. On December 14, 2020, we entered into an agreement to acquire Chicago Alternative Health Center, LLC, which does business as Midway Dispensary, an operational medical and adult use dispensary in Chicago located next to Midway Airport. Effective with the agreement date, we obtained financial control over Midway and began providing advisory services. The final closing date is pending the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation’s
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approval of the license transfer. Midway Dispensary is permitted to open a second adult use dispensary. On April 8, 2021, Midway Dispensary opened its second dispensary in Chicago Ridge, Illinois.
Massachusetts
In 2018, the Company acquired two properties that were zoned for cannabis but unlicensed, which became the foundation of our operations in Massachusetts. The real property that is now our Boston, MA dispensary was acquired in May 2018 and our future Athol, MA cultivation was acquired in August 2018. We obtained local support for both properties and submitted applications with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. MassGrow LLC, which is the licensee for our Athol cultivation received its provisional license in May 2019 and commenced operations in November 2019. Our dispensary licenses are held by AscendMass, LLC. Our Boston dispensary received its final license in March 2021 and is expected to commence operations in Spring 2021. Our Newton location, which we lease, received its provisional license in June 2020 and is expected to commence operations in Summer 2021. We were required to extensively renovate the building as a condition of receiving local approval for the location, which is visible from the Massachusetts Turnpike and is situated in a retail corridor near Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. In February 2020, we acquired Southcoast Apothecary LLC, which held the license application for a third adult-use dispensary located in New Bedford, MA. This dispensary was provisionally licensed in August 2020 and is expected to open in the second half of 2021. There is a license cap of three dispensaries in Massachusetts, and we cannot add any additional dispensaries under the current regulations.
New Jersey
Ascend New Jersey LLC acquired certain assets of Greenleaf Compassion Center, which holds a permit for the operation of an Alternative Treatment Center (each, an “ATC”) in New Jersey on September 29, 2020. We currently operate one medical dispensary in Montclair, NJ and a cultivation and processing facility in Franklin, NJ. An ATC permit enables the holder to pursue two additional satellite dispensary locations, and, as such, we are currently pursuing licensing for two additional dispensary locations.
Michigan
We entered the Michigan market through a series of acquisitions over the course of 2019, acquiring the property that would become our Lansing cultivation and four dispensaries. Our licenses are held by FPAW Michigan, LLC. We closed on the acquisition of properties in Detroit in April 2019 and Battle Creek in August 2019. In July 2019, we acquired our Morenci dispensary property and entered into a back-to-back close and sale leaseback of the Lansing cultivation with Innovative Industrial Properties, and secured a $15 million tenant improvement allowance for the development of the property. In September 2019, we acquired certain lease agreements for our Ann Arbor dispensary. We operate under the Michigan Supply and Provisions retail banner in Michigan.
Ohio
Ascend Ohio, LLC entered into a unit purchase option agreement with BCCO, LLC (“BCCO”), which holds a license for a medical dispensary in Carroll, OH, in March 2019. The Carroll dispensary, which is 45 minutes southeast of Columbus, is branded Ohio Provisions and opened in September 2019. We have submitted applications for the full transfer of ownership of BCCO to a wholly owned subsidiary of AWH and are awaiting regulatory approval. The parties also entered into a consulting services agreement in April 2019, pursuant to which AWH provides certain consulting services relating to the operation of the medical dispensary business for a fixed monthly fee of $25,000, which can be adjusted at the discretion of AWH to reflect the scope and nature of services being provided to BCCO, plus expense reimbursement.
In January 2020, Ascend Ohio, LLC entered into an amended merger agreement with Hemma Operations, LLC (“Hemma”), which holds a license to operate a medical cannabis cultivation facility in Monroe, OH. We have submitted applications for the full transfer of ownership of Hemma to a wholly owned subsidiary of Ascend and are awaiting regulatory approval. We anticipate the transfer of ownership with the state of Ohio to be completed in the first half of 2021.
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We also entered into an agreement with Marichron Pharma LLC, which was granted a processor license in Monroe, Ohio. This processing facility is currently being built-out and is expected to be operational in 2021.
New York
On February 25, 2021, we entered into the Investment Agreement with MedMen, under which we will, subject to regulatory approval, complete the Investment of approximately $73 million in MMNY, a licensed medical cannabis operator in New York. In connection with the investment, and subject to regulatory approval, MMNY will engage our services pursuant to the Management Agreement under which we will advise on MMNY’s operations pending regulatory approval of the Investment transaction.
The transactions contemplated by the Investment Agreement are subject to customary closing conditions, including approval from the New York State Department of Health and other applicable regulatory bodies.
MMNY operates a cultivation and manufacturing facility in Utica, New York, and has four operational medical cannabis dispensaries. MMNY’s dispensaries are in the Bryant Park neighborhood of New York City, Syracuse, Buffalo and Lake Success on Long Island.
U.S. Cannabis Landscape
As illustrated by the map below, as of the date of this prospectus, a total of 36 states have legalized medical cannabis and 18 states have legalized cannabis for adult-use in some form, although not all of those jurisdictions have fully implemented their legalization programs and the voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing adult-use cannabis in South Dakota is currently being challenged. Two additional states (Connecticut and Pennsylvania) are actively considering the legalization of cannabis for adult-use. Fourteen additional states have legalized high-cannabidiol (CBD), low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oils for a limited class of patients. Notwithstanding the continued trend toward further state legalization, cannabis continues to be categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act and, accordingly, the cultivation, processing, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis violate federal law in the United States as discussed further in “Risk Factors — Cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law, and enforcement of cannabis laws could change.
We believe support for cannabis legalization in the United States is gaining momentum. According to a November 2020 poll by the Gallup organization, approximately 68% of Americans support the legalization of cannabis for medical or adult-use. In the recent November 3, 2020 election, voters in five states had the opportunity to vote on state legalization of cannabis for medical or adult-use. Voters approved the legalization of cannabis for adult-use in Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana, though the voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing adult-use cannabis in South Dakota is currently being challenged. Voters in Mississippi and South Dakota approved the legalization of medical cannabis. These ballot initiatives pushed the number of adults in medical cannabis states to approximately 174 million (69% of the country’s adult population) and the number of adults in adult-use states to approximately 85 million (34% of the country’s adult population). State legislatures in New York, New Mexico, and Virginia each passed bills legalizing adult-use cannabis in 2021. According to The State of the Legal Cannabis Markets, 8th Edition, published by Arcview Market Research on May 5, 2020, the top seven adult-use geographic markets by population in the U.S. were California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Washington, Arizona and Massachusetts and the top five medical geographic markets by population were Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Our footprint gives us a presence in four of the top seven adult-use markets and two of the top five medical geographic markets.
The U.S. cannabis industry has experienced significant growth over the past 12 months fueled in part by increasing consumer acceptance and the legalization of medical and adult-use cannabis across the United States. According to Arcview/BDSA, U.S. adult-use spending is on track to grow 27.9% in 2020 to $9.4 billion and grow at a 21.7% compound annual growth rate (“CAGR”) to $23.8 billion by 2025, while the U.S. medical market is on track to grow 36.1% to a total of $6.9 billion in 2020, and grow at a 7.9% CAGR to $10.1 billion by 2025.
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Regulatory Status of the U.S. Cannabis Market(1)
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Source: Public disclosure
(1)CBD/Limited Law states permit medical use of cannabis products that have little or no THC.
Our Markets
We operate or have contractual relationships in Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio, which cumulatively represent 15% of the United States’ adult population, according to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data. The regulatory status and market characteristics of each of those states are outlined below. Please refer to the section titled “Business - Operations Summary” for a summary of our operations in each such state.
Illinois
On June 25, 2019, Illinois, population 12.7 million, became the eleventh state to legalize adult-use cannabis and the first to do so by legislative action. Illinois’ adult-use market reported a strong start to legalization, reaching nearly $110 million in spending from the sale of 2.6 million cannabis items in the first three months of operation. Adult-use spending is expected to see robust growth through the next five years, and exceed $1.3 billion in sales by 2025. Medical spending is anticipated to peak in 2021 at $317 million in sales. Total legal cannabis sales in Illinois are forecasted to grow to more than $1.5 billion by 2025. Illinois is one of just 13 legal cannabis markets in the U.S. forecasted by Arcview to break the $1 billion sales barrier.
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Illinois Market Forecast ($ billions)
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Source: 8th Edition, The State of the Legal Cannabis Markets, Arcview Market Research (Published May 5, 2020)
Massachusetts
On November 20, 2018, Massachusetts, population 6.9 million, legalized cannabis for adult-use and demonstrated strong starting results, with total sales increasing by 170% between 2018 and 2019, growing from $218 million to $587 million. Supply chain issues have somewhat tempered market potential, as retail rollouts have been slow due to a combination of slow licensing processes and local obstacles, such as zoning restrictions. As a result, a lack of product availability and variety, as well as high prices have strained market forecast expectations, but leave room for significant growth potential should supply chain issues be resolved over time. Total legal cannabis sales in Massachusetts are forecasted to reach nearly $1.5 billion in 2025, growing at a CAGR of 16.4% from 2019. Medical spending is expected to experience a steady decline to $72.4 million in 2025, while adult-use spending will grow at a CAGR of 20.9% to almost $1.4 billion.
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Massachusetts Market Forecast ($ billions)
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Source: 8th Edition, The State of the Legal Cannabis Markets, Arcview Market Research (Published May 5, 2020)
Michigan
Voters in Michigan, population 10.0 million, legalized adult-use in November 2018 and the formerly medical-only market commenced adult-use sales on December 1, 2019. The state generated an estimated $46.5 million in adult-use sales during the first quarter of 2020. Growth in 2021 is expected to be tempered by product shortages due to the lack of licensed cultivators and the state regulators estimate it could take up to 18 months before supply can adequately meet demand. Total sales are expected to grow by 29% to reach $825 million in 2020 and $1.3 billion in 2025.
Michigan Market Forecast ($ billions)
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Source: 8th Edition, The State of the Legal Cannabis Markets, Arcview Market Research (Published May 5, 2020)
New Jersey
On November 3, 2020, voters in New Jersey, population 8.9 million, authorized the legalization of adult-use cannabis. Adult-use sales are expected to commence in early 2022 and are forecasted to reach $206 million in 2022, while medical sales are expected to peak at $351 million in the same year. By 2025, adult-use sales are anticipated to grow to $1.1 billion, while medical sales are expected to decline to $273 million.
New Jersey Market Forecast ($ billions)
https://cdn.kscope.io/451e5156b305c96b6c6a60ca004953c2-image4.jpg
Source: 8th Edition, The State of the Legal Cannabis Markets, Arcview Market Research (Published May 5, 2020)
New York
In July 2014, New York, population 20 million, became the 23rd state to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes, with sales beginning in 2016. On March 30, 2021, the New York legislature passed The Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. Governor Cuomo signed the legislation the next day on March 31, 2021, making New York the 16th state to legalize adult-use cannabis. Total spending in New York is anticipated to reach $1.6 billion in 2025, growing at a 46.9% CAGR from 2019. Total cannabis market spending in New York was $161 million in 2019 (Source: 8th Edition, The State of the Legal Cannabis Markets, Arcview Market Research (Published May 5, 2020)). There are currently ten licensed vertically integrated operators in New York.
Ohio
In May 2016, Ohio, population 11.7 million, became the 26th state to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes, with sales beginning in January 2019. A campaign for a 2020 adult-use cannabis ballot initiative failed to gain traction in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, we believe it is highly likely that Ohio will become an adult-use market in the next few years. Assuming adult-use cannabis is legalized in Ohio in the coming years, total spending in Ohio is anticipated to reach $644 million in 2025, growing at a 49.2% CAGR from 2019. Total cannabis market spending in Ohio was $58 million in 2019 (Source: 8th Edition, The State of the Legal Cannabis Markets, Arcview Market Research (Published May 5, 2020)).
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Our Growth Strategies
Growth From Activation and Optimization of Existing Asset Portfolio
Currently, approximately one third of our portfolio of cultivation and dispensary assets are generating revenue and we expect the remainder of these assets to begin generating revenue over the course of the 2021 calendar year. We believe revenue growth and increased profitability should follow a step function approach throughout the year and we expect our run-rate financial performance at year-end 2021 to be more representative of the full potential of our asset base. We are focused on opening our dispensaries and executing on our canopy expansion plans to achieve both our revenue growth plans and to increase profitability and margins as there are significant carrying costs associated with our non-revenue generating assets, and, historically, our similar assets have achieved profitability in the first month once operational and selling product. Therefore, we do not face long lead times to achieve profitability once we commence operations. We believe that we also have a significant opportunity to optimize the performance of our existing asset base by improving our yields, product mix, and achieving labor efficiencies through automation.
Pursue Accretive Acquisitions of Attractive Operators
Largely due to early license awards, there are a number of independent and single-state operators in the markets in which we operate today. These assets represent attractive acquisition opportunities for us, as we can leverage our local permitting expertise and operational and financial resources to optimize the performance of these assets. We have been successful thus far in navigating local zoning and permitting for the secondary dispensary sites of historical acquisitions, such as Paramus and Fort Lee in New Jersey and Fairview Heights in Illinois. We have also been able to improve the financial performance of acquired assets by implementing our standard operating procedures and technology stack such as live inventory, reserve ahead capabilities and loyalty programs as well as leveraging our shared corporate infrastructure. Finally, our ability to raise external capital has enabled us to undertake secondary site build-outs and cultivation expansions that would not have been possible under previous ownership. We believe that our ability to acquire these underperforming assets and optimizing their performance as outlined above has historically created, and will continue to create, significant value for our stockholders.
Execute on Identified Operational Initiatives
We continue to evaluate operational initiatives to improve our profitability by leveraging our purchasing power and strengthening our retail pricing and category management capabilities. We are also working to streamline and refine our marketing process and are investing in more sophisticated information technology systems and data analytics. In addition, we continue to further automate our manufacturing facilities to improve our throughput and optimize our headcount. Although we are still in the early stages of many of these initiatives, we believe that these operational improvements represent a significant cost-saving opportunity and we will continue to benefit from these and other efficiencies.
Building of Brand Portfolio and Introduction of New, Differentiated Products
We anticipate launching a number of new brands and form factors this year and over the course of calendar year 2021. While consumers tend to focus more on stains and potency in early-stage adult-use markets, we believe that long-term brands will be more successful and thus, we are focused on expanding our branded portfolio. Ozone, our branded line of flower, vapes and gummies, launched three new product types in Q4’20: a disposable with a rechargeable battery, a pre-pack 0.3g, repackable glass chillum and a live resin vape, a premium offering which addresses one of the fastest growing product categories in cannabis. Our strategy to date has been to focus on building our Ozone product line and establishing credibility in the market for our primary branded product. We also have an effects-specific brand, Tune, under development that will target the casual consumer and have its own line of flower, vapes and edible products.
We also have a very active edible product development pipeline and expect to offer additional flavors, SKUs and new form factors over the course of calendar year 2021. We launched Drops, a pressed tablet form factor, in
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partnership with 1906 in December 2020. We anticipate launching an Ozone branded micro-dose chewable mint and a 5.0mg vegan fruit-chew in multiple flavors in 2021. These launches will build on the success we have achieved to date with our strain-specific Ozone gummies. Edibles comprise approximately 15% of our sales in our markets and are a highly profitable form factor given the lower THC content, typically 10 mg per unit. Our revenue per pound on a dry equivalent basis and margins are more than double the pricing as well as our margins realized on our flower-based or other extracted products.
We expect to develop new brands and form factors in-house utilizing our existing facilities, research and development and product development teams. These products and brands will use packaging and materials that are generally available and we do not anticipate these activities to represent a significant cost.
Selectively Apply in Competitive License Processes
We expect to selectively apply in competitive license processes in additional limited license markets. As these processes are competitive and require us to devote internal and external resources and often require the Company to pay property hold fees, we selectively evaluate processes and pursue opportunities where we view the risk-reward as favorable given the inherent value of these licenses. We have submitted applications for vertical licenses in the central-region of Virginia. We have also submitted applications for a number of dispensaries in Rhode Island. In each case, we have obtained local support for the applications. While these processes are extremely competitive and there is no guarantee that we will be successful in these endeavors, this offers another potential avenue to expand our operational footprint.
Cultivation
Our cultivation practices have been engineered for scalability and repeatability as we expand into additional states. We have continuously refined our cultivation operations to rapidly scale our output without sacrificing quality and consistency. Future expansion is planned to provide the infrastructure to diversify the seed supply and further mechanize and automate harvest operations. We believe we will be able to continue to rapidly scale cultivation by: (i) commencing operations at additional cultivation sites; (ii) expanding our canopy at existing cultivation sites; and (iii) increasing yields by dialing in genetics and environmental conditions and increasing the number of harvests.
We currently operate five cultivation facilities with 74,000 square feet of canopy with a production capacity of 38,000 pounds per year. We are undergoing expansions at our Barry, Illinois, Lansing, Michigan and Athol, Massachusetts cultivation facilities which are expected to be completed in 2021 and we expect to build facilities in Monroe, Ohio and New Jersey in 2022. The expansions are expected to approximately 58,000, 28,000, 37,000, 35,000 and 56,000 square feet of canopy, respectively, or a total of approximately 285,000 square feet of cumulative canopy, which is estimated to have a total production capacity of 142,000 pounds annually post build-out, assuming production and yields are in line with the performance of our current operating canopy. In 2020, our actual production was approximately 22,000 pounds, growing from approximately 3,419 pounds harvested in Q1 2020 to over 7,500 pounds harvested in Q4 2020 We believe this large increase in capacity is needed to fulfill the increasing demand from our own retail network as additional dispensaries come online as well as the needs of the third-party dispensaries via wholesale sales. The wholesale opportunity in the states in which we operate remains robust, with demand generally outpacing supply. In New Jersey, where we are undertaking a significant canopy expansion, there are only 12 licensed operators, many of which have sub-scale cultivations, and the medical market is currently significantly undersupplied. With the New Jersey market moving toward the legalization of adult-use cannabis sales in the near-term, we anticipate robust demand for wholesale product. We anticipate that our portfolio will remain relatively balanced between wholesale and retail sales, despite this increase in production capacity. See “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.
We are focused on driving biomass cost per gram lower to create a competitive advantage in the limited license states in which we operate. We have used strain rationalization, improved cultivation practices, and investments in technology to drive significantly higher yields per square foot. We are maximizing the canopy of our existing indoor grows through innovative multi-tiered designs. We are using less capital-intensive greenhouses to add capacity in
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our biggest market, Illinois, and are planning to add outdoor grows where allowed for inexpensive source material for extract products.
Manufacturing
Our manufacturing operations are centered around the quality of our products and the efficiency of their production. Our manufacturing operations are co-located with our cultivation facilities in each of our markets. We strive to produce high quality, consistent products across our manufacturing facilities, and have implemented strict brand and quality assurance standards and standard operating procedures to ensure consistent product and consumer experience across all operating markets. Almost all of the raw material input we use to produce finished cannabis consumer packaged goods, except packaging materials, are cultivated or processed internally for further use in the manufacturing process. In anticipation of our continued growth, we have planned for additional production manufacturing space and capabilities in all of our markets. These manufacturing operations will be constructed using state of the art processes and equipment to deliver superior products to our customers at the lowest possible cost to produce.
In calendar year 2020, approximately two-thirds of sales out of our Barry, Illinois facility are dedicated to flower-based form factors with the remaining biomass utilized for extracted products including vapes, edibles and concentrates. Our manufacturing in both the Athol, Massachusetts and Franklin, New Jersey facilities is currently limited to flower-based form factors, but we anticipate having ethanol- and butane-based extraction capabilities at Athol in calendar year 2021. We currently manufacture and package 65 SKUs in Illinois, 26 SKUs in Michigan, 7 SKUs in Massachusetts and 4 SKUs in New Jersey.
We are focused on scaling capacity, improving yields and increasing efficiency. This includes adding senior level leadership in operations from industries outside of cannabis with experience driving lean transformational changes. We are standardizing and increasing capacity in our hydrocarbon and ethanol extraction wherever possible to maximize product quality and throughput and improve crude yields. We are making investments in manufacturing and extraction technology, including high speed flower packaging, cartridge filling and automated pre-rolling as major drivers of labor efficiency.
Retail
We believe our vision and standard operating procedures differentiate us from competitors, particularly in the Illinois market, where we currently operate eight dispensaries.
We focus on six key pillars to define our retail strategy:
Vision - We believe in using the power of the cannabis plant to help people better their lives. As a company we have a strong commitment to the success of the brand and maintaining this vision.
People - We focus on hiring store managers who have prior experience in cannabis and focus on talent development for the rest of our store employees. We have an extensive onboarding and training program focused not only on brand and product knowledge, but also on creating a great customer experience. Training sessions are led by associates that have proven success in their expertise and have expressed a desire to grow within the Company.
Culture - Our employees are motivated by daily sales goals we set at the stores. We reach our goals by ensuring we have the right product and the right talent in place to deliver a best-in-class customer experience. Our stores measure week over week sales growth, peak days for volume, transactions, gross margin and other key performance metrics. We collect and analyze the data available to us to continually improve our flow, processes and sales strategy.
High Volume Focus - We are also focused on driving high transaction volume in our stores. In the first quarter of 2021, we averaged approximately 141,000 transactions per month, after totaling approximately 874,000
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transactions in 2020. These improvements were in part achieved by adding point-of-sale stations where able and by enhancing the design and flow of our stores.
Menu Management - Our menu management team is actively working alongside our wholesale team and third party vendors. Our purchasing manager builds wholesale third party relationships in order to ensure broad inventory selections across dispensaries. We believe this is critical to our customer retention, which is reflected in over 2.0 customer visits a month with average basket size of $126 in Illinois in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Online Ordering & Reservation - Online ordering has been critical to our operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers order online at letsascend.com from our online menu and when completing an order, make a reservation to come in and pick up their order. While online ordering & reservations have grown with the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe they will continue to be a meaningful part of the customer ordering plan after the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic subside.
Wholesale
We expect to drive wholesale growth by maximizing the productivity of our existing facilities, increasing market share through category expansion or new product launches and leveraging our existing licensed cultivation and manufacturing assets through partnerships with established brands who are looking to expand into our states in a capital-light manner. Our key strategies to drive growth in our wholesale segment are below:
Wholesale Category Management and Expansion
Our focus is developing products for everyday cannabis consumers that want convenience, portability, reliability and flexible dose control. Our development is focused on pre-rolls, vapes, edibles and other ready-to-use product forms that we expect to outperform whole flower over time. We are also looking to partner with established cannabis brands that complement our own portfolio and manufacturing capabilities.
We are focused on expanding our vape offering, including live products and ratio products that represent fast growing segments of the vape category. We expect the pre-roll category to grow significantly as the preferred way to consume flower for many customers. We intend to launch multiple additional pre-roll SKUs in smaller sizes, innovative multi-pack options and premium infused pre-rolls. We are expanding our edibles manufacturing capabilities to provide micro-dose product forms along with additional forms desired by the market.
Strategic partnerships will be part of growing our business. We have partnered with the brand Cookies to produce their premium flower products in Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey through a licensing deal. We have also partnered with Airo Brands to produce their proprietary vape cartridge in Illinois and Michigan and 1906 to produce their innovative Drops edibles in Illinois. Building incremental brand partnerships is an important part of our strategy as we seek to find additional brands that complement our current portfolio and leverage our asset base of licensed manufacturing sites.
Strategic Sourcing
We are continuing our focus on supply chain optimization and strategic sourcing as we scale, allowing our growing base to provide leverage across the organization. This includes a focus on supplier rationalization, so that best-in-class supply partners are providing full end-to-end service across the enterprise. Building a common base of operating procedures, packaging and supply components, and supply partners across the organization is critical to this strategic direction.
Almost all of the raw material input we use to produce finished cannabis consumer packaged goods, except packaging materials, are cultivated or processed internally for further use in the manufacturing process. In anticipation of continued growth, we have planned for additional production manufacturing space and capabilities in all of our markets. These manufacturing operations will be constructed using state of the art processes and
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equipment to deliver superior products to our customers and at the lowest possible cost to produce. See “Business - Cultivation” and “Business - Manufacturing.”
As we build out our strategic sourcing organization, our focus will be on procurement of supplies and materials, along with sourcing of biomass and related byproducts where markets and regulations allow. This will allow our growth to scale even more rapidly than our canopy and will allow us to flex with the short-term dynamics recognized in any market.
Brands, Products and Marketing
Retail Brands
We and our partners currently operate 16 dispensaries across our markets. We are focused on building a national chain of dispensaries that offer the best selection of products, at the best price and with the best shopping experience.
To help us achieve this goal, we recently re-branded our stores in southern Illinois from Illinois Supply and Provisions to Ascend. We are working to build a recognizable multi-state brand of dispensaries, which now includes Ascend IL and Ascend NJ and will soon include Ascend MA. The brand recognition that we build in one state can easily be transferred to our other stores and markets. Having a consistent and repeatable best-in-class experience in all our stores will enable us to grow the awareness and reputation around Ascend dispensaries, which in turn creates more value for the Ascend brand. A unified name also serves to save costs and amplifies our retail brand messaging. While we are increasingly moving to a unified retail brand strategy, we believe it is still important for each dispensary and state to have local roots and service their individual communities’ needs. As we look to expand, we will continue to add Ascend-branded stores to build our national brand and consider re-naming some of our other existing retail stores to the Ascend brand name.
Retail Marketing Strategy
We continuously market through industry publications such as Weedmaps and Leafly, our website letsascend.com and social media channels, and more traditional channels such as billboards, flyers and posters. Our retail brands have thousands of reviews across multiple websites, including Google and Weedmaps, and our dispensaries are consistently highly-rated and reviewed within their local geographies. We also partner with a number of different companies to help us expand our marketing reach. Recently in specific markets, we engaged with new online advertising programs that allow us to geo-target competitors’ customers and offer deals and incentives to visit an Ascend store. This program has allowed us to expand our customer base and increase sales for our participating stores.
In addition, we utilize our loyalty program to deepen our relationships with our customers. Each dispensary can sign customers up to join our loyalty program, except where prohibited by applicable law. Program participants consent to receive direct marketing via text or email, and are able to earn points and rewards for continuing to shop with Ascend stores. Our loyalty program enables us to undertake targeted, individualized promotions, such as offers for high value customers, reactivation of lapsed customers, birthdays, visit milestones, etc. Our loyalty program is one of our strongest marketing assets, where one single text could help drive six-digit sales.
Our retail stores engage in weekly marketing initiatives, locally and nationally. National campaigns focused on major holidays or events allow us to show the breadth of our various brands and offer similar campaigns to our customers across various states. Local initiatives allow our teams to market directly to their communities and help increase traffic and sales. These initiatives are frequently marketed through our own social media channels and in-house communication through our text loyalty program.
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Product Brands
Our branded products portfolio includes SKUs across a range of product categories, including flower, pre-rolls, concentrates, vapes, edibles and other form factors.
We have taken a ‘branded house’ strategy within the product landscape. Our Ozone brand covers a variety of cannabis products, categories, and price ranges. Ozone has both a ‘Core’ tier through which we sell our high-quality yet accessible everyday cannabis products, as well as a ‘Reserve’ tier that houses our more unique and higher-grade products. By focusing on one brand within multiple states, we can leverage our marketing expenditure effectively and build a large national brand. This strategy also allows us to quickly enter a new market with our own fully finished products and marketing.
Our Ozone brand is currently sold in Illinois, Massachusetts and Michigan offering a variety of products from flower to extracted products, like vape pens and edibles. Illinois hosted Ozone’s initial product launch, and we believe the brand has become a well-known staple in the Illinois market, as it is carried by 78 of 86 dispensaries in the state as of the date of this registration statement. Ozone launched in Massachusetts in August 2020 and currently has a flower-only assortment in the state. Ozone’s Michigan reach includes flower, vaporizers and edibles. We are looking to expand offerings in our Franklin, New Jersey production facility.
We pride ourselves on our products and our expression of brand through packaging and marketing initiatives. Ozone is currently a finalist for best cannabis packaging by Adcann, an industry publication.
Branded Products Marketing Strategy
Our Ozone brand is managed and marketed through a variety of medium including our own Ozone website, partner platforms, social media channels and in-store collateral. We believe in continually improving these assets through new packaging initiatives, photo shoots, customer engagement, and product expansion. We engage in frequent marketing initiatives for the Ozone brand, from online campaigns to consumer engagement opportunities, such as the Illinois Cannabis Cup.
A large portion of product marketing is through partner dispensaries. Brands rely heavily on the word of the budtender, the gatekeepers of their products. In order to help these partners better promote the Ozone brand, and sell-through product, we create educational materials, provide them with updated digital and display marketing assets, and send branded gear for their budtenders to proudly wear. We also launched a new Ozone website in Q4’20, which includes in-depth product descriptions and insights, helping existing consumers better understand their Ozone products.
Product expansion is key to continuing to market the Ozone brand. In November 2020, we launched a disposable vape with a rechargeable battery. In December 2020, we launched a pre-pack 0.3g glass chillum and a live resin vape, a premium offering which addresses one of the fastest growing product categories in the cannabis market.
Supply Chain Process
We operate in limited license states in highly regulated markets. Therefore, controlling our supply chain is a critical factor in successfully operating in each state. We are focused on becoming vertically-integrated in all of our markets to ensure we manage the entire supply chain managed from seed to sale, including cultivation, manufacturing and packaging.
Packaging
Our final step prior to distribution to our retail stores or third-party wholesalers is packaging. We keep strict product quality and assurance controls dependent on each state regulations. We have a variety of packaging across both our flower and extracted products.
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Packaging for the Ozone branded portfolio was completed in-house and sourced using third-party demand aggregators, who are able to achieve better pricing with scale buys. We utilize glass jars for our Reserve flower and mylar bags for our Core flower-based products. Edibles utilize a variety of packaging form-factors depending on the SKU being produced including plastic jars, metal tins and pop-top tubes. Vapes utilize both cardboard cartons and mylar bags, but some of our vapes utilize different packaging for each flavor or strain. In addition to managing packaging for a growing SKU portfolio, all product packaging must adhere to varying state regulations, which can vary widely from state to state and can hinder our efforts to unify our packaging design. As we bring more brands and form factors to market, packaging design and sourcing will increasingly be in focus, and we anticipate that we will devote additional internal and external design resources to these efforts.
Significant Customers
Our sales are primarily to our customers through our retail dispensaries, and to third party dispensaries in certain jurisdictions. We are not dependent upon a single customer, or a few customers, and the loss of any one or more of which would not have a material adverse effect on the business. No customer accounted for 10% or more of our consolidated net revenue during calendar years 2020, 2019 or 2018.
Omnichannel Strategy
We generated approximately 65% of our revenue from retail and 35% from wholesale in calendar year 2020. We estimate that our wholesale to retail mix will be split more evenly by the end of 2022 when our cultivation assets are fully built out. While we currently see supply shortages in our limited license states, we believe it is important to have a significant retail footprint to maintain pricing power within our brands and as more supply becomes available in our markets.
Intellectual Property—Patents and Trademarks
We believe that brand protection is critical to our business strategy. Where possible, we protect our intellectual property rights in connection with our operating names (e.g., Ascend), our products (e.g., Ozone) and certain patentable goods and services. The U.S. trademark statute, The Lanham Act, allows for the protection of trademarks and service marks on products and services used, or intended for use, lawfully. Because cannabis-related products and services remain illegal at the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act, we are not able to fully protect our intellectual property at the federal level; therefore, we currently seek trademark protections at the state level where commercially feasible. Nonetheless, our success depends upon other areas of our business such as product development and design, production and marketing and not exclusively upon trademarks, patents and trade secrets.
Since receiving our cultivation licenses, we have developed proprietary cultivation techniques. We have also developed certain proprietary intellectual property for operating butane extraction, carbon dioxide extraction and ethanol extraction machinery, including production best practices, procedures and methods. This requires specialized skills in cultivation, extraction and refining.
We rely on non-disclosure/confidentiality agreements to protect our intellectual property rights. To the extent we describe or disclose our proprietary cultivation or extraction techniques in applications for cultivation or processing licenses, we redact, or request redaction of, such information prior to public disclosure.
We own several website domains, including www.awholdings.com, numerous social media accounts across all major platforms and various phone and web application platforms.
We are currently in the process of submitting applications to protect our brands and marks. We will continue to rely on common law protection for these brands during the trademark registration process. Moreover, we proactively seek intellectual property protection for brand expansions in current markets as well as any new market expansion. For additional details on the risks associated with the lack of trademark protection, see “Risk Factors” with respect to intellectual property.
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Social Responsibility
While we understand and appreciate how fortunate we are to be in a position to help build and guide the future of modern cannabis, we are also acutely aware of the lives that have been impacted, especially in minority communities, through decades of unjust laws and inequitable enforcement. We think this is unacceptable, which is why we have teamed up with the Last Prisoner Project through a donation match program. We are seeking to raise $250,000, evenly split between customer donations and AWH match. The Last Prisoner Project is a nonprofit coalition of cannabis industry leaders, executives, and artists dedicated to bringing restorative justice to the cannabis industry.
Working Capital
Effective inventory management is critical to our ongoing success and we use a variety of demand and supply forecasting, planning and replenishment techniques. We strive to maintain sufficient levels of inventory for core product categories, positive vendor and customer relationships and carefully plan to minimize markdowns and inventory write-offs. We typically carry four to six weeks of inventory at our dispensaries and maintain minimum wholesale inventory levels by SKU based on market demand for these SKUs. We will also enter into supply agreements with cultivators as needed to ensure adequate inventory as needed, whether to supplement our owned cultivation operations or in jurisdictions in which we have yet to achieve vertical integration.
For additional details on liquidity and capital resources, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
Number of Employees
As of April 15, 2021, we have approximately 1,000 employees nationwide including corporate, retail, manufacturing and part-time employees, including but not limited to: finance and accounting, legal and compliance, supply chain and operations, sales and marketing, commercial and cannabis agriculture, chemists, customer service, construction and project management, real estate and human resources. Approximately 850 of our employees are full-time employees.
Environmental Compliance
Expenditures for compliance with federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations are consistent from year to year and are not material to our financials. We are compliant with all applicable regulations and do not use materials that would pose any known risks under normal conditions.
Competitive Conditions
The markets in which our products are distributed are highly competitive. We compete directly with single state and larger multi-state cannabis producers and retailers. More broadly, we view manufacturers of other consumer products, such as those in the pharmaceuticals, alcohol, tobacco, health and beauty and functional wellness industries, as potential competitors. Product quality, performance, new product innovation and development, packaging, customer experience and consumer price/value are important differentiating factors. While we face intense competition, our industry faces relatively high barriers to entry given the licensed nature of the cannabis industry. See “Risk Factors” for additional detail regarding risks with respect to competition.
Overview of Government Regulation
Below is a discussion of the federal and state-level regulatory regimes in those jurisdictions where we are currently directly involved through our subsidiaries. Our subsidiaries and licensed operators with which we have contractual relationships are directly engaged in the manufacture, possession, sale or distribution of cannabis in the adult-use and/or medical cannabis marketplace in the states of Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio.
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The U.S. federal government regulates drugs through the CSA, which places controlled substances, including cannabis, in a schedule. Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. The CSA explicitly prohibits the manufacturing, distribution, selling and possession of cannabis and cannabis-derived products as a consequence of its Schedule I classification. Classification of substances under the CSA is determined jointly by the DEA and the FDA. The DOJ defines Schedule I drugs and substances as drugs with no currently accepted medical use, a high potential for abuse and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. However, the FDA has approved Epidiolex, which contains a purified form of the drug CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, for the treatment of seizures associated with two epilepsy conditions. The FDA has not approved cannabis or cannabis compounds as a safe and effective drug for any other condition. Moreover, under the 2018 Farm Bill or Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, CBD remains a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, with a narrow exception for CBD derived from hemp with a tetrahydrocannabinol, which is commonly referred to as THC, concentration of less than 0.3%.
Unlike in Canada, where federal legislation uniformly governs the cultivation, distribution, sale and possession of medical and adult-use cannabis under the Cannabis Act, S.C. 2018, c. 16, and the Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, cannabis is largely regulated at the state level in the United States. To date, there are 36 states, plus the District of Columbia (and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands), that have laws and/or regulations that recognize, in one form or another, legitimate medical uses for cannabis and consumer use of cannabis in connection with medical treatment. In addition, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult-use. The voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing adult-use cannabis in South Dakota is being challenged and is expected to be heard before the South Dakota Supreme Court in April 2021. Fourteen states have also enacted low-THC/high-CBD only laws for medical cannabis patients.
State laws that permit and regulate the production, distribution and use of cannabis for adult-use or medical purposes are in direct conflict with the CSA, which makes cannabis use, distribution and possession federally illegal. Although certain states and territories of the U.S. authorize medical or adult-use cannabis production and distribution by licensed or registered entities, under U.S. federal law, the possession, cultivation, and transfer of cannabis and any related drug paraphernalia is illegal and any such acts are criminal acts under any and all circumstances under the CSA. The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution establishes that the United States Constitution and federal laws made pursuant to it are paramount and in case of conflict between federal and state law, the federal law shall apply. Although the Company’s activities are believed to be compliant with applicable United States state and local law, strict compliance with state and local laws with respect to cannabis may neither absolve the Company of liability under United States federal law, nor may it provide a defense to any federal proceeding which may be brought against the Company.
The Obama administration attempted to address the inconsistent treatment of cannabis under state and federal law in the Cole Memorandum which outlined certain priorities for the DOJ relating to the prosecution of cannabis offenses. The Cole Memorandum acknowledged that, notwithstanding the designation of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level, several states had enacted laws authorizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes. The Cole Memorandum noted that jurisdictions that have enacted laws legalizing cannabis in some form have also implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, processing, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis. As such, conduct in compliance with those laws and regulations is less likely to implicate the Cole Memorandum’s enforcement priorities. The DOJ did not provide (and has not provided since) specific guidelines for what regulatory and enforcement systems would be deemed sufficient under the Cole Memorandum. In light of limited investigative and prosecutorial resources, the Cole Memorandum concluded that the DOJ should be focused on addressing only the most significant threats related to cannabis, such as distribution of cannabis from states where cannabis is legal to those where cannabis is illegal, the diversion of cannabis revenues to illicit drug cartels and sales of cannabis to minors.
On January 4, 2018, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the Sessions Memorandum, which rescinded the Cole Memorandum effective upon its issuance. The Sessions Memorandum stated, in part, that current law reflects “Congress’ determination that cannabis is a dangerous drug and cannabis activity is a serious crime,”
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and Mr. Sessions directed all U.S. Attorneys to enforce the laws enacted by Congress by following well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to cannabis activities. We are not aware of any prosecutions of investment companies doing routine business with licensed cannabis related businesses in light of the new DOJ position. However, there can be no assurance that the federal government will not enforce federal laws relating to cannabis in the future. As a result of the Sessions Memorandum, federal prosecutors are now free to utilize their prosecutorial discretion to decide whether to prosecute cannabis activities, despite the existence of state-level laws that may be inconsistent with federal prohibitions. No direction was given to federal prosecutors in the Sessions Memorandum as to the priority they should ascribe to such cannabis activities, and thus it is uncertain how active U.S. federal prosecutors will be in relation to such activities.
While federal prosecutors appear to continue to use the Cole Memorandum’s priorities as an enforcement guide, the prosecutorial effects resulting from the rescission of the Cole Memorandum and the implementation of the Sessions Memorandum remain uncertain. The sheer size of the cannabis industry, in addition to participation by state and local governments and investors, suggests that a large-scale federal enforcement operation may create unwanted political backlash for the DOJ. It is also possible that the revocation of the Cole Memorandum could motivate Congress to reconcile federal and state laws. While Congress is considering and has considered legislation that may address these issues, there can be no assurance that such legislation passes. Regardless, at this time, cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level. The U.S. federal government has always reserved the right to enforce federal law in regard to the sale and disbursement of medical or adult-use cannabis, even if state law authorizes such sale and disbursement. It is unclear whether the risk of enforcement has been altered.
Additionally, under United States federal law, it may potentially be a violation of federal money laundering statutes for financial institutions to take any proceeds from the sale of cannabis or any other Schedule I controlled substance. Canadian banks are likewise hesitant to deal with cannabis companies, due to the uncertain legal and regulatory framework of the industry. Banks and other financial institutions, particularly those that are federally chartered in the United States, could be prosecuted and possibly convicted of money laundering for providing services to cannabis businesses. While Congress is considering legislation that may address these issues, there can be no assurance of the content of any proposed legislation or that such legislation is ever passed.
Despite these laws, FinCEN issued the FinCEN Memorandum outlining the pathways for financial institutions to bank state-sanctioned cannabis businesses in compliance with federal enforcement priorities. The FinCEN Memorandum echoed the enforcement priorities of the Cole Memorandum and states that in some circumstances, it is permissible for banks to provide services to cannabis-related businesses without risking prosecution for violation of federal money laundering laws. Under these guidelines, financial institutions must submit a Suspicious Activity Report (“SAR”) in connection with all cannabis-related banking activities by any client of such financial institution, in accordance with federal money laundering laws. These cannabis-related SARs are divided into three categories - cannabis limited, cannabis priority, and cannabis terminated - based on the financial institution’s belief that the business in question follows state law, is operating outside of compliance with state law, or where the banking relationship has been terminated, respectively. On the same day that the FinCEN Memorandum was published, the DOJ issued a memorandum (the “2014 Cole Memorandum”) directing prosecutors to apply the enforcement priorities of the Cole Memorandum in determining whether to charge individuals or institutions with crimes related to financial transactions involving the proceeds of cannabis-related conduct. The 2014 Cole Memorandum has been rescinded as of January 4, 2018, along with the Cole Memorandum, removing guidance that enforcement of applicable financial crimes against state-compliant actors was not a DOJ priority.
However, former Attorney General Sessions’ revocation of the Cole Memorandum and the 2014 Cole Memorandum has not affected the status of the FinCEN Memorandum, nor has the Department of the Treasury given any indication that it intends to rescind the FinCEN Memorandum itself. Though it was originally intended for the 2014 Cole Memorandum and the FinCEN Memorandum to work in tandem, the FinCEN Memorandum is a standalone document which explicitly lists the eight enforcement priorities originally cited in the Cole Memorandum. As such, the FinCEN Memorandum remains intact, indicating that the Department of the Treasury and FinCEN intend to continue abiding by its guidance. However, in the United States, it is difficult for cannabis-based businesses to open and maintain a bank account with any bank or other financial institution. On November 7,
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2018, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned. On February 14, 2019, William Barr was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General. Mr. Barr resigned as Attorney General on December 23, 2020. On December 24, 2020, Jeffrey Rosen began serving as the Acting Attorney General of the United States. On January 20, 2021, Robert “Monty” Wilkinson replaced Jeffrey Rosen as the Acting Attorney General of the United States.
On March 11, 2021, former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Merrick Garland, was sworn in as serve as Attorney General of the United States. It is not yet known whether the Department of Justice under President Biden and Attorney General Garland will re-adopt the Cole Memorandum or announce a substantive cannabis enforcement policy. If the Department of Justice policy under Attorney General Garland were to aggressively pursue financiers or owners of cannabis-related businesses, and United States Attorneys followed such Department of Justice policies through pursuing prosecutions, then the Company could face (i) seizure of its cash and other assets used to support or derived from its cannabis operations, (ii) the arrest of its employees, directors, officers, managers and investors, and charges of ancillary criminal violations of the Controlled Substances Act for aiding and abetting and conspiring to violate the Controlled Substances Act by virtue of providing financial support to cannabis companies that service or provide goods to state-licensed or permitted cultivators, processors, distributors, and/or retailers of cannabis, and/or (iii) the barring of its employees, directors, officers, managers and investors who are not United States citizens from entry into the United States for life. Unless and until the United States Congress amends the Controlled Substances Act with respect to cannabis (and as to the timing or scope of any such potential amendments there can be no assurance), there is a risk that federal authorities may enforce current U.S. federal law criminalizing cannabis.
One legislative safeguard for the medical cannabis industry, appended to the federal budget bill, remains in place following the rescission of the Cole Memorandum. For fiscal years 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Acts (currently referred to as the “Rohrabacher/Blumenauer Amendment”) to prevent the federal government from using congressionally appropriated funds to enforce federal cannabis laws against regulated medical cannabis actors operating in compliance with state and local law. The Rohrabacher/Blumenauer Amendment was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 signed into legislation by President Trump in December 2020 to remain in effect until September 30, 2021. At such time, it may or may not be included in the omnibus appropriations package or a continuing budget resolution once the current Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 expires.
Despite the rescission of the Cole Memorandum, the DOJ appears to continue to adhere to the enforcement priorities set forth in the Cole Memorandum. The Cole Memorandum and the Rohrabacher/Blumenauer Amendment gave licensed cannabis operators (particularly medical cannabis operators) and investors in states with legal regimes greater certainty regarding the DOJ’s enforcement priorities and the risk of operating cannabis businesses. While the Sessions Memorandum has introduced some uncertainty regarding federal enforcement, the cannabis industry continues to experience growth in legal medical and adult-use markets across the United States. Accordingly, as an industry best practice, we continue to employ the following policies to ensure compliance with the guidance provided by the Cole Memorandum:
ensure that its operations are compliant with all licensing requirements as established by the applicable state, county, municipality, town, township, borough, and other political/administrative divisions;
ensure that its cannabis related activities adhere to the scope of the licensing obtained (for example: in the states where cannabis is permitted only for adult-use, the products are only sold to individuals who meet the requisite age requirements);
implement policies and procedures to ensure that cannabis products are not distributed to minors;
implement policies and procedures in place to ensure that funds are not distributed to criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels;
implement an inventory tracking system and necessary procedures to ensure that such compliance system is effective in tracking inventory and preventing diversion of cannabis or cannabis products into those states where cannabis is not permitted by state law, or cross any state lines in general;
ensure that its state-authorized cannabis business activity is not used as a cover or pretense for trafficking of other illegal drugs, and is not engaged in any other illegal activity, or any activities that are contrary to any applicable anti-money laundering statutes; and
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ensure that its products comply with applicable regulations and contain necessary disclaimers about the contents of the products to prevent adverse public health consequences from cannabis use and prevent impaired driving.
On June 7, 2018, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (the “STATES Act”) was introduced in the Senate by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Democratic representative Jared Polis of Colorado. The bill provides in relevant part that the provisions of the CSA, as applied to cannabis, “shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with state law relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marijuana.” Even though cannabis will remain within Schedule I of the CSA under the STATES Act, the bill makes the CSA unenforceable to the extent it conflicts with state law. In essence, the bill extends the limitations afforded by the protection within the federal budget—which prevents the DOJ and the DEA from using funds to enforce federal law against state-legal medical cannabis commercial activity—to both medical and adult-use cannabis activity in all states where it has been legalized. The STATES Act was reintroduced on April 4, 2019 in both the House and the Senate. Since the STATES Act is currently draft legislation, there is no guarantee that the STATES Act will become law in its current form.
On December 4, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (the “MORE Act”). The MORE Act would provide for the removal of cannabis from the list of controlled substances in the CSA and other federal legislation. It would end the applicability of Section 280E to cannabis businesses but would impose a 5% federal excise tax. The MORE Act was not passed by the Senate prior to the end of the 116th Congress and would need to be reintroduced and passed by the House of Representatives and Senate and signed into law by the president. There is no guarantee the MORE Act will become law in its current form. Overall, there were more than 1500 cannabis-related bills moving through state legislatures and Congress for the 2020 sessions.
On March 18, 2021, the SAFE Banking Act was reintroduced in the House of Representatives. On March 23, 2021, the bill was reintroduced in the Senate as well. The House previously passed the SAFE Banking Act in September 2019, but the measure stalled in the Senate. As written, the SAFE Banking Act would allow financial institutions to provide their services to state-legal cannabis clients and ancillary businesses serving state-legal cannabis businesses without fear of federal sanctions. There is no guarantee the SAFE Banking Act will become law in its current form, if at all.
Compliance with Applicable State Laws in the United States
We are in compliance with applicable cannabis licensing requirements and the regulatory framework enacted by each state in which we currently operate. We currently have an administrative proceeding pending against the Company in Illinois for 12 counts of regulatory violations dating from October 2019 to January 2020 including camera outages, doors being propped open during construction and a failed security incursion. All of the alleged violations have been remediated, and we are contesting the complaint. Other than as disclosed, we have not been subject to any non-compliance, citations or notices of violation which may have an impact on our licenses, business activities or operations.
We have in place a detailed compliance program and an internal legal and compliance department, and we are building out our operational compliance team across all states in which we operate. Our compliance department is overseen by our chief compliance officer and our senior vice president of compliance, and further consists of compliance professionals who oversee and ensure compliance in each of our jurisdictions and facilities. We also have external state and local regulatory/compliance counsel engaged in every jurisdiction in which we operate.
We provide training for all employees, using various methods on the following topics relevant to job tasks: compliance with state laws and rules; patient education materials; education materials for recreational customers; security in our facilities and establishments; handwashing and sanitation practices; packaging procedures; state mandated tracking software; establishment specific tracking; track and trace; inventory and POS software; audit procedures; epidemic responses; emergency situation response; dispensing procedures; patient/client check-in
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procedure; employee education and consultation materials; packaging and labeling requirements; cannabis waste and destruction; active shooter response; robbery response; fire response; bomb-threat response; sexual harassment; drug free workplace; internet and phone usage; discrimination harassment; workplace violence; hygiene and clothing requirements; hand washing; medical emergency response; biocontamination response; gas leak response; visitor access; discounts for special groups; customer loyalty programs; client intake; storage and recall of products; the science of cannabis; speaking with physicians; edibles education; reconciling transactions; inventory control; receiving inventory; shipping inventory; corrective and preventive action plans; filing corrective and preventive action reports; pesticides; wastewater; irrigation systems; fertilizer; beneficial organisms; climate control; transplanting; inventory tagging; pruning; defoliation; drying, trimming and curing; storage of products; maintaining confidentiality; cash handling; and preventing diversion of products.
We emphasize security and inventory control to ensure strict monitoring of cannabis and inventory, from delivery by a licensed distributor to sale or disposal. Only authorized, properly trained employees are allowed to access our computerized inventory control system.
We monitor all compliance notifications from the regulators and inspectors in each market and timely resolve any issues identified. We keep records of all compliance notifications received from the state regulators or inspectors, as well as how and when an issue was resolved. Moreover, we monitor news sources for information regarding developments at the state and federal level relating to the regulation and criminalization of cannabis.
Further, we have created comprehensive standard operating procedures that include detailed descriptions and instructions for receiving shipments of inventory, inventory tracking, recordkeeping and record retention practices related to inventory. We also have comprehensive standard operating procedures in place for performing inventory reconciliation, and ensuring the accuracy of inventory tracking and recordkeeping. We maintain accurate records of our inventory at all licensed facilities. Adherence to our standard operating procedures is mandatory and ensures that our operations are compliant with the rules set forth by the applicable state and local laws, regulations, ordinances, licenses and other requirements. We ensure adherence to standard operating procedures by regularly conducting internal inspections and ensures that any issues identified are resolved quickly and thoroughly.
We maintain strict compliance guidelines with respect to online reservations of products. No purchase and sale transactions may be completed online. A patient, patient’s primary caregiver or customer may reserve products online, but the patient or customer must be physically present at one of our dispensaries to complete the transaction. This requirement allows our dispensary staff to ensure that our standard operating procedures (including its compliance programs) are applied to all patients, patient’s primary caregivers and customers in connection with the purchase and sale of products.
In jurisdictions where medical cannabis is legal, upon arrival of the patient or the patient’s primary caregiver at the applicable dispensary, dispensary staff must verify the patient’s or the patient’s primary caregiver’s identity and credentials (such as a state-issued medical cannabis card) and confirm the patient’s allotment amount to ensure the user is not exceeding the state’s dispensing limits. Once the foregoing is verified, the patient or the patient’s primary caregiver may pay for the products to complete the purchase. If the customer does not have valid identification and credentials, the customer will not be able to purchase medical cannabis at the applicable dispensary, irrespective of any reservations made online.
In jurisdictions where recreational cannabis is legal, upon arrival at the dispensary, a customer must present government-issued photo identification to verify they are at least 21 years of age. Once the identification is verified, the customer may pay for the products to complete the transaction. If the customer does not have valid identification, the customer will not be able to purchase recreational cannabis at the applicable Company dispensary, irrespective of any reservations made online.
We will continue to monitor compliance on an ongoing basis in accordance with our compliance program and standard operating procedures. While our operations are in full compliance with all applicable state laws, regulations and licensing requirements, such activities remain illegal under federal law. For the reasons described above and the risks further described in the section entitled “Risk Factors,” there are significant risks associated with our business.
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Readers of this prospectus are strongly encouraged to carefully read all of the risk factors contained in “Risk Factors.”
State Regulation of Cannabis
The risk of federal enforcement and other risks associated with our business are described in the section entitled “Risk Factors.”
Following the thesis that distributing brands at scale will win, we enter markets where we believe that we can profitably and sustainably operate and command significant market share, and thus maximize consumer and brand awareness. The regulatory frameworks enacted by the states, which are similar to the limited and controlled issuance of gaming or alcohol distributorship licenses, provide macro-level indication of whether certain state markets will be sustainable and profitable.
Below is a summary overview of the regulatory and competitive frameworks in each of our operating markets.
Illinois
Illinois Regulatory Landscape
In January 2014, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which allows individuals diagnosed with certain debilitating or “qualified” medical conditions to access medical cannabis, became effective. There are over 35 qualifying conditions as part of the medical program, including epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In January 2019, the Illinois Department of Health launched the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program that allows individuals who have/could receive a prescription for opioids to access medical cannabis.
On August 28, 2018, Public Act 100-1114, the Alternative to Opioids Act of 2018, was signed into law, making changes to the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. The Public Act created the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program (“OAPP”), which allows access to medical cannabis for individuals who have or could receive a prescription for opioids as certified by a physician licensed in Illinois.
On August 12, 2019 Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law legislation that made the program permanent and added 11 conditions to the existing program.
In June 2019, Illinois legalized adult-use cannabis pursuant to the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (the “IL Act”). Effective January 1, 2020, Illinois residents 21 years of age and older may possess up to 30 grams of cannabis (non-residents may possess up to 15 grams). The IL Act authorizes the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (the “IDFPR”) to issue up to 75 Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization licenses before May 1, 2020 and an additional 110 conditional licenses during 2021 (no person may hold a financial interest in more than 10 dispensing organizations). Existing medical dispensaries were able to apply for an “Early Approval Adult Use Dispensing Organization License” to serve adult purchasers at an existing medical dispensary or at a secondary site. The IDFPR also held an application period for Conditional Adult Use Cannabis Dispensary Licenses from December 10, 2019 through January 2, 2020. To date, the IDFPR has granted a total of 110 Adult-Use Dispensing Licenses. According to the Cowen report, Charting Cannabis: A U.S. State Level Deep Dive, published February 19, 2020, there were 55 open dispensaries in Illinois as of the end of 2019.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture (the “IL Ag. Department”) is authorized to make up to 30 cultivation center licenses available for medical and adult-use programs. As with existing medical dispensaries, existing cultivation centers were able to apply for an “Early Approval Adult Use Cultivation Center License.” The IL Ag. Department issued approximately 21 Early Approval Adult Use Cultivation Center licenses to date. No person can hold a financial interest in more than three cultivation centers, and the centers are limited to 210,000 square feet of canopy space. Cultivation centers are also prohibited from discriminating in price when selling to dispensaries, craft growers, or infuser organizations. The IL Ag. Department was also permitted to license up to 40 craft growers and
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40 infuser organizations by July 1, 2020 and another 60 of each license type by the end of 2021. License awards will likely be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and legal actions taken by applicants. The IL Ag. Department recently closed an application period for craft growers, infusers and cannabis transporters.
The IL Act imposes several operational requirements on adult-use licensees and requires prospective licensees to demonstrate their plans to comply with such requirements. For example, applicants for dispensary licenses must include an employee training plan, a security plan, recordkeeping and inventory plans, a quality control plan and an operating plan.
Licensees must establish methods for identifying, recording, and reporting diversion, theft, or loss, correcting inventory errors, and complying with product recalls. Licensees also must comply with detailed inventory, storage, and security requirements. Cultivation licenses are subject to similar operational requirements, such as complying with detailed security and storage requirements, and must also establish plans to address energy, water, and waste-management needs. Dispensary licenses will be renewed bi-annually, and cultivation licenses, craft grower licenses, infuser organization licenses, and transporter licenses will be renewed annually.
The IL Ag. Department is authorized to promulgate, and has promulgated, regulations for cultivators, craft growers, infuser organizations, and transporting organizations. The IDFPR is authorized to regulate dispensaries but has not yet issued adult-use regulations. Therefore, currently licensed adult-use retail operations are governed by the IL Act and adult-use retail applications submitted during the application window which closed on January 2, 2020 will be evaluated under and in accordance with the IL Act.
Illinois Licenses
Illinois licenses four types of cannabis businesses within the state: (1) cultivation; (2) processing; (3) transportation; and (4) dispensary. All cultivation, craft growers, infusers, and transporting establishments must register with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. All dispensaries must register with the IDFPR. If applications contain all required information, establishments are issued a cannabis establishment registration certificate. Registration certificates are valid for a period of one year and are subject to strict annual renewal requirements.
HealthCentral LLC has been issued a total of six dispensary licenses, two medical licenses and four adult use licenses. Revolution Cannabis-Barry LLC has been issued two cultivation licenses, one medical license and one adult use license. MOCA LLC is licensed to operate two dispensaries and has been issued a total of three dispensary licenses, one medical and two adult use licenses. On December 14, 2020, we entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Midway Dispensary. The transaction is conditioned on approval of the IDFPR prior to close.
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The below table lists our Illinois licenses:
EntityLicense NumberCityExpiration Date / Renewal DateDescription
Revolution Cannabis-Barry, LLC1503060627Barry03/09/2022Medical Cultivation License
Revolution Cannabis-Barry, LLC1503060627 – EABarry03/31/2022Early Adult Use Cultivation License
HealthCentral, LLCDISP.000022 / 11-0Collinsville01/07/2022Medical License
HealthCentral, LLCAUDO.000025Collinsville03/31/2022Adult Use License
HealthCentral, LLCDISP.000029 / 09-00Adam St. / Springfield02/03/2022Medical License
HealthCentral, LLCAUDO.000026Adam St. / Springfield03/31/2022Adult Use License
HealthCentral, LLCAUDO.000069Horizon Dr. / Springfield03/31/2022Adult Use License
HealthCentral, LLCAUDO.000104Fairview Heights03/31/2022Adult Use License
Chicago Alternative Health Center, LLCDISP. 43.002Archer Ave. / Chicago4/13/2022Medical License
Chicago Alternative Health Center, LLCAUDO.000032Archer Ave. / Chicago03/31/2022Adult Use License
Chicago Alternative Health Center, LLCAUDO.000114Chicago Ridge03/31/2022Adult Use License
MOCA LLCDISP.000028 / 48-00Fullerton Ave/ Chicago02/01/2022Medical License
MOCA LLCAUDO.000021Fullerton Ave/ Chicago03/31/2022Adult Use License
MOCA LLCAUDO.000052Ohio St / Chicago03/31/2022Adult Use License
Illinois Storage and Security
Both our cultivation center and our dispensaries are required to store cannabis in restricted-access areas. Our dispensaries must store inventory on-site in a secured and restricted-access area and enter information into Illinois’ tracking system as required by law and IDFPR rules. Any cannabis or cannabis products in an open or defective package, which have expired, or which the company otherwise has reason to believe have been opened or tampered with must be segregated in secure storage until promptly and properly disposed of.
Dispensaries are also required to implement security measures designed to deter and prevent unauthorized entry into the facility (and restricted-access areas) and theft, loss or diversion of cannabis or cannabis products. In this respect, dispensaries must maintain a commercial grade alarm and surveillance system installed by an Illinois licensed private alarm contractor or private alarm contractor agency. Dispensaries must also implement various security measures designed to protect the premises, customers and dispensing organization agents (employees).
Illinois Reporting Requirements
Illinois uses BioTrack THC as its track and trace (“T&T”) system. All dispensing organization licensees are required to use a real-time, web-based inventory tracking/point-of-sale system that is accessible to IDFPR at any time, and at a minimum, tracks the date of sale, amount, price, and currency. We use BioTrack THC for inventory management and LeafLogix as a point-of-sale system. Licensees are also required to track each sales transaction at the time of the sale, daily beginning and ending inventory, acquisitions (including information about the supplier and the product) and disposal.
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Illinois Transportation Requirements
Currently, licensed cultivation centers may transport cannabis and cannabis products in accordance with certain guidelines. For receiving products, dispensing organizations must receive a copy of the shipping manifest prepared by the cultivation center in advance of transport and is required to check the product delivered against such manifest at the time of delivery. All cannabis and cannabis products must be packaged in properly labeled and sealed containers. Dispensaries may not accept products that are mislabeled, products that have labels missing or when packaging is opened or tampered with.
U.S. Attorney Statements in Illinois
To the knowledge of management, other than as disclosed in this prospectus, there have not been any statements or guidance made by federal authorities or prosecutors regarding the risk of enforcement action in Illinois. See “Risk Factors - U.S. State regulation of cannabis is uncertain.”
Massachusetts
Massachusetts Regulatory Landscape
The Massachusetts Medical Use of Marijuana Program (the “MA Program”) was formed pursuant to the Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana (the “MA ACT”). The MA Program allows registered persons to purchase medical cannabis and applies to any patient, personal caregiver, Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (each, a “MTC”), and MTC agent that qualifies and registers under the MA Program. To qualify, patients must suffer from a debilitating condition as defined by the MA Program. Currently there are eight conditions that allow a patient to acquire cannabis in Massachusetts, including AIDS/HIV, ALS, cancer and Crohn’s disease. As of May 31, 2019, approximately 59,000 patients have been registered to purchase medical cannabis products in Massachusetts. The MA Program is administrated by the Cannabis Control Commission of Massachusetts (the “CCC”). According to the Cowen report, Charting Cannabis: A U.S. State Level Deep Dive, published February 19, 2020, there were 52 open dispensaries in Massachusetts as of the end of 2019.
In November 2016, Massachusetts voted affirmatively on a ballot petition to legalize and regulate cannabis for adult-use. The Massachusetts legislature amended the law on December 28, 2016, delaying the date adult-use cannabis sales would begin by six months. The delay allowed the legislature to clarify how municipal land-use regulations would treat the cultivation of cannabis and authorized a study of related issues. After further debate, the state House of Representatives and state Senate approved H.3818 which became Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017, An Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana, and established the CCC. The CCC consists of five commissioners and regulates both the Adult Use and Medical Use of Marijuana programs. Sales of adult-use cannabis in Massachusetts started in July 2018. Adult-use cannabis in Massachusetts is regulated under M.G.L. ch. 94G and 935 CMR 500 et seq.
Under the MA Program, MTCs are heavily regulated. Vertically integrated MTCs grow, process, and dispense their own cannabis. As such, each MTC is required to have a retail facility as well as cultivation and processing operations, although retail operations may be separate from grow and cultivation operations. An MTC’s cultivation location may be in a different municipality or county than its retail facility.
The MA Program mandates a comprehensive application process for MTCs. Each Registered Marijuana Dispensary (each, a “RMD”) applicant must submit a Certificate of Good Standing, comprehensive financial statements, a character competency assessment, and employment and education histories of the senior partners and individuals responsible for the day-to-day security and operation of the MTC. Municipalities may individually determine what local permits or licenses are required if an MTC wishes to establish an operation within its boundaries.
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Massachusetts Licenses
MassGrow LLC has been issued one cultivation and one provisional manufacturing processing license and Ascend Mass LLC has been issued one retail license and two provisional retail licenses.
The below table lists our Massachusetts licenses:
EntityLicense NumberCityExpiration Date / Renewal DateDescription
MassGrow, LLCMC281488Athol08/12/2021Adult Use Cultivation License
MassGrow, LLCMP281460Athol07/13/2021Manufacturing Processing Provisional License
Ascend Mass, LLCMR282077Boston01/15/2022Adult Use License
Ascend Mass, LLCMRN282837Newton06/05/2021Adult Use Provisional License
Ascend Mass, LLCMRN283075New Bedford08/07/2021Adult Use Provisional License
Each Massachusetts dispensary, grower and processor license is valid for one year and must be renewed no later than 60 calendar days prior to expiration. As in other states where cannabis is legal, the CCC can deny licenses and renewals for multiple reasons, including (per 935 CMR 500.400) (1) failure to complete the application process within the required time period; (2) submission of deceptive, misleading, or fraudulent information, (3) an indication of an inability to maintain and operate a compliant cannabis establishment, (4) determination of unsuitability pursuant to, for example, certain criminal convictions, (5) failure to comply with cannabis license control limitations, (6) rejection of revocation of another cannabis license in Massachusetts or elsewhere; or (7) any other ground that serves the purposes of the law. Revocations can also be based on (per 935 CMR 500.450) (1) failure to submit or implement a plan of correction; (2) attempting to assign ownership to another entity or making other significant changes without proper permission, (3) lack of responsible operation of a cannabis establishment, (4) maintaining a substandard level of compliance with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, (5) financial insolvency; (6) failure to cooperate with law enforcement, (7) violation of the safety, health, or welfare of the public; or (8) committing, permitting, aiding, or abetting of any illegal practices in the operation of the cannabis establishment. Additionally, license holders must ensure that no cannabis is sold, delivered, or distributed by a producer from or to a location outside of the state.
Regulation of the Adult-Use Cannabis Market in Massachusetts
Adult-use cannabis has been legal in Massachusetts since December 15, 2016, following a ballot initiative in November of that year. The CCC, a regulatory body created in 2018, licenses adult-use cultivation, processing and dispensary facilities (collectively, “Marijuana Establishments” or “MEs”) pursuant to 935 CMR 500.000 et seq. The first adult-use cannabis facilities in Massachusetts began operating in November 2018.
Massachusetts Licensing Requirements (Adult-Use)
Applicants must submit proof of being an entity registered to do business in Massachusetts, as well as a list of all people and entities having direct or indirect control of the business, documentation of any such people or entities’ other business interests, details of the amounts and sources of capital resources, and documentation of a bond or escrow account. Furthermore, the applicant must provide a specific address for the location of the establishment, proof of a property interest in that address, documentation that the applicant has a “host community agreement” with the municipality, and documentation that the applicant has held at least one community outreach meeting. The applicant must also provide a description of plans to ensure that the cannabis establishment will be compliant with all applicable laws and regulations, and also a specific plan to positively impact areas of disproportionate impact
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(geographical locations in the state which have had historically high rates of arrest, conviction, and incarceration related to cannabis crimes). The application also requires payment of a fee.
All individuals identified as having direct or indirect control in the license must undergo an extensive background check that includes criminal, civil, and regulatory records; certain criminal convictions, civil actions, or regulatory infractions may trigger a finding of unsuitability
Each license applicant must submit detailed information about its business registration, certificates of good standing, and a plan to obtain liability insurance. The application must include a detailed business plan, a detailed summary of operating policies and procedures addressing issues like security, storage, prevention of diversion, transportation, inventory practices, recordkeeping, and a specific diversity plan demonstrating promotion of equity among people of color, women, veterans, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Such plans must have specific goals and measurable outcomes that will be monitored and updated through the entire existence of the cannabis establishment.
Pursuant to 935 CMR 500.050, no person or entity may own or have direct or indirect control over more than three licenses in each Marijuana Establishment category (i.e., cannabis retailer, cannabis cultivator, cannabis product manufacturer). Additionally, there is a 100,000 square foot cultivation canopy restriction for adult-use licenses.
Massachusetts Dispensary Requirements (Adult-Use)
Cannabis retailers may purchase, transport, sell, repackage, or otherwise transfer cannabis and cannabis products to consumers. On-site consumption is prohibited. All permitted cannabis-related activities must take place solely at the licensed address.
All cannabis establishment employees must receive at least eight hours of training annually. A total of four hours of training shall be from Responsible Vendor Training Program courses established under 935 CMR 500.105(2)(b). The remaining four hours may be conducted in-house by the cannabis establishment as on-the-job training.
All cannabis establishments must have written operating procedures addressing security measures, employee security policies, descriptions of operating hours and after-hours contact information, storage and waste disposal, product descriptions, price list, recordkeeping, quality control, staffing, emergency procedures, alcohol/smoke/drug-free workplace policies, confidential information handling, plans for immediate dismissal of employees who divert cannabis, engage in unsafe practices or are convicted of certain crimes, board of directors and members list, cash handling, prevention of diversion, energy efficiency, and workplace safety. Retail establishments must also have plans to check the identification of each customer both upon entering the store and again at the point of sale. No one under 21 is permitted to purchase cannabis or to be on the premises. Retail stores must ensure that customers purchase no more than one ounce of cannabis (or its equivalent in other forms) per day. Retailers also have the right to refuse sales to customers, for example, those that appear to be impaired by the influence of substances.
The retail point of sale system must be approved by both the CCC and the state Department of Revenue. It must be integrated with Metrc, the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system. The system must also be audited on a monthly basis to ensure that no additional software has been installed that could alter sales data.
Cannabis retailers must have available extensive consumer education materials, including in languages other than English.
Massachusetts Security and Storage Requirements (Adult-Use)
Each Marijuana Establishment must implement sufficient safety measures to deter and prevent unauthorized entrance into areas containing cannabis and theft of cannabis at the establishment. Security measures taken by the
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establishments to protect the premises, employees, consumers and general public must include, but not be limited to, the following:
positively identifying individuals seeking access to the premises of the Cannabis Establishment or to whom or cannabis products are being transported pursuant to 935 CMR 500.105(13) to limit access solely to individuals 21 years of age or older;
adopting procedures to prevent loitering and ensure that only individuals engaging in activity expressly or by necessary implication permitted by the regulations and its enabling statute are allowed to remain on the premises;
disposing of cannabis in accordance with 935 CMR 500.105(12) in excess of the quantity required for normal, efficient operation as established within 935 CMR 500.105;
securing all entrances to the Marijuana Establishment to prevent unauthorized access;
establishing limited access areas pursuant to 935 CMR 500.110(4), which shall be accessible only to specifically authorized personnel limited to include only the minimum number of employees essential for efficient operation;
storing all finished cannabis products in a secure, locked safe or vault in such a manner as to prevent diversion, theft and loss;
keeping all safes, vaults, and any other equipment or areas used for the production, cultivation, harvesting, processing or storage of cannabis products securely locked and protected from entry, except for the actual time required to remove or replace cannabis;
keeping all locks and security equipment in good working order;
prohibiting keys, if any, from being left in the locks or stored or placed in a location accessible to persons other than specifically authorized personnel;
prohibiting accessibility of security measures, such as combination numbers, passwords or electronic or biometric security systems, to persons other than specifically authorized personnel;
ensuring that the outside perimeter of the Marijuana Establishment is sufficiently lit to facilitate surveillance, where applicable;
ensuring that all cannabis products are kept out of plain sight and are not visible from a public place without the use of binoculars, optical aids or aircraft;
developing emergency policies and procedures for securing all product following any instance of diversion, theft or loss of cannabis, and conduct an assessment to determine whether additional safeguards are necessary;
developing sufficient additional safeguards as required by the CCC for Marijuana Establishments that present special security concerns;
establishing procedures for safe cash handling and cash transportation to financial institutions to prevent theft, loss and associated risks to the safety of employees, customers and the general public;
sharing the establishment’s floor layout with law enforcement and as required by the municipality to identify the use of any flammable or combustible solvents, chemicals, or other such materials in use; and
sharing the Marijuana Establishment’s security plan and procedures with law enforcement authorities and fire services and periodically updating law enforcement authorities and fire services if the plans or procedures are modified in a material way.
Cannabis must be stored in special limited access areas, and alarm systems must meet certain technical requirements, including a failure notification system, perimeter alarms on all entry and exit points, duress/panic alarms, and video surveillance in all areas where cannabis or cash is kept and at all points of entry and exit. The surveillance system must have the ability to record footage 24 hours a day and to retain such footage for at least 90 days. The systems must be angled so as to allow for the capture of clear identification of any person entering or existing the establishment and must be able to remain operational for a minimum of four hours in the event of a power outage. Regular audits are required every 30 days.
Massachusetts Transportation Requirements (Adult-Use)
Cannabis products may only be transported between licensed MEs by registered Marijuana Establishment agents. A licensed cannabis transporter may contract with a licensed Marijuana Establishment to transport that
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licensee’s cannabis products to other licensed establishments. The originating and receiving licensed establishments shall ensure that all transported cannabis products are linked to METRC, Massachusetts’ seed-to-sale tracking program. For the purposes of tracking, seeds and clones will be properly tracked and labeled in a form and manner determined by the CCC. Any cannabis product that is undeliverable or is refused by the destination Marijuana Establishment shall be transported back to the originating establishment. All vehicles transporting cannabis products shall be staffed with a minimum of two Marijuana Establishment agents. At least one agent shall remain with the vehicle at all times that the vehicle contains cannabis or cannabis products. Prior to the products leaving a Marijuana Establishment for the purpose of transporting cannabis products, the originating Marijuana Establishment must weigh, inventory, and account for, on video, all cannabis products to be transported. Within eight hours after arrival at the destination Marijuana Establishment, the destination establishment must re-weigh, re-inventory, and account for, on video, all cannabis products transported. When videotaping the weighing, inventorying, and accounting of cannabis products before transportation or after receipt, the video must show each product being weighed, the weight, and the manifest. Cannabis products must be packaged in sealed, labeled, and tamper or child-resistant packaging prior to and during transportation. In the case of an emergency stop during the transportation of cannabis products, a log must be maintained describing the reason for the stop, the duration, the location, and any activities of personnel exiting the vehicle. A Marijuana Establishment or a cannabis transporter transporting cannabis products is required to ensure that all transportation times and routes are randomized. An establishment or transporter transporting cannabis products shall ensure that all transport routes remain within Massachusetts. All vehicles and transportation equipment used in the transportation of cannabis products or edibles requiring temperature control for safety must be designed, maintained, and equipped as necessary to provide adequate temperature control to prevent the cannabis products or edibles from becoming unsafe during transportation, consistent with applicable requirements pursuant to 21 CFR 1.908(c).
Vehicles used for transport must be owned or leased by the Marijuana Establishment or transporter, and they must be properly registered, inspected, and insured in Massachusetts All vehicles must be equipped with a video system that includes at least one camera in the storage area and at least one camera in the driver area. All cameras must remain functional throughout the entire transportation process. All vehicles must also be equipped with an alarm system, and functioning heating and air conditioning. Cannabis may not be visible from outside the vehicle, and it must be transported in a secure, locked storage compartment. The vehicle may not have any external markings indicating that it is used to transport cannabis. Each vehicle must have a global positioning system, and any