Health Care

Have $95 million? Two Florida medical marijuana licenses are for sale

In a move uncharacteristic of the cannabis market in Florida, an Atlanta broker is searching for the next owners of two highly sought Florida medical marijuana licenses.

Aubrey Logan-Holland, the CEO of a relatively new firm called Blue Dream Industries, is listing the licenses, or “paper” in industry speak, for about $95 million in total.

One license is going for $40 million and allows the owner to operate no more than 30 retail stores. The other license is selling for about $55 million, with the rights to open up to 35 retail stores. In addition to the actual license, this deal includes a greenhouse for cultivation.

“Whoever acquires this asset will get a chance to stake their claim in one of the biggest medical markets in the world,” Logan-Holland told the Miami Herald. “It’s a good state to do business.”

The process of acquiring a medical marijuana license in Florida is arduous, and running the company is also challenging. Florida’s medical marijuana industry is vertically integrated, meaning the license holder is responsible for growing, processing, testing, marketing and selling the product without middlemen or contractors.

Marijuana licenses in Florida have been historically scarce and expensive. Until April, there were just 14 businesses licensed to sell medical marijuana in the state. Now there are 22, but only 13 are active. Eight more were awarded as a result of a settlement in a suit that applicants filed against the state Department of Health after being denied licenses the first time they applied.

Licenses in Florida have been flipped for as much as $67 million, making it attractive for those looking to invest.

Once acquired, the licenses are lucrative. The Florida medical marijuana industry is projected to generate more than $1.1 billion in annual revenue by 2022, according to Arcview Market Research, a subsidiary of an investment group for the cannabis industry.

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According to the most recent weekly update from the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, more than 270,000 Floridians are card-holding medical marijuana patients, and that number continues to grow.

Logan-Holland says his company has a 50-50 partnership with a group called Young America Capital, with whom he’ll split the 10% commission made “on the back end.”

Logan-Holland said the two licenses for sale are from inactive license holders. He didn’t say which ones, citing a non-disclosure agreement.

He added that the license holders are looking for majority cash offers. One publicly traded company was being considered but had too few liquid assets.

Two private companies have already expressed interest, Logan-Holland said.

The fact that these licenses are being marketed for sale may not be such a good sign for the state.

While the licenses have value, finding a buyer willing to front the cost is getting harder and harder. Stock in publicly traded cannabis companies has plummeted, and big, multistate operators able to front a cash offer have either looked or bought licenses in Florida already.

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When licenses first went on the market, companies were standing in line.

“The acquisitions are not as attractive as they were last year,” said Jeff Sharkey, lobbyist and director of the state’s Medical Marijuana Business Association. “All of [the licenses] have been shopped for sale, to my knowledge.”

He said the fact that someone is brokering the deal and taking a cut of the money may reflect a shift in the market.

“It’s really interesting,” said Sharkey, who has helped companies through license sales himself. “Maybe the market has really softened.”

Most cannabis stocks are listed in Canada, which has become a top market for the industry following the country’s legalization of recreational marijuana sales last year. But the total market value of Canada’s cannabis market, dominated by five main companies, plunged from about $40 billion in September 2018 to roughly $17 billion this month.

In the U.S., the use, sale or possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law.

The fast pace of change in the cannabis market is also a cause for concern among buyers. According to John Lockwood, a lawyer who represents medical marijuana operators and license seekers, “what worked in January doesn’t work anymore.”

“Everyone went into this thinking all these [licenses] would be sold,” he said. “But a lot of things changed.”

The most active buyers in the cannabis market are the large, multistate operators like Trulieve, Surterra and Curaleaf, and those companies already operate in Florida. Those that aren’t operating in the state yet surely have looked into it, he added.

“There’s not too many people out there with $50 million that haven’t heard of the Florida cannabis market,” he said.

Samantha J. Gross is a politics and policy reporter for the Miami Herald. Before she moved to the Sunshine State, she covered breaking news at the Boston Globe and the Dallas Morning News.
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