Could cannabis be inflation-proof or are there other factors keeping cannabis prices down? Cannabis Wealth spoke to economist and cannabis expert Andrew Livingston from the US cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg to find out.
Inflation in the UK hit 6.2 per cent in February, the highest rate in three decades. On the other side of the Atlantic, US citizens are seeing similar price hikes across their day-to-day expenses.
But as most industries face price increases throughout their supply chains, the cannabis industry appears to be resisting the fluctuations with retail prices across the US remaining relatively constant. In fact, recent statistics suggest that prices may even be decreasing.
Data from cannabis analytics firm Headset shows that the prices of marijuana flower, edibles and vape products declined by 16.7 per cent, 11.8 per cent, and 12.4 per cent respectively from January 2021 to January 2022.
A number of factors are influencing current inflation, notably the acute impact of the war in Ukraine on global oil and gas prices as well as the continued effects of supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Before we were dealing with the most recent increase in gas prices – in part due to the war in Ukraine – we were seeing supply chain issues really hampering global commerce and global trade,” said Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research at the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg.
On the surface, the cannabis sector appears to be partly immune to the effects of inflation as prices for the consumer continue along a downward trajectory. The latter may be true, but Livingston stressed that the cannabis industry is “absolutely impacted by inflation”.
The issue is complex with various factors coming into play. There are some aspects of inflation that can’t be escaped, such as transport costs and an increase in salaries in line with rising costs of living. But other factors vary significantly from state to state. For example, energy prices will vary depending on the region’s reliance on imported oil and gas. “It is important to look at the specific segment of the industry and also where it is occurring,” Livingston said.
According to Livingston, there are other factors more important than inflation that are influencing the price of cannabis in the US. “There are other things that that are higher up on the list of a CEO’s mind than the price of gasoline,” he said.
A major influence on cannabis prices is the maturity of a state’s cannabis legislation. States that are still in the early stages of legalising cannabis such as Massacheusettes can see
wholesale prices exceed $3,000 per pound whereas in states with a more mature cannabis sector like Colorado, wholesale prices can be less than $1,000 per pound.
As a state’s cannabis market matures over time and barriers to entry for new companies are lowered, the environment naturally becomes more competitive causing an erosion in margin and lower prices on both a wholesale and retail level.
“Because we have these circumscribed state markets, the factors there are significantly more important than 15 or 20 per cent inflation,” Livingston said. “The wholesale price differences between states can be 200 to 300 per cent depending on what state you’re in and that’s larger than inflationary pressures.
According to Livingston, if prices are continuing to decrease, it may be that other market forces are proving stronger than the impact of national inflation.
“As additional licenses, supply and competition come in, [those] competitive forces will drive prices down. It’s not like there isn’t inflationary pressure on these cannabis businesses, but if prices are dropping despite inflation, it may be that other competitive forces are outweighing it.
“The fact that we haven’t seen prices all shift up or all shift down with national inflation seems to indicate to me that the economic forces specific to each market so far have remained stronger than the inflationary pressures that are affecting the cannabis industry nationally.”
North America’s number one cannabis point of sale software, Cova, has seen “some inflationary effects” on the cannabis industry, especially early in the supply chain.
“Cultivation and manufacturing are being hit with significantly higher energy and transportation costs,” Cova CEO Gary Cohen told Cannabis Wealth. “Those increased costs have already flowed forward to the retail sector in slightly higher product costs. Same-store year-over-year sales were down 5 percent in January 2022. Some of this decrease is due to the absence of stimulus money in the hands of cannabis consumers a year later, while the rest is due to both higher prices and smaller basket sizes.”
In response, Cohen said that Cova Software has reconfigured some of its subscription tiers to accommodate the budgets of smaller volume stores.
Michael Sassano, Chairman & CEO of the Ireland-based manufacturer Somai Pharmaceuticals believes that the sector’s forward-looking approach to sustainability could be playing a part in protecting cannabis businesses from sharp rises in energy costs.
“In comparison to other industries, the cannabis sector in the US and EU should be less impacted by inflation,” Sassano told Cannabis Wealth. “Cannabis from its onset embraced sustainability and reduction in dependency on non-renewable resources.
“And keep in mind that the largest growth in the cannabis sector has been the last six years in US and two years in the EU. This indicates that cannabis was already using the more modern cost savings equipment and was well aware of conforming to renewable resources.”
Determining exactly how the cannabis industry is affected by inflation isn’t an easy task, especially in the US where each state’s market is confined to its own borders. Until federal legalisation, it will be difficult to pinpoint exactly where and to what degree the cannabis industry is impacted by inflation. Nevertheless, it is clear that some businesses will face financial difficulties over the coming months.
“Will there be some businesses that maybe go out of business because their margins are tight and they can’t deal with an increase in these direct input costs that are caused by our current inflationary environment? Absolutely,” said Livingston. “[But] I have significant faith in the sector to push through.”
Oliver Summers, veteran dispensary operator and CEO of consultancy company Summers International Cannabis told Cannabis Wealth that inflation has impacted his business “slightly” as it faces increased costs across distribution and delivery. However, he believes cannabis has “always been impervious to economic environments”.
“From recessions and inflation to financial booms, cannabis always continues along, never really seeing an overt change,” he said. “A perfect example would be the pandemic. People were not working and living on savings, yet cannabis sales were huge.
“In 2008, after the stock market crash, my sales increased at my shop as well, even though many people were broke. When people are doing well they spend money on cannabis to celebrate. When they are doing poorly, they need it to cope.”
There are some conflicting views on how and to what extent inflation is affecting the cannabis industry but uniting them all is a resounding confidence in the resilience of the market. For companies that are struggling, Livingston advises having flexible supply chains and developing a strong, diverse network of companies to work with during periods of instability.
He also recommends talking to investors and creditors early to ensure businesses have enough of a cash runway to cope with temporarily increased costs or potential operational losses.
“Ensure that you can shore up your finances in such a way that you’re not running month to month, so if the tides turn you can weather through it,” he said. “That means talking to investors now before things get potentially more complicated and more difficult.”
Roundup of Q1 2022 financial results in the UK medical cannabis space
Companies across the cannabis industry announce financial results for the first quarter of 2022, Cannabis Wealth rounds up the results of six major firms expanding within the UK medical cannabis space.
2021 was a positive year for cannabis businesses with 165 per cent year-over-year growth in cannabis equity capital raises and a series of high profile mergers and acquisitions. Compared to 2020, which was characterised by plunging investment and struggling businesses, the future of the UK industry is looking bright. With the first quarter of 2022 coming to a close on 31 March, companies are now releasing financial results from the first three months of the year.
Jazz Pharmaceuticals reveals financial results one year after GW Pharmaceuticals acquisition
In February 2021, Dublin-based firm Jazz Pharmaceuticals announced its acquisition of GW Pharmaceuticals, developer of the UK’s only licensed cannabis-based medicines, Sativex and Epidiolex.
In its financial results for the first quarter of 2022, the firm reported that its net product sales of Epidiolex increased by 6 per cent to $157.9 million in 1Q22 compared to the same period in 2021, on a proforma basis.
Epidiolex is now commercially available and fully reimbursed in four European markets: United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain, with an anticipated launch in France in 2022. The company said it has made “significant progress” on its European rollout with launches in Spain, Italy and Switzerland in the third quarter of 2021 and Ireland and Norway in the first quarter of 2022.
The Company expects to initiate a Phase 3 pivotal trial of Epidiolex for Epilepsy with Myoclonic-Atonic Seizures (EMAS), the fourth target indication for Epidiolex, in the first half of 2022.
Khiron Life Science achieves 240 per cent sales volume growth in the UK
Toronto-based international medical cannabis company Khiron Life Sciences has reported a sales volume growth of 240 per cent in the UK market in Q1 2022 compared to the entire year of 2021.
In late 2021, Khiron opened its first European Zerenia Medical Cannabis Clinics in the UK, offering telemedicine service to patients around the country, and contributing to the company’s patient acquisition and retention growth.
“[Our] KHIRON 20/1 THC-predominant strain is one of the best-selling medically prescribed products in the UK market,” Franziska Katterbach, President of Khiron Europe, said. “In Q1 2022, we expect to surpass our first 1 million CAD in revenues in the UK, and as we expand our portfolio, and increase our patient base, Khiron will consolidate its market leadership within the country.
“In 2021, Europe accounted for 33 per cent of Khiron’s medical cannabis revenues, at more than 1.5 million CAD. In Q1 2022 and beyond, Europe will represent over 50 per cent of Khiron’s cannabis revenues.”
MGC Pharma selling cannabis-based epilepsy drug into the UK through new distribution agreement
Australian firm MGC Pharmaceuticals reported sales of $625k in the first quarter of 2022 The majority of sales came from the Australian market, but the company said it is making further inroads into the European market.
In its March 2022 quarterly financial results, MGC Pharma highlighted a new strategic EU and UK distribution agreement for its epilepsy medication CannEpil and Dementia treatment CogniCann. The agreement was signed with “at home” medicine supplier, Sciencus Rare and will initially focus on four EU countries and the UK. An additional distribution partner, PCCA, will assist in selling Cann Epil into the UK.
In the report, MGC said it is “confident that these new European partners, along with a substantial presence in both Ireland and Australia, will contribute significantly to the MGC phytocannabinoid revenue stream for the remainder of 2022 and beyond”.
Following its listing on the London Stock Exchange in February 2021, MGC Pharma last month appointed London based CFO, Angela-Marie Graham. The appointment is part of its business strategy to establish a corporate office in the UK to support its European operations.
Aurora reports increased revenue in the UK market amidst net loss of $1 billion
Canada-based international cannabis company, Aurora Cannabis reported net revenue of $50.4 million in the period ending 31 March, down 17% sequentially but up 8 per cent compared to the prior year period.
Aurora said its international medical revenue hit $14.6 million, up 55 per cent year over year but down 26 per cent sequentially. The company is currently selling medical cannabis products in seven EU countries: Germany, Malta, Poland, Czech Republic, UK, Denmark and France.
The company stated that this decrease was due to the previous quarter including $8.5 million in net sales to Israel as part of a supply agreement. Excluding the Israeli market, its net international medical sales increased sequentially by 29 per cent, driven by markets including the UK, Germany and Poland.
In the UK, Aurora’s revenues increased by 60 per cent compared to last year’s first quarter. The company said “growth was driven by a rapid increase in patient numbers as more evidence has come out and more physicians prescribe cannabis”.
Despite growth in Europe, the firm reported a net loss of more than $1 billion, up by more than $160 million in the same quarter last year. It said the loss was primarily a result of increased pricing pressures and the continued impact of Covid-19. The company announced yesterday that it would be closing its Aurora Sky facility in Edmonton, Canada where it employs 13 per cent of its workforce.
Curaleaf sees small dip in revenue compared to Q4 2021 but celebrates year-on-year growth of 20 per cent
Curaleaf International, one of Europe’s major vertically integrated cannabis companies, reported a 2 per cent dip in revenue compared to the previous quarter but has seen a year on year growth of 20 per cent. Curaleaf produces two ranges of medical cannabis flower for patients in the UK.
Highlights from its first quarter of 2022 include the addition of 11 new retail dispensaries in the US, bringing its total number of locations to 1128, the acquisition of Arizona-based cannabis operator Bloom Dispensaries and the launch of a new product in Florida.
Following its entry into New Jersey’s recently legalised recreational cannabis market, Boris Jordan, Executive Chairman, said Curaleaf’s month-over-month growth from March has boosted confidence in its ability to hit full year revenue guidance of $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion.
“Given renewed optimism surrounding federal banking reform, a record-breaking 4/20, the exciting launch last month of New Jersey adult-use sales, and the prospect of New York following suit, 2022 is shaping up to be another milestone year,” Jordan said.
STENOCARE expands into the UK market: financial results indicate “a strong start for 2022”
Following its recent expansion into the UK medical cannabis market in February 2022, Danish producer of medical cannabis products STENOCARE reported that its net sales more than doubled compared to the fourth quarter of 2021.
In March, the company had three of its medical cannabis oil products approved for use in the UK. STENOCARE said it considers the current timing to be good given that industry analysts have projected that the UK will become one of Europe’s largest markets in five years. Delivery of the first products to the UK market is expected in the second quarter of 2022.
By the end of the year, the company said its expected sales run rate is set at 15 to 20 million DKK (approximately £1.7 to £2.3 million), up from total sales in 2021 of 1.9 million DKK. The majority of the uptake in sales is expected to materialise in Q3 and Q4 2022.
Expanding the full digitisation of COAs in the cannabis supply chain
Lucid Green has announced three new partnerships to support the digitisation of certificates of analysis (COA).
Lucid Green has partnered with with CannaSafe, Cannalysis, and LabLynx to bring COA digitisation to over 400 labs across the US.
The intelligent UPC platform, Lucid Green has entered into partnerships with the cannabis testing labs and lab information systems (LIMS), building on its existing partnerships with Confident Cannabis and Sonoma Lab Works.
A digital COA reveals much more information to the consumer and brands gain more insight into how their products are being consumed, enabling them to modify offerings to best suit the needs of their consumers.
Co-founder and CEO of Lucid Green, Larry Levy, commented: “Lucid Green is committed to increasing trust and transparency at every point of the cannabis supply chain and with consumers.
“By expanding our partnerships with cannabis testing lab systems, we are cutting time and money inefficiencies, while ultimately giving consumers additional information to allow them to have a better cannabis experience.
“This industry is not growing because stoners are smoking more weed. It’s growing because your spouse, neighbour, parents are beginning to see the benefits of using cannabis and want more information to feel confident about and inform their experience.”
Digital COAs that reflect full lab test results, including terpenes and cannabinoids, do not currently exist in the industry. As a result, point-of-sale, online menuing and ecommerce platforms are only receiving basic information that’s captured as part of the track and trace system.
This limited data set reinforces the current purchasing behaviour which is fixated on THC levels and basic classifications like Sativa, Indica or hybrid.
Lucid Green is also modernising the cannabis industry with LucidIDs – QR codes that make the cannabis supply chain more efficient by allowing for true truck-to-shelf inventory intake, reducing manual labor and human errors and eliminating data cleanliness issues.
Curaleaf appoints Matt Darin as new CEO
Curaleaf’s current CEO Joe Bayern will launch and run a new division of Curaleaf.
International provider of consumer cannabis products, Curaleaf has appointed Matt Darin as Chief Executive Officer as exiting CEO Joe Bayern prepares to launch and run a new division of Curaleaf.
Curaleaf has announced that Matt Darin has stepped into the role of Chief Executive Officer at the international cannabis company, effective yesterday (9 May). As a founder of the Chicago-based cannabis company Grassroots, Darin was a first entrant in some of the United States’ key cannabis markets, including Illinois and Pennsylvania. Since joining Curaleaf in July 2020, he led the central US region which the company said is its largest region by footprint and revenue. In 2021 he added the southeast region to his responsibilities, helping increase Curaleaf’s market share by 55%.
The announcement was made in conjunction with the company’s quarterly earnings call, during which Curaleaf reported first quarter revenue with year-over-year revenue growth of 20% to $313 million, and year-over-year adjusted EBITDA growth of 16% to $73 million with operating cash flow of $57 million.
“I firmly believe we are building the best team in cannabis and I’m energized and humbled to lead Curaleaf at this pivotal moment,” Darin said in a statement. “We’ve built the foundation to continue to be the industry leader for the long term with a focus on operational excellence in every aspect of our business. We are leveraging the power of our 131 highly productive dispensaries and the accelerating distribution of our brands in 2,200 wholesale accounts throughout the U.S. I’m grateful to the board for their confidence in me as we move to the next phase of our journey.”
Curaleaf’s current CEO Joe Bayern will launch and run a new division of Curaleaf developing a new consumer packaged goods (CPG) based business model while working closely with Darin during the transition period through the second quarter. Executive Charman Boris Jordan said the company is “incredibly grateful” for Bayern’s tenure as CEO stating that he brought the firm into a “new way of working and thinking strategically as a CPG company”.
“I’m thrilled to begin this new chapter with Curaleaf,” Bayern said. “Working with this team has been an amazing ride and we’re just getting started. I’m deeply grateful to Boris, Joe Lusardi, the board, and every team member at Curaleaf; I am proud of what we’ve built together, and I know that our new venture will be another strong asset in Curaleaf’s undisputed leadership of our exciting industry.”
Boris Jordan added: “This move positions us well on several fronts; we will benefit from Matt’s proven track record of building winning teams and cannabis industry experience, and Joe Bayern’s extensive experience driving CPG strategy to launch our new division. I have the utmost confidence that this change is the natural next step in Curaleaf’s journey as the leading global cannabis company serving both the adult use and health and wellness markets. In fact, we’ve never been more bullish about our future.”
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