Ascend IPO; Verano acquisition; GTI debt deal; Red White and Bloom officially in Sunshine State; Skymint’s sale-leaseback to Innovative Industrial Properties

Ascend Wellness Holdings / Instagram

Ascend Wellness Holdings’ Barry, Ill. cultivation facility.

Each month Grown In reports significant Midwestern cannabis fundraising transactions. Have a news tip on a private pot transaction? Email brad@grownin.com.

Ascend’s $80 million IPO expected to close this week

New York-based Ascend Wellness Holdings, which operates a cultivation facility and eight dispensaries in Illinois along with seven provisioning centers in Michigan, announced the pricing of an $80 million initial public offering last week. 

The company, which also operates in Ohio, Massachusetts, and New Jersey and has a pending deal to acquire MedMen’s New York-based operations, is scheduled to become publicly traded on the Canadian Stock Exchange May 4.

Since its founding in 2018, Ascend, according to Crunchbase, raised nearly $200 million in funding from private investors, which include Chicago-based venture firm Salveo Capital and family office V. Gastevich Investments.

Valuations for U.S.-based cannabis operators with shares publicly traded in Canada are nearly four times higher today than they were one year ago at this time. Ascend’s presence in multiple states with newly established and highly regulated medical and adult-use programs is attractive to investors. 

Chicago-based multistate operators Green Thumb Industries (GTI), Cresco Labs and Verano Holdings all run similar pot stock playbooks that focus on establishing or acquiring licensed cultivation, manufacturing and retail operations in states with large populations and few competitors. 

“It’s no surprise to see Ascend go public given their presence in northeast states,” said Morningstar analyst Kris Inton, who covers GTI and Wakefield, Mass.-based Curaleaf. 

Cannabis legalization has so far not been a priority of President Joe Biden’s new administration, but Inton notes that companies with pot portfolios in the right states “are from a growth perspective doing just fine.”

“The distracting thing is everybody’s focused on what will happen in terms of federal law,” he said. “But U.S. operators will see more organic growth as more states legalize.”

Yet federal banking normalization legislation remains in limbo. Inton says limitations in accessing capital markets is “hindering” further growth.

“From a clarity perspective, it will help to be legal,” he said. “There is a lot of institutional investment still sitting on the sidelines.”

Ascend entered the Midwest in 2018 when it acquired Springfield, Ill.-based HCI Alternatives, which included a Barry, Ill.-based cultivation facility and four “Illinois Supply and Provisions” dispensaries. It operates seven Michigan Supply and Provisions retail locations as well. Last year, Ascend acquired multiple independent Illinois-based dispensaries and with eight dispensaries is two retail locations shy of the maximum 10 in Illinois.

In February, the company announced plans to acquire 87 percent of MedMen’s New York operations, which include a cultivation and manufacturing facility in Utica as well as four retail locations, for $73 million. 

An earlier version of this article incorrectly noted Ascend operates the maximum 10 dispensaries in Illinois. The company currently operate eight dispensaries.

Verano commits $175 million to acquire two Pennsylvania operators

Eyeing key cannabis assets in the Keystone State, Chicago-based Verano Holdings committed $175 million in cash and stock, as well as additional earn-out incentives, to acquire Pennsylvania-based operators Agri-Kind and Agronomed Biologics. 

Agri-Kind operates a 62,000 square-foot cultivation and processing facility. Agronomed gives Verano access to an additional cultivation facility as well as six dispensaries. 

In March, Verano announced it would acquire The Healing Center and its three Pittsburgh area dispensaries for $110 million in cash and stock.

Green Thumb Industries raises $217 million in senior debt financing

Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries on April 30 announced it had secured $217 million in senior debt financing. The company said it would use proceeds from the financing to retire senior secure debt, working capital and acquisitions.

“History has taught us that the winners in new industries are those with the lowest cost of capital and the strongest balance sheets,” said GTI Founder and CEO Ben Kovler in a statement.

Red White & Bloom closes acquisition of Acreage Holdings’ Florida operations

Toronto-based Red White and Bloom, which bills itself as the largest operator in Michigan with 25 retail locations and more than 500,000 square feet of cultivation space, on April 28 closed its $60 million cash and stock acquisition of Acreage Florida Inc. 

Included in the deal is an 11,000 square foot cultivation facility and eight retail locations. Acreage Holdings Inc. continues to operate two retail dispensaries in Illinois.

Red White & Bloom is still waiting for the state of Illinois to approve its $40 million acquisition of a 24,000 square foot cultivation facility currently owned by nonprofit Shelbyville County Community Service. 

Last December, Red White & Bloom said it intends to use Shelbyville’s cultivation license in an alternate 3.6 million hemp cultivation facility it operates in Granville, Illinois. Multiple incumbent Illinois medical operators remain sceptical that Red White and Bloom would receive approval from the state to relocate cultivation operations outside of Shelbyville’s BLS region. The Granville facility is in a region currently occupied by Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries.

“I can’t understand the thesis that says Red White and Bloom will be able to relocate something that was in the statute,” said competitor Jeremy Unruh, senior vice president with Chicago-based Pharmacann. 

Innovative Industrial Properties acquires Skymint facility for $15.6 million

San Diego-based real estate investment trust Innovative Industrial Properties (IIP) on April 19 acquired a 175,000 square foot industrial facility in Windsor, Michigan from Ann Arbor-based Skymint Brands for $15.6 million. 

IIP plans to invest in additional $14.4 million in the facility to build cultivation operations, which it will lease back to Skymint. This is the eighth Skymint facility acquired by IIP in recent years for, inclusive of capital upgrade commitments, $57.6 million.