Gage opens second Cookies location in Kalamazoo while SKYMINT releases infused Moscow Mule

Detroit-based Gage Cannabis, the vertically-integrated and soon to be publicly traded cannabis corporation led by former Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton, last week opened its second Cookies-branded provisioning center in Michigan.

Founded in 2012 in Northern California by rapper Berner and cultivation partner Jigga, Cookies dispensaries traverse internationally from Tacoma to Tel Aviv. Popular strains include Cereal Milk and Gary Payton, named for the former NBA point guard also known as “the glove”.

The Kalamazoo location is one of 13 provisioning centers Gage operates in Michigan, along with 20 Class C grow licenses and three processing facilities. 

In January, Gage raised $50 million in a Reg A, Tier Two financing round led by New York-based cannabis investor JW Asset Management.  

The Cookies and Gage cannabis combo is not the only notable nugget involving Michigan operators and cool brands. 

Michiganders seeking a little marijuana in their mule this week can also rejoice as Dimondale-based Skymint Brands on March 3 celebrated National Moscow Mule Day by announcing the availability of Shorts Mule Beer gummies inspired by a local brewery.   

Talent acquisition was the purpose of Verano’s AltMed deal last year, says CEO George Archos

When Chicago-based multistate cannabis operator Verano Holdings announced plans to join forces with Florida-based AltMed last November en route to going public last month, it wasn’t just to have access to cultivation and multiple dispensaries in Florida and a toe-hold in Arizona. 

As CEO and co-founder George Archos explained this week in an audio interview published by New Cannabis Ventures, the company identified a need to expand its “operational bandwidth”.

Specifically, explained Archos, it is easier to acquire talent with particular skill-sets specific to the scaleable cultivation of distribution of cannabis in multiple states right now that it is to develop it. 

“It’s not very easy to hire talented people from the cannabis industry into your company,” he said. “This is a very nascent industry and there are not that many individuals that have deep knowledge on operating a facility.”

As for the $80 million raised last month from private institutional investors, as well as the new currency it has while being publicly traded in Canada, Archos said Verano’s acquisition strategy is to double down on the 14 states in which it currently operates. This includes adding to its Arizona holdings with the recent purchase of four dispensaries and 20,000 square feet of cultivation in Arizona.

In the Midwest, after the $37.5 million acquisition of Chicago-based The Herbal Care (THC) dispensary and a “plus one” recreational dispensary, Verano is now fully stocked up in its home state with the maximum 10 retail locations. Verano also operates one dispensary and through Verano MO LLC has ties to one dispensary license in St. Joseph Missouri.

The company is also “about to be live” in Massachusetts and is now operating “three of the busiest stores in PA.

Women’s Business Development Center and Gromentum offer training programs to Illinois social equity entrepreneurs

While there remains no visibility as to when Illinois will award retail, craft grow and infusion licenses to socially equity applicants, two Chicago-based organizations are offering business education programs to cannabis entrepreneurs.

The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) is currently accepting applications for an 8-week virtual business cohort that will begin on March 17. The “joint initiative” between the WBDC and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, will be facilitated by attorney and crowdfunding entrepreneur Florence Hardy. Spaces also remain for qualified entrepreneurs to join an upcoming cohort facilitated by Chicago-based cannabis business accelerator GROmentum Lab. Founded by former BMO Harris Bank vice president Amy Nathan, GROmentum is like Techstars, with its aim to provide access to capital and professional development resources to entrepreneurs from economically underserved areas. Its advisors include serial cannabis entrepreneur Kara Wright, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago Chief Inclusion Officer Robert Johnson and longtime venture capitalist and founding Nutrasweet executive Thomas Churchwell.

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.