Meet the 2014 MJINews Power Companies. These are 11 companies that will be dictating the shape and the direction of marijuana-based industries in the coming years.
Some are distinctly pure plays into the production and distribution of cannabis. Others have a broader focus into multiple industries, but could see huge new sources of revenue as legal marijuana markets grow and continue to build on a steady wave of mainstream acceptance by investors, physicians and consumers.
These companies have a distinct advantage of being first-movers at an intersection of industries that could see explosive growth in the next decade if the march towards broad-scale legalization continues. This list is alphabetical.
Operating out of Arizona, 4Front is a first mover in the area of consulting for cannabis business owners like dispensaries and other front-facing businesses. Its procedures are customized to suit the unique needs of companies in the area of medicinal and recreational cannabis products.
While the company can step in to provide temporary staffing services for functions like inventory management and operational best practices, its real competitive advantage is in the compliance business. The cumulative experience will have immense value if the industry expands as quickly as we believe it will. 4Front’s recent success in getting Las Vegas dispensaries approved for retail operations is a big nod to their expertise in navigating the regulatory gauntlet.
Apeks Supercritical builds fully automated subcritical and supercritical botanical oil extraction systems that use liquid CO2 as a solvent. CO2 is a clean, inert, nontoxic solvent and it is nonflammable. Systems are built to extract any botanical material, but 90 percent of Apeks’ business comes from the cannabis industry.
Apeks has successfully harnessed the explosive growth in the cannabis industry and has grown 150 percent every year for the past two years. Its recent revenue history: $700,000 in 2012, $3.2 million in 2013 and $8 million projected in 2014. These numbers speak to the superior quality Apeks has established and the company is poised to continue its impressive growth.
Dixie Elixirs & Edibles
After a public divorce of former subsidiary Red Dice Holdings with Medical Marijuana, Inc., last year, Dixie Elixirs gave up control of some product lines while choosing to retain and build what it hopes will be the first ubiquitous brand for THC-infused edibles, elixirs and other non-combustion marijuana delivery systems.
CEO Tripp Keber, to his credit, is an evangelist for both the brand and the industry, but it remains to be seen whether Dixie can navigate through some recent bad press about the nature and consistency of company controls around its products and packaging. Creating a brand in marijuana is dually challenging; you have to fight against public perception every step of the way, and also conform to the most stringent application of FDA requirements. Dixie will have to do both to reach its goal of mass retail distribution in the not-so-distant future.
Regardless of what you think about its stances and methods, there is no denying High Times’s place as the standard-bearer of the decriminalization and legalization movements. What started as an exercise in satire by a noted drug trafficker, Thomas Forcade, has contributed more net marijuana-based content to U.S. eyeballs than anyone else and by a ridiculous margin. As such, the High Times brand has both enormous opportunities and substantial responsibilities in the years ahead.
High Times’s contributions to the advancement of grow techniques, strain origins and consumer advocacy are undeniable. Whether they can parlay that into being the leading voice in the future—and continue reaping impressive rewards from it—remains to be seen.
Can a startup become the face of cannabis social media for the millennial set? MassRoots is out to answer the question, and so far it is saying “yes”; user growth has grown ten-fold in the past year. There is no revenue model in place currently, but if MassRoots continues to hold the keys to the audience that marijuana advertisers want to reach, the revenue will certainly come—just ask Facebook.
MassRoots has moved to Denver to stay plugged into the most progressive cannabis scene on the planet. Its users are engaged and ready to spend thousands of dollars per year on cannabis products, extending out from the base product to delivery systems, fashion and general lifestyle merchandise. But the face of its competition is the Mount Rushmore of social media, so CEO Isaac Dietrich and company know they will have to run fast and hard to maintain their lead.
MJ Freeway offers an exceptional business software platform specifically built for the complicated marijuana industry. Its business solutions provide seed-to-sale tracking modules for cultivators, manufacturers and retailers. The company also offers cultivation management for plants, yield tracking and processing management for infused-product manufacturers, as well as inventory control and point-of-sale at the retail side.
In an exclusive interview with MJINews, Jessica Billingsley, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of MJ Freeway, said the company has “more than doubled our top-line revenue growth year-over-year and year-to-date.”
Billingsley and co-founder Amy Poinsett have created a company that not only turned profitable in 2012, but also embodies sincere corporate values that enhance the identity and reputation of their company. MJ Freeway’s software platform and guiding philosophy are setting industry standards worth tracking.
O.penVAPE’s product line - centered around a discrete, compact vaporizing device - could signal a seismic shift in the way the majority of marijuana is consumed. So far, the Colorado-based company is doing a whole lot of things right: it offers lifetime guarantees and has deeply penetrated the discerning scene in Colorado for both medicinal patients and recreational users. The company’s cartridge/refill model is a time-tested route to financial success.
But looming on the horizon is the competitive threat from companies like Lorillard and Altria, who could stomp on the scene with impunity, should federal regulations become looser.
Steep Hill Halent
Steep Hill broke ground—and barriers—in 2007 with the first commercial marijuana analytics lab in the United States. Operating out of Oakland, CA, and co-founded by Stephen DeAngelo of the famous Harborside Health Center, Steep Hill Halent has taken its expertise to the forefront of analytics in the highly regulated markets in Colorado and Washington, and created on-site potency test equipment for consumers.
Steep Hill, and Harborside for that matter, has done as much as any firm in the country to advance the cause of legalization by treating medical marijuana distribution as an honest, serious business—one that needs standardization and a focus on safety before it will ever be truly accepted by mainstream society, the federal government, the medical community and investors.
To that end, Steep Hill Halent is building a treasure trove of valuable data based on close ties with longstanding dispensaries in northern California, dispensaries that count tens of thousands of registered patients as clients. Its dominant position in analytics lends weight to calls for increased medical research and a true knowledge base, two things that can only come with huge, consolidated sample sizes—territory where Steep Hill Halent has firmly planted its flag.
Surna may be a short-lived company, but it is long on both vision and confidence. CEO Tom Bollich, a co-founder of gamemaker Zynga, wants to bring “disruptive technology” to the business of growing marijuana. While the company seeks to be “GE of cannabis” via in-house R&D and strategic acquisition, in the meantime it has made just one acquisition (in the field of climate-controlled growing environments) and seen a 90 percent drop in their stock price this year.
Surna claims big-time savings in total energy costs for commercial growers, while also focusing on conservationist within the grow ecosystem. New product launches come out early next year; because we predict a rapid expansion of nationwide growing capacity in the coming years, the potential for Surna to be a disruptive force is strong—provided its products and management can deliver on energy-efficient claims.
Tweed wants to become the dominant brand for marijuana users in Canada, which has a national policy in place for approved medical patients. Between Canada Health estimates and MJINews research, the addressable market for Tweed starts at nearly $200 million, and it could cross a billion dollars annually within a few years.
There are already 13 licensed producers, and plenty more expected; Canada wants to see costs come down per gram, and having a multitude of competitors will do the trick. Tweed is out to show investors that a true brand can differentiate a product that may otherwise become commoditized. If it succeeds, Tweed should see success where others will certainly see struggles.
Based in the U.K., this pharmaceutical company holds a few distinct honors, such as having the largest market cap (currently $1.5 billion) of any company with a cannabis-based product, and bringing Sativex, the first cannabinoid product, to market for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Sativex is for sale in 26 countries outside the U.S., and combined with Epidiolex (for treatment of epilepsy) GW has two potential blockbuster drugs in a loaded pipeline.
GW Pharma is far and away the leader in cannabidiol-based medical research, and has received Fast Track designations in the U.S. for Sativex for late-stage cancer pain, and Epidiolex for pediatric epilepsy patients.
The surface has barely been scratched on CBD research and efficacy studies, and right now it is GW Pharma’s lead to lose.