Cresco inks landmark acquisition and more of the week’s top marijuana news (SLIDESHOW)

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Cresco Labs snaps up Origin House in a landmark deal, Ontario’s marijuana retailers open for business, two U.S. Senate heavyweights ask federal regulators to open financial services to the hemp industry – plus other important news from around the cannabis space.

Cresco inks $823M deal to purchase Origin House in landmark acquisition

Cresco Labs, a Chicago-based multistate operator, agreed to acquire Origin House, a Canadian distributor of branded cannabis products with a dominant presence in California, in a deal valued at $823 million. It is the largest acquisition in the U.S. of a publicly traded cannabis company.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Cresco’s acquisition gives the company huge exposure in the vital California market. It also marks a different strategic approach versus other multistate operators (MSOs) that have acquired MSOs to increase their geographical footprint. Cresco, by contrast, has focused on brands and distribution.

Trulieve gains 14-store advantage in Florida after settlement with state

In an out-of-court settlement, the Florida health department allowed medical marijuana retailer Trulieve to expand to 49 locations, 14 more than allowed by the current cap system established by a 2017 law that other MMJ retailers must abide by. Trulieve now has 27 dispensaries.

MJBizDaily takeaway: The settlement is good news for Trulieve but bad news for other Florida MMJ companies. By leaving the cap in place while letting Trulieve open 14 more stores than its rivals gives the Florida MMJ giant a significant edge. The question is how long will it last, as competitors that also had stores open before the cap – including Modern Health Concepts, Surterra and Knox Medical – may well ask to be exempted from the cap like Trulieve. “Without a doubt, I think they will,” said Jeffrey Sharkey, president of the Florida Medical Marijuana Business Association.

Walgreens to sell hemp-derived CBD products

Drugstore giant Walgreens is joining rival CVS in selling hemp-derived CBD products. Walgreens plans to bring products to shelves in 1,500 stores across nine states.

MJBizDaily takeaway: The Walgreens and CVS announcements are the strongest signals yet that mainstream retailers aren’t waiting on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to come up with rules for selling nonprescription CBD. Years of light enforcement from the FDA on CBD, combined with a proliferation of online CBD retailers, have emboldened retailers with large brick-and-mortar footprints to try to capture the CBD trend.

Ontario opens first regulated adult-use marijuana retail stores

The first 10 brick-and-mortar adult-use cannabis stores opened in Ontario – the last province in Canada to achieve the important milestone. Another 15 are slated to open by the end of the month, but that’s all for Canada’s largest market until at least December.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Industry officials celebrated the token development. Entrepreneurs eagerly await the next round of regulations that will allow the number of stores to grow to more than 500 – and hope the province pivots from a license lottery to a merit-based system.

Michigan regulators allow unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries to stay open

Owners of unlicensed medical cannabis retail stores in Michigan are breathing a sigh of relief after regulators allowed them to stay open for business past a March 31 deadline.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Allowing these dispensaries – totaling some 50 – to remain open will save thousands of dollars in lost sales, help to prevent product shortages and keep patients from seeking out medical cannabis elsewhere, including on the illicit market.

US senators to financial regulators: Give hemp farms access to banking

Sens. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, urged four U.S. regulatory agencies to open financial services to the hemp industry now that the plant is legal under the 2018 Farm Bill.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Banking problems persist for hemp businesses, despite the Farm Bill’s passage. The letters from McConnell and Wyden, who co-wrote the Hemp Farming Act, boosts the hemp industry’s chances of accessing capital and lending services before the 2019 planting season.

Colorado House panel approves marijuana home delivery

A Colorado House committee approved a bill that would allow home delivery of medical cannabis next year and recreational marijuana in 2021.

MJBizDaily takeaway: Home delivery – if passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis – could result in additional sales for existing marijuana businesses as well as new opportunities for MJ transporters.

California delays cannabis social equity funding

California regulators hit pause on plans to dole out $10 million in grant money for cities and counties that are implementing social equity programs aimed at getting minorities and victims of the war on drugs more involved in the marijuana industry

MJBizDaily takeaway: The move could mean more delays in localities issuing social equity business permits, which have already been held up for months in cities such as Los Angeles, where qualified license applicants have been clamoring for the opportunity to enter the industry. While the state gave no reason for its delay, only a few cities even have social equity programs. Aside from L.A., San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland and Long Beach have such programs.

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