The blooming medical cannabis market has precipitated a series of acquisitions for MMJ (ASX: MMJ), the ASX-listed biotech company that is wheeling and dealing towards medical cannabis commercialisation in both Canada and Australia.
The company has gone ahead with its second acquisition in as many days after it invested C$700,000 (A$714,000) in exchange for a 12.7% shareholding in privately-held Bien Ventures Ltd, a Canadian intellectual property, branding and licensing company. MMJ acquired 2.8 million common shares in Bien at CAD$0.25 per share.
Bien is currently focused on commercialising a series of formulations and brands of soluble, odourless and flavourless “micro-dosed CBD and THC powders” that can be added to any beverage or food by consumers.
The powders are effectively natural food additives that can be used in a variety of food preparation styles thereby making the product amenable to multiple markets and consumer preferences.
Bien has reported that final testing of its formulations is currently underway with a market launch expected to be made “in the second half of 2018 at 30-50 dispensaries across California” in the US.
One of Bien’s key differentiators and what MMJ expects to minimise on various licensing and regulatory costs is the fact that Bien is not registered as a cannabis company, and neither does it market itself as such.
Bien is led by Zack Lister, one of Canada’s most successful young entrepreneurs, who co-founded Well Juicery in 2014, Canada’s largest cold-pressed juice company based in Calgary. The focus on healthy natural products helped the company attain rapid success amongst health-conscious consumers, especially among high-spending “workout enthusiasts”.
From Bien to cannabis
Bien brands itself as branding and licensing company that handles intellectual property rather than cannabis, without taking physical possession of any inventory.
The deft market positioning, therefore, allows Bien to commercialise a range of medical cannabis products as lifestyle health products that can be made available to a large addressable audience across the US and Canada.
In tandem with MMJ, Bien hopes to extend the brand further afield around the world as medical cannabis continue to soften in most developed countries such as Australia, Germany and the UK as the most foremost examples.
Bien aims to expand by building its own manufacturing, distribution and marketing business, subject to obtaining appropriate licenses in Canada from mid-2019 once cannabis edibles are legalised nationwide in Canada.
Acquiring Martha Jane
MMJ’s corporate activity is currently in overdrive with several simultaneous acquisitions and divestments occurring over the past month.
Just yesterday, MMJ announced it is growing its exposure to the medical cannabis sector after securing its first Australian medical cannabis investment via a 12.6% stake for A$600,000 in privately-owned Australian medical cannabis research start-up Martha Jane Medical.
Martha Jane Medical possesses an Australian medical cannabis research licence and is progressing other requisite medical cannabis licence applications as part of its plans to develop high-value cannabis-based products and medicines for global markets.
Meanwhile, MMJ also recently announced it had sold its shareholding in Cannabis Wheaton Income Corp (TSXV: CBW) and e-Sense Lab (ASX: ESE) – divestments which MMJ CEO Jason Conroy described as a means of “recycling capital for further investments by MMJ in the global cannabis sector.”