It was just a matter of time before the cannabis industry began luring in a group of unusual suspects to cash in on a plant going legal in Canada and parts of the United States.
Earlier this year, former House Speaker John Boehner, who was once hell-bent against cannabis reform, tossed his prohibitionary way of thinking in the trash to join a medical marijuana company. Just last week, Molson Coors, the second largest brewer in North America, announced that it was getting into the ganja game alongside Constellation Brands, maker of Corona, to cash in on legal marijuana however possible. Now, former Wrigley Gum president and CEO William Wrigley Jr. has signed on as one of the top dogs for a flourishing medical marijuana operation with roots in Florida and Texas.
It was announced this week that Wrigley, a man who sold his family’s legendary gum empire of to Mars Inc. a decade ago, has been named chairman of the board at Surterra Wellness. A report from Bloomberg indicates that Wrigley, who goes by the name Beau, was the guiding force behind a $65 million fundraising campaign for the company. Surterra, which manufactures a variety of cannabis products including transdermal patches, oils and sprays, and also operates a number of dispensaries in the Sunshine State, has banked $100 million in capital since its launch three years ago.
Wrigley is said to have signed on with Surterra last September, making the decision to join the medical marijuana scene after it seemed the Trump administration had no real intention of cracking down on states that moved forward with legalization in spite of federal law.
But it was the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant that Wrigley credits for his involvement with the company. He told the Chicago Tribune that he has not “been this excited about a business in a very long time.” Medical marijuana “can give people a normal life, let them go to school and be a normal member of society,” he said. “It is incredible to craft that opportunity in an industry that is starting from scratch.”
The new chairman of the board, who has not yet become a cannabis investor himself, definitely has the business expertise to lead Surterra Wellness into the realm of powerhouse operations. When he was put in charge of his family’s confections company after his father died in 1999, he took the company up a notch by leading acquisitions involving Altoids and Life Savers. He eventually sold the company for $23 billion.
It is Wrigley’s experience, not to mention the symbolism behind his involvement that Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann believes will take the company to the next level. “It’s great to have verification from a well-known name brand and business leader that we are indeed a professional industry and the industry has grown up, so to speak,” he said.
Although Surterra is known for its position in the world of medical marijuana, the company does not plan to hang around this sector exclusively. Wrigley told Bloomberg that the goal is to get into the domestic recreational market, which is currently pulling in billions of dollars a year. This is likely a solid move considering that more states that started with medical marijuana programs are pushing forward to legalize weed for recreational use. As Cannabis Now reported last month, for better or worse, medical marijuana programs are struggling to survive in markets where recreational reefer is sold. In almost every state with both a medical and recreational law on the books, sales in the medical sector have taken a significant dive.
But Surterra is also on the move to develop more medical marijuana products. The latest round of funding will be used to research cannabis treatments specifically for anxiety and chronic pain. Of course, expanding into new territories is on the horizon in order to truly capitalize on the U.S. market. Federal law prevents a shared regulated market in the way that is done for the alcohol and pharmaceutical trades. Therefore, cannabis operations, like Surterra, must run their operations in accordance with the respective state laws. Bergmann says the company is considering a move to Illinois.
We expect to see more of these business unions happening in the future. Some of the latest data from Grand View Research shows the global cannabis market could hit $150 billion by 2025. And everyone seems to want a piece.
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