Cannabis investment firm iAnthus officials announced the Toronto- and New York-based company had snapped up the assets and intellectual property of Breckenridge’s Organix LLC for nearly $4.4 million. Pictured: Marcelo Vazquez, a marijuana grower, checks the leaves of his marijuana plants, on the outskirts of Montevideo, Uruguay in December 2013. (Matilde Campodonico, Associated Press file)

Multinational firm with roots in Canada makes moves into Colorado cannabis

iAnthus Capital Holdings Inc., which already has presence in three states, acquires real estate and intellectual property of Breckenridge's Organix LLC for nearly $4.4 million

iAnthus Capital Holdings Inc., a multinational company formed to provide financing and business services to U.S. cannabis operations, has made its first deal in Colorado.

Earlier this week, iAnthus officials announced the Toronto- and New York-based company had snapped up the assets and intellectual property of Breckenridge’s Organix LLC for nearly $4.4 million. The deal includes the entirety of Organix’s real estate holdings — a 12,000-square-foot grow facility in Denver and equipment — as well as brands and other intellectual property.

What the transaction doesn’t include is Organix’s cannabis inventory and licenses to manufacture and sell marijuana, officials said. Those instead will land in the hands of Bellflower LLC.

State business records show that Bellflower, registered in November, has the same principal street address of iAnthus’ U.S. headquarters in Midtown East Manhattan. Hadley Ford, iAnthus’ co-founder and chief executive officer, said Bellflower will not be owned by iAnthus and will be run by a Colorado resident and in accordance with state laws.

Officials for Organix declined to comment on the transactions, which still need the blessing of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, but confirmed that operations will “continue to be business as usual at Organix for the near future.”

A spokesman for MED said Wednesday that his office hadn’t yet received the change of ownership application.

The Cannabist spoke with Ford about iAnthus’ business plans, the Organix deal and future expectations. Here’s a snapshot:

Entry into legal cannabis

Ford’s professional history is rooted mostly in the financial services and health care sectors. He worked for Fidelity in the back-half of the 1980s and Goldman Sachs in the ’90s, headed up Bank of America’s technology efforts, and also led a cancer treatment company called ProCure Treatment Centers that uses proton radiation therapy.

When looking for the next opportunity, Ford got a call from Randy Maslow, a former Goldman Sachs colleague who went on to work at technology-focused firms such as XO Communications and Internet Gaming Entertainment.

“I was expecting to hear ones and zeroes, and instead he said the next big thing is cannabis,” Ford said.

Ford’s brother and sister were in the cannabis business — running operations in New Mexico and Vermont, respectively — so the idea and industry weren’t completely foreign.

On iAnthus’ formation

Ford draws a parallel between the cannabis industry and a local, high-end restaurant: It’s a potentially lucrative investment opportunity, but there are unique limitations. In cannabis, those are notably the inability for interstate commerce, lacking ability for copyright protections and issues with banking access.

“It’s a weird situation where entrepreneurs were given an opportunity to proceed forward in a great growth market, but they didn’t have money and they didn’t have advisers to help create great growth companies,” he said.

That’s where iAnthus could come in, he said.

To finance others, iAnthus needed capital of its own — funds secured by going to the Canadian public markets (CSE: IAN). The cash would be supplemented with business knowledge from Ford and colleagues with backgrounds in financial services, technology and management.

“We’re not in the business of manufacturing and selling cannabis,” Ford said. “What we do is provide the turnkey solution set for great operators.”

That toolbox includes the likes of sale-leasebacks, loan facilities, intellectual property, technology and consulting services.

Organix and Bellflower and more

Bellflower LLC, which could own Organix’s cannabis inventory and licenses in a deal worth $300,000, will be run by a Colorado resident and conducted in accordance with the state’s laws, Ford said, adding that iAnthus will not have an ownership stake in Bellflower as it does not want to run afoul of the Cole Memo that established guidelines for federal marijuana enforcement.

Organix’s operators will remain in place, but are not contractually bound to continue with the business, he said.

Additionally, iAnthus is setting up two more limited liability companies — Scarlet Globemallow LLC and Bergamot Properties LLC — to provide branding, marketing, financing, equipment leasing, real estate and other services to Bellflower and potentially more Colorado cannabis companies, officials said.

The purchase price of the Organix transaction nearly matches the Breckenridge dispensary’s projected sales of $4.4 million for this year, iAnthus officials noted in the announcement. Organix is estimated to have a 40 percent market share in the Colorado ski town of Breckenridge, officials said.

The model iAnthus hopes to apply in Colorado and already has in states including Massachusetts, Vermont and New Mexico could work in other well-regulated markets such as Rhode Island, Oregon and Washington, Ford said. He said iAnthus is in discussions with companies across the United States and hopes to complete several similar deals in the next 12 months.

The future federal landscape

While a lot of attention has been directed toward attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions’, R-Ala., and disparaging remarks he has made about marijuana users and legalization, Ford sees some silver linings. Some of the members of president-elect Donald Trump’s transition team have favorable positions toward legalization, he said, noting actions taken by New York Rep. Chris Collins and entrepreneur Peter Thiel, he said.

Additionally, Trump, transition team members and nominees have vocally supported states’ rights.

“I just think the incoming administration has items much higher on the list than stirring up the hornets’ nests of states’ rights and people’s will,” he said.