The legal marijuana/cannabis industry is growing rapidly and involves thousands of firms across many different jurisdictions. Below I provide an overview of the different types of cannabis businesses and some examples for those who are new to the subject. Updates and suggestions for additions are welcome! Last Updated: July 9, 2022.
Types of Businesses
Cannabis businesses can be divided into two main groups – licensed businesses that “touch the plant” and ancillary businesses that support the licensed industry. Many people unfamiliar with the industry do not realize the size and impact of the industry’s ancillary businesses and the advantages that these firms have by not being subject to the same level of regulation.
Licensed Cannabis Businesses
The range of licensed businesses that directly handle cannabis varies by jurisdiction but generally includes Cultivators, Manufacturers, Retailers, Testers, Operators, and Delivery/Transportation services.
International and U.S. Multi-State Operators (MSO) – Aurora Cannabis (video of grow facility) (interview with former CCO Cam Battley) 4Front Ventures (6 states, CEO Leo Gontmakher), Acreage Holdings, CanopyGrowth/Tweed, Columbia Care (12 states plus DC), Cronos Group (5 continents, traded on Nasdaq) Cresco Labs (29 retail licenses in 6 states as of April 2021), Curaleaf (15 states, acquired Grassroots Cannabis), Chalice Brands (formerly Golden Leaf Holdings), Green Thumb Industries (GTI, Nov 2018 press release), Holistic Industries (7 States and Washington, DC under Liberty Brand), iAnthus Capital Holdings (11 states), Jushi (acquired Franklin Bioscience) MedMen Enterprises (7 states, Politico exposé from May 2020), Pharmacann (8 states, HQ in Illinois), Surterra Wellness/Parallel (FL, MA, TX), Terrascend (Canada/US/Europe), Terra Tech Corp, Tilray (Canada, Europe, Australia & New Zealand, Latin America), Trulieve (Florida and various other states, acquired Harvest Health). Here is one person’s depiction of the brands controlled by various MSOs (along with some anti-MSO commentary)
Note: Colorado companies and locations are noticeably absent from this list since until 2019 state regulation largely restricted out of state or public investment of licensed Colorado marijuana businesses
Cultivation Specialists – A few examples of many – Los Suenos Farms (Pueblo, Dope Magazine feature), Mahoney Greens (Washington Tier 3 Cultivator), ForwardGro (Maryland), Village Farms (Delta, British Columbia and other locations) and many others not listed here.
Extraction Specialists – A few examples of many – Essential Extracts is a company that has innovated a solventless extraction technique. Harmony Extracts is another prominent Colorado extract company. Purblebee‘s also has an extraction focus along with producing some end products. MediPharm Labs Corp. (Canada and Australia), Valens Company, 710 Labs (Colorado), Neptune Wellness Solutions.
- Various Products – Alien Labs, Ayr Wellness (Kynd, Levia, CannaPunch)
- Edibles – Well-known multi-state edibles companies include Wana Brands (Interview with CEO Nancy Whiteman, Inc Magazine Profile), Kiva Confections, Incredibles. Colorado edibles manufacturers include Sweet Grass Kitchen (acquired by LivWell in April 2020), Love’s Oven (5280 Magazine profile), Dixie Elixirs (acquired by M Brands in March 2020), Cheeba Chews, Coda Signature, Herve, MarQaha, Americanna (gummies) and High Tech Concentrates. More are discussed in this AskWonder discussion.
- Cannabis Beverages – Cannabis beverages are small but growing product segment. BDSA identified Keef Kola, Stillwater, Progressive Treatment Solutions, Select (Select Squeeze), Sprinkle, Levia, Cann as brands to watch in 2022 (article).
- Vapes – o.penVape and Pax are prominent manufacturers of vape products. Willie’s Reserve is a well-known product brand. In California, Bloom Farms.
Ancillary Cannabis Businesses
Ancillary businesses include Analytics/Technology, Marketing, Consulting, Construction, Packaging, Cultivation Supplies, R&D, and other types of firms that do not “touch the plant”.
Consulting Firms – Canna Advisors (HQ in Boulder, CO), CCI Deloitte (Canada), Denver Relief Consulting (MJ Business Magazine article), Ernst & Young Canada, Gateway Proven Strategies (GPS, founded in Denver in 2020 by Lawyer Bob Hoban), Global Go (HQ in Los Angeles), Medicine Man Technologies, MPG Consulting (economic consulting, based in Colorado), New Economy Consulting (Oregon), Siva (California multi-service firm), Panther Group
Financial Services & Holding/Operating Companies – These companies may operate some licensed businesses while also investing in, consulting and advising other operators. Acreage Holdings (which has John Boehner as a board member), Cannabis Wheaton Income (Canada), General Cannabis Corp (whole owner of Iron Protection Group, Chiefton apparel, Next Big Crop consulting), Ganja Capital Advisors, Green Sage Merchant Bank, Mazakali, Mjardin/Growforce, Pioneer Interests, Pineapple Express (California), Privateer Holdings, Procann Group, Rose Capital/BR Brands (investor in Dixie Elixirs), Sprott (Canada asset management), Forbes May 2017 Top Five Financial Leaders.
Law Firms & Lawyers – Colorado’s first two law firms specializing in cannabis law were Vicente Sedeberg, and Hoban Law Group, led by Bob Hoban. Vicente Sedeberg has played a major role in legalization efforts in a variety of states and Hoban Law Group has taken a prominent role in a variety of international markets and in the expansion of the legal hemp industry. Yahoo Finance article on origins of Hoban Law Group.
Other law firms with a cannabis practice or focus: McAllister Garfield, P.C, Tom Downey, Ireland Stapleton, Nick J. Richards (Tax Attorney), Zuber Lawler (Los Angeles), Kinner McGowan (Washington, DC), Kight Law/Kight on Cannabis, Trina Fraser – Brazeau Sellers (Canada), and Ballard Spahr (check out their Cannabis Law Tracker!)
Technology Companies – Adilas Systems, Baker Technologies, BryteMap, CannaBOS (back office solutions), Dutchie (which acquired GreenBits), Fyllo (which acquired Cannaregs), Eaze (Delivery app – California), Flowhub (point of sale – Colorado), Green Bits (point of sale – California), Jane Technologies, Leaflink (Cannainsider podcast transcript), METRC/Franwell (regulatory tracking in Colorado, Nevada and California), MJ Freeway (Colorado), Simplifya (Compliance software). CannaTech Analyst Harry Brelsford maintains a CannaTech Ecosystem Stack which provides a much more current and comprehensive collection of cannabis IT companies.
Other – Cannabrand (Marketing), CanopyBoulder (Incubator, Vimeo Channel of Videos), Cultivated Synergy (Shared workspace/events), LEVO Oil Infusion (Kitchen extraction/infusion device), Safe Harbor Banking Solutions, Scotts Miracle-Gro (Fertilizer), Vangst (HR services), Wurk (HR services), Your Green Contractor (Construction Services), KushCo Holdings/Kush Supply Co (Packaging), Advanced Nutrients (fertilizer/nutrition)
Bluebird Botanicals, Charlotte’s Web by the Stanley Brothers, CV Sciences (pharmaceutical and consumer CBD) Green Roads World, Hemplucid, Kazmira, Nuleaf Naturals, Pioneer Botanicals, Sauc. List of other CBD oil companies.
Tokken – Denverite profile, Westword profile – Changed name to Joust and now focusing on non-cannabis banking solutions, Le Habra Cares (California, raided by DEA), Preferred Organic Therapy – Denver area dispensary (Business Den news story), Sweet Leaf (formerly in Aurora, Federal Heights, Oregon, Westword article), Herbal Remedies (Denver), VIP Cannabis (raided by DEA, Denver Post news story), Five Colorado Dispensary chains that no longer exist (Westword, Aug 29, 2018). Vape and Play – Denver Social Consumption venue that went out of business after one month. Utopia Wellness (Downtown Denver, was never able to get an operating permit due to zoning challenges)
- The 25 Biggest Marijuana Companies in the World (Yahoo, August 2019)
- The Six Largest Dispensary Chains in Colorado
- 10 Largest Marijuana Stocks (Motley Fool, April 2018)
- Marijuana Business Daily Industry Directory (for ancillary firms)
- MED Licensed Facilities
- 5 Companies With the Biggest Buzz in the Marijuana Industry (Fortune, April 20, 2015)