National Post (National Edition)



Cannabis companies with their sights on an expanding global market are still finding it makes financial sense to keep Canada as their home base.

Canna Pharma Inc., for example, whose founders' native Turkey strictly limits marijuana use, is growing through acquisitio­ns and ventures in the U.S., Jamaica, Portugal and Abu Dhabi. But even though it plans to sell extracts around the world, it's keeping its headquarte­rs in Toronto, where the company was founded in 2019.

That's because Canada's early legalizati­on of cannabis has resulted in financial support that's not available anywhere else, said Okan Altug, Canna Pharma's cofounder, a former investment banker in Istanbul. In addition to access to financial services, cannabis-related companies can list on Canada's exchanges, and it's easier for them to raise funds. That's just not possible in the U.S., where cannabis is still illegal on the federal level.

All in all, no other country offers the same package to fuel CannaPharm­a's aspiration­s. In one year, the company has reached a valuation of US$37 million and attracted venture capital funds and individual investors from the Netherland­s and Turkey, Altug said.

“We want to grow in everything cannabis,” Altug said in an interview.

Another example of a company with global aspiration­s choosing Canada as home base is British Columbia-based Silverpeak Life Sciences Uruguay, which produces cannabis in the South American nation. The company seeks to raise US$20 million by early next year, which could be the last round of private funding before a public offering, according to chief executive Jordan Lewis.

Clever Leaves, meanwhile, a marijuana grower that went public through a combinatio­n with a special-purpose acquisitio­n corporatio­n, was formed under British Columbia law, even though it's headquarte­red in New York and most of its employees are in Colombia.

While the bulk of its operations are elsewhere, Clever Leaves wants to remain Canadian, chief executive Kyle Detwiler said in an interview. There's a clear benefit to this: Canadian companies can list on U.S. exchanges because they're not violating U.S. law against dealing in controlled substances.

So Clever Leaves can trade on the Nasdaq. Ironically, if the company was U.S.-based, it wouldn't be able to do this, or attract as many U.S. investors.

Pot prospects are looking up in the U.S., which is seen as much closer to decriminal­izing cannabis with the incoming administra­tion of president-elect Joe Biden. But for now, CannaPharm­a still sees the path to wealth generation through Canada.

“Canada, at first glance, is the backyard of the U.S., and it is easier to grow in the backyard,” he said.

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