These two iconic cannabis companies could disappear

Both were lofty symbols of the promise of the legal cannabis industry. Both were once led by an Adam and both made mainstream headlines. Now, as the cannabis world takes another major step toward mainstreaming, these two iconic cannabis companies could disappear. Both High Times and Medmen went bankrupt in April.

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As the cannabis industry enters a new era, both companies straddle the gap between the Wild West of weed and today's market price/stock price orientation. Early on, each became the darling of media attention and part of the conversation among the general population. Medmen's antics led to her being impaled on the hit series South Park. Both became regulars at Cheddar as thought leaders in the industry. High Times, the founder of the original Cannabis Cup, made high-profile deals, made a controversial “non-public” offering and, it looks like, expanded into dispensaries. Both are now waiting in court to see what happens to the companies and assets.

Photo courtesy of Medmen

Medmen launched in 2010 with co-founders Adam Bierman and Andrew Modlin. In 2018, MedMen West Hollywood opened as one of the first legal cannabis dispensaries in California. Hailed as the Apple Store of marijuana, their sleek design captured the feel of the new broader market and set the path for retailers seeking to attract a growing mainstream consumer. This resulted in an expansion that included an expensive store on 5th Avenue in New York City, greenhouse farming, a REIT, and lots of press. Things started to change when they went public with a reverse merger. Things took an ugly turn with a messy legal battle with the outgoing CFO, who was denounced by the Journal of the American Medical Association over their marketing, and things quickly went downhill. On March 11, 2024, it was reported by multiple sources that Medmen had ceased operations everywhere except San Diego and near LA International Airport. It was announced that the company is $411 million in debt and is awaiting the court's decision on its future.

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High Times was the leader of the marijuana movement, helping people learn, engage and get high. They taught people the value of medical marijuana and brought celebrities to the forefront of the movement. Then the 44-year-old magazine was sold for $42 million to an investor group led by Adam Levin and Los Angeles-based Oreva Capital. According to rumors, the founder's widow is still entitled to money from this deal. Levin claimed he could increase the company's value to hundreds of millions of dollars, but what followed was a chaotic, convoluted journey that left heartbroken investors. Multiple rounds of financing with varying valuations, a partial offering to the general public at $11 per share, canceled cannabis cups and a web of activities caused a stir. From a practical perspective, the site never really addressed the new legal market, but rather assumed that newcomers would immediately adopt the old culture. Instead, companies like Wana Brands lured them in with gummy bears called Calm. The movement continued and High Times tried to enter the pharmacy market. Now all assets are with a bankruptcy trustee and the fate of the legendary leader is unknown.

These are the offshoots of a rapidly growing, consumer-focused mainstreaming industry.

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