Marijuana Legalization Changes the Tune of Private Investors
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) It used to be that private equity firms, mutual fund managers and venture capitalists would hang up on telephone calls from Medical Marijuana Sciences (MMS), but since cannabis went legit in Colorado on January 1, the company's phones have been ringing off the hook.
"Wall Street players are paying attention to us because marijuana is the new gold rush," said Tim Matula, president of MMS.
Most of the people calling are from private equity firms and mutual funds in addition to venture capitalists and accredited investors seeking to invest in the company's proprietary technology.
"We've had a 90% increase in calls since the New Year and five or six offers for funding in the $10 million dollar range in the past three months," Matula told MainStreet.
MMS is one of many marijuana related companies that are receiving interest from private investors.
"A new crop of private equity and angel investment firms are specializing in ancillary marijuana companies," said David Downs, editor of the San Francisco Chronicle 's pot blog Smell The Truth. "The Arc View Group is pooling tens of millions of dollars to invest in companies that assist the marijuana business in technology, IT infrastructure, packaging, inventory, supply, etc. There's also Emerald Ocean Capital and Privateer, which are deep pocketed."
Emerald Ocean Capital declined to comment and calls to Arc View went unreturned.
"It's a business," said Rex Maceo, senior vice president and chief investment officer with Wilmington Trust, the investment advisory arm of M&T Bank in Atlanta. "Private equity firms want to know the marijuana company's cash flow, valuation and exit strategy as well as who the competition is. It's hard to figure out who the winner is going to be. Investors want to know if their investment is going to win regardless of how the industry shakes out."
As a wholly owned subsidiary of Nuvilex, MMS is researching the use of marijuana to treat cancer and other diseases.
But because MMS is not using cannabis in its traditional form, the company is not subject to the same SEC, IRS or federal scrutiny as a marijuana grower or dispensary.
"We do not employ the THC compounds contained in the plant based drug so we do not have the same legal obstacles that other marijuana companies have," said Ken Waggoner, CEO and president of Nuvilex.
Headquartered in Silver Spring, Md., MMS raised $4 million a year ago to pay for the company's late stage clinical trials through a series of accredited investors buying stock in Nuvilex.
"In fielding new offers, we're looking for the best deal we can get," Waggoner said. "We want to partner with a firm that understands what we are doing but we're not willing to give the company away."