CULTIVATED: Square is getting into CBD, the FDA levels a stark warning against THC vapes, and more – Business Insider

cannabisAn employee holds a leaf of a medical cannabis plant at Pharmocann, an Israeli medical cannabis company in northern Israel January 24, 2019.REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Welcome to Cultivated, our weekly newsletter where we’re bringing you an inside look at the deals, trends, and personalities driving the multibillion-dollar global cannabis boom. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.

Happy Friday, 

Welcome to another edition of Cultivated. I spent much of the week chatting with folks from all over the cannabis industry at the Arcview Investor Forum, which has handily located seven floors below Business Insider’s headquarters.

I interviewed Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers on the main stage on Wednesday where our discussion touched on what it’s like to be one of the few female CEOs of a publicly-traded cannabis company, how she’s working to „inject diversity” into her board and throughout the company, as well as some more nuts-and-bolts stuff about the business.

Check out my top cannabis stories from this week below, including an exclusive report on dangerous chemicals in illicit vapes, Square jumping into the CBD industry, and a rundown of the key lessons startup CEOs learned while raising venture capital in the crazy cannabis industry.


Here’s what we wrote about this week:

A California cannabis lab tested counterfeit vapes and found high levels of dangerous chemicals including vitamin E, pesticides, and hydrogen cyanide

In a new report shared exclusively with Business Insider, California cannabis-testing lab CannaSafe found that out of 12 illicit vape cartridges tested, nine contained dangerously high levels of Vitamin E acetate. All of them contained pesticides.

Out of 104 legal vapes tested, none contained vitamin E acetate or banned pesticides, and all matched their THC label claims. 

Cannabis startup founders share 4 critical lessons they learned while raising money in the unique industry

Cannabis startups — both cannabis-tech and 'plant-touching’ — have to get creative to raise money since THC is federally illegal in the US. Most large venture funds still won’t touch the industry, so there’s a dearth of growth-stage capital, founders say.

Cannabis startup founders shared four key lessons for raising money in the unique industry with Business Insider. 

Square’s top lawyer explains what’s behind the company’s push into the trendy CBD space

Square is rolling out its full payment-processing platform to all CBD sellers in the US.

The company is opening up its platform to CBD sellers after it conducted a three-month „invite-only” beta program, which started in May, for a small group of CBD startups. 

Square is solving one of the biggest issues for CBD merchants, which often have to use high-risk payroll processors and pay exorbitantly high fees.

Capital raises, M&A activity, partnerships, and launches

  • PathogenDx, a DNA-based testing technology for the cannabis and hemp industries, closed a $7.5 million Series B round led by Entourage Effect Capital, Altitude Investment Management, and more.
  • Cresco Capital Partners announced its name change to Entourage Effect Capital. The firm is launching a new fund with an initial target of $150 million, managing partner Matt Hawkins told me on the sidelines of the Arcview conference. 
  • Canopy Growth purchased a 72% stake in Biosteel Sports, with a path to complete ownership. As part of the deal, Canopy and Biosteel will produce a CBD-infused beverage as soon as regulations permit.
  • Cannabis website Leafly has launched a super-cool new tool: The Leafly Cannabis Guide. Built by Harvard Neuroscience Ph.D. and Leafly data scientist Nick Jikomes, the tool breaks down the active compounds in cannabis — including the terpenes and cannabinoids — and puts it into a handy visualization tool so you can see exactly what’s in your strain. 
  • Vape company Dosist is launching a dose-controlled sublingual THC tablet. CEO Gunner Winston told me he saw a need in the market for micro-dosable, non-vape consumption methods. 

Executive moves

  • Ellen Deutsch, a former Haines executive, is joining Stem Holdings as COO.
  • Ex-NBA player Jamal Mashburn is joining Revolution Enterprises as an advisor to the board.
  • Former Aphria president Jakob Ripshtein is joining the Israel-based Seedo’s advisory board.
  • Nina Simosko, previously the CEO of NTT Innovation Institute Inc is joining the NASDAQ-listed Akerna Corp as Chief Revenue Officer.

Stories from around the web

Did I miss anything? Have a tip? Just want to chat? Send me a note at or find me on twitter @jfberke.  

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