Cannabis stocks have been volatile throughout 2022 and continue into 2023. Two of the industry’s established operators are responding with dramatic restructuring. Akerna Corp. is exiting the cannabis space entirely while Curaleaf Holdings Inc. is closing operations in three states.
Akerna, a Denver-based cannabis technology firm, is merging with cryptocurrency mining company Gryphon Digital Mining. The merger is an all-stock deal allowing Gryphon to list publicly on the Nasdaq under Akerna’s ticker (KERN). When the deal is complete, Akerna Corp. will take the name Gryphon Digital Mining Inc.
Jessica Billingsley, Akerna’s CEO, will act as one of seven members of the board of directors. Akerna has been selling off assets throughout January, starting with the sale of 365 Cannabis, followed by its flagship product MJ Platform. It also sold Lead Data Systems and Ample Organics in a cash deal totaling $4 million cash. The company’s stock fell 30.9% after the announcement on Friday.
In a similar contraction, multi-state operator Curaleaf is closing cultivation and production facilities in California, Colorado, and Oregon. It is also enacting a 10% reduction in payroll for employees in all 18 states in which the company operates. “These adjustments were necessary for the future success and profitability of the business and were made as a result of recent legislative decisions, price compression, and lack of enforcement of the illicit market,” the company noted in a statement.
What the company did not cite in its statement is the recent revelation that Curaleaf is under a formal investigation for its ties to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) announced last week that it is looking into several potential regulatory violations including hiding financial associations with Abramovich, running an unlicensed THC research lab since at least 2019, and hiding the use of an x-ray remediation machine at its Webster cultivation facility.
According to reporter Grant Smith Ellis, “leaked documents from ForencisNews in late December of 2022 revealed to the world that Curaleaf allegedly owes hundreds of millions of dollars to offshore firms linked to the sanctioned Russian oligarch, and Putin-confidant, Roman Abramovich.” Curaleaf insists they owe less money than reports indicate and have been “assured” Abramovich “no longer owns” the offshore account in question.
This is a developing story and will be updated as new information becomes available.