Ascend Wellness Holdings Raises $68 Million, Plans to Acquire 2 Illinois Dispensaries

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On the heels of securing more than $68 million in new funding, Massachusetts-based cannabis firm Ascend Wellness Holdings (AWH) today announced plans to purchase two Modern Cannabis (MOCA) dispensaries in Chicago for an undisclosed sum.

In a news release, AWH — a private multistate operator with assets in four states — said its agreement to acquire the two stores would expand the company’s Illinois dispensary footprint to six licenses.

The deal, which must be approved by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), includes MOCA’s dispensary that serves both medical and recreational customers, located in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, as well as its adult-use only outlet in River North.

"We are pleased to enter the third largest city in the United States though our pending purchase of Modern Cannabis,” AWH founder Abner Kurtin said via the release. “MOCA has been a leading player in the Chicago market, and we are excited to pair it with our Illinois Supply & Provisions (IS & P) dispensaries which include the top performing retail outlet in the state in Collinsville.”

Once approved, AWH said it would continue to operate the two dispensaries as MOCA-branded outlets.

Under Illinois state law, cannabis groups are allowed to own up to 10 dispensary licenses, and AWH noted that it would continue to seek additional acquisition opportunities throughout the state.

According to its website, AWH is currently ranked as the sixth largest dispensary group in Illinois. The company also operates a 75,000 sq. ft. cultivation site in Barry, Illinois that is owned by cannabis REIT Innovative Industrial Properties (IIP) and is capable of producing 375 pounds of cannabis per week.

Last week, IIP agreed to invest an additional $18 million into the property, which will be used to construct a new 90,000 sq. ft. greenhouse and enhance the existing industrial facility located on site.

Meanwhile, AWH — which is backed by Poseidon Asset Management, Shire Capital, Salveo Capital, and JM10 Partners, among others — also closed a $68.2 million funding round. According to the vertically integrated firm, $41 million is “new capital” that will be used to expand the company’s retail and marijuana growing operations.

"We are pleased to continue to have access to capital and be fully financed to build out our flagship retail locations and scale grow operations in our five states of focus," Kurtin said in the release.

In addition to Illinois, where consumers have spent more than $300 million on recreational cannabis products through July, AWH also owns assets in Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio. In late May, the company announced plans to acquire New Jersey-based Greenleaf Compassion Center, which holds one of the original six medical licenses in the Garden State.

"We believe New Jersey to be one of the most attractive markets in the U.S. with over nine-million people who are underserved, in what will likely become an adult-use market in 2021," Kurtin said at the time.

AWH is one of the most well-financed private MSOs in the U.S., having raised more than $190 million across several funding rounds over the last two years.

At the end of 2019, the company secured $28.2 million in new funding from “a large European-based investment fund,” as well as a group of high-net worth individuals and other strategic investors.

Prior to that, the company raised $95 million — including an $18 million senior secured note — across two funding rounds ($55 million and $40 million).

Additional information about the company’s Chicago acquisition is included in the news release below.

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AWH Announces Expansion into Chicago Cannabis Market with Pending Retail Acquisitions in River North and Logan Square

Growing MSO files definitive agreement to purchase Modern Cannabis dispensaries following regulatory approval; Completes latest funding round at $69 million

CHICAGO — AWH, a multistate, vertically integrated cannabis operator, announced its intent to enter Illinois' largest cannabis market with an agreement to acquire a pair of well-known dispensaries in two iconic Chicago neighborhoods — Logan Square and River North.

The agreement will allow AWH to take ownership of both MOCA — Modern Cannabis dispensaries following approval from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

"We are pleased to enter the third largest city in the United States though our pending purchase of Modern Cannabis. MOCA has been a leading player in the Chicago market, and we are excited to pair it with our Illinois Supply & Provisions (IS & P) dispensaries which include the top performing retail outlet in the state in Collinsville," said AWH Founder Abner Kurtin. 

MOCA is one of Chicago's original cannabis dispensaries, first opening to serve medical patients in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood in February, 2016. Today the location serves both medical and recreational customers and recently opened a new recreational-only location in River North. 

"AWH is a great fit for us. They have a clear, focused strategy and a nimble, ambitious team. Of the several partnerships we considered, AWH made the most sense for us in terms of their state and national size, growth trajectory, and company culture," said MOCA founder Danny Marks.

AWH, one of the fastest growing cannabis companies in the U.S., is also announcing the final closing of its latest funding round at $68.2 million, of which $41 million is new capital that will be used to further the company's expansion of retail and grow operations.

"We are pleased to continue to have access to capital and be fully financed to build out our flagship retail locations and scale grow operations in our five states of focus," said Kurtin.

The addition of the two MOCA properties would give AWH six retail licenses in Illinois. The company will continue to seek new acquisitions and partnership opportunities to reach the state limit of 10 licenses per ownership group.

AWH currently owns and operates two of Illinois' most successful cannabis dispensaries under the IS & P brand which led to the expansion into Illinois' largest and most competitive cannabis market. IS & P locations in Springfield and Collinsville (the top grossing dispensary in the state) serve hundreds of patients and customers each week. 

"The Illinois cannabis program is structured in such a way that we believe it's in the best interest of our company, staff, customers and medical patients to join a cultivator. We are excited to add our own flavor to the mix and help build a great cannabis company that is well positioned to thrive in the next phase of US cannabis legalization, " added Marks.

AWH's state of the art cultivation and processing center in West Central Illinois, the produces its own popular line of Ozone branded cannabis products to licensed retailers across the state.

AWH will keep the MOCA brand in place and operate both dispensaries as a separate brand.

About AWH

AWH is a market leading, vertically integrated operator with assets in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Jersey. AWH is breaking down traditional walls in the cannabis marketplace to provide easy and accessible products and exclusive brand partnerships.

AWH owns and operates state-of-the-art cultivation facilities, and is known for growing award winning strains and producing curated selection of products with effect-based categorization. AWH operates Illinois Supply and Provisions and Ohio Provisions, and has a strategic partnership with Michigan Supply and Provisions. AWH produces and distributes Ozone branded products. For more information, visit www.awholdings.com.

About MOCA

MOCA is Chicago's leading independent dispensary company, located in two of the city's most vibrant neighborhoods. The original location in hip Logan Square was the second dispensary to open in Chicago. The new River North location, right on the main entry into downtown's tourism and entertainment center, will be the city's largest dispensary. Delivering a first-class customer experience through compassionate, knowledgeable service and expert product curation is MOCA's core mission. The brand reflects the diverse, hip communities where the stores are located by incorporating art and culture into a modern cannabis shopping experience.


Tags: Illinois, M&A

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