One of the world’s largest cannabis companies has inked a deal worth up to $175 million to acquire Whistler Medical Marijuana Corporation (WMMC), the resort’s first, and so far only licensed cannabis producer.
Edmonton-based Aurora Cannabis announced on Monday, Jan. 14 that it had entered into an all-stock deal, including certain milestone payments, to acquire WMMC.
In a release, Aurora CEO Terry Booth said the deal “adds an iconic, organic certified BC-based brand with exceptional traction and a significant price premium in both the medical and retail markets.”
Founded in 2013, WMMC got on the groundfloor of Canada’s shifting cannabis landscape by becoming the country’s ninth licensed medical marijuana producer. Today, it remains one of only a handful of Canadian certified organic producers, and services both the medical and recreational market.
“That was very important, that true, artisan, craft methodology,” said WMMC founder Chris Pelz. “Because of who we’ve become as a brand and our commitment to that level of quality, there have been parties interested in (acquiring) Whistler (Medical Marijuana Corp.) for a long time now.”
The premium pricing of WMMC’s organic product line—one gram of its organic flower is priced at $17.99, more than double the average price of a gram, according to Statistics Canada—was one of its key selling points. “When you do everything by hand, it costs more, so we get a premium for that,” Pelz explained.
Partnering with Aurora was a good “cultural fit,” Pelz said, and will allow WMMC to expand operations at its two production facilities, in Whistler and Pemberton.
“Aurora offered us an opportunity … to expand in a way that we just couldn’t without partnering with a global-scale company. They’re going to make this next step for Whistler Medical possible,” Pelz said.
Once the Pemberton facility reaches full capacity, anticipated for this summer, WMMC’s total production output is expected to exceed 5,000 kilograms a year. In comparison, Aurora’s production capacity is approximately 100,000 kg a year.
"We intend to accelerate the completion of Whistler's expansion project, and leverage our domestic and international distribution channels to increase market reach for their exceptional products,” Booth said in the release.
Pelz said WMMC’s current staff of 50 will remain onboard in the acquisition. An additional 50 part- and full-time staff are expected to be hired this year.
As the founder of one of Canada’s most recognizable, longstanding cannabis brands, Pelz is well positioned to offer advice to the many cannabis producers and retailers that have expressed interest in entering the Whistler market. The No. 1 thing he stressed? Patience.
“You’ve got to work it through all the normal channels. It’s like going for a rezoning or something—it’s a process, so it will take some time,” he said. “I just can’t imagine Whistler won’t have retail exposure of some sort. I actually look forward to see how it evolves.”
As for how he reacted to the news of the deal, Pelz said “My first thought was that this is the Whistler dream. I’m going to be able to buy a house, finally, get a Mount Currie dog and an outrageous sports car. That was my reaction.”