OrganiGram CEO: Nasdaq Listing Primes Brand's Entry Into U.S. Hemp Market

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May 21, 2019

By Chloe Aiello

OrganiGram Holdings kicked off trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on Tuesday, making it the latest Canadian cannabis company to list on a major U.S. exchange.

Now trading under the ticker "OGI," OrganiGram isn't the first Canadian cannabis producer to up-list from over-the-counter exchanges in the U.S. to a major exchange, but it is one of the few to list on the Nasdaq global select market, which has higher requirements for financial and corporate compliance. OrganiGram joins cannabis companies Tilray ($TLRY), which Engel formerly led; Greenlane Holdings ($GNLN); and Cronos Group ($CRON) in trading on the Nasdaq. OrganiGram also trades on the TSX Venture Exchange.

CEO Greg Engel told Cheddar the move helps expose U.S. companies and consumers to the brand in advance of OrganiGram entering the U.S. hemp market. It is also a play to diversify the investor base in response to demand from institutional investors.

"It diversifies your investor base over time, and I think we've seen huge demand from much larger traditional funds that want to invest that can't invest when you are an OTC stock," Engel said. "It also creates a brand awareness of your company in the United States, and we are actively following and looking at how do we enter the U.S. market."

For now, OrganiGram is primarily focused on the U.S. CBD industry, because of the legal framework established by the 2018 Farm Bill. But OrganiGram still hasn't worked out all of the details, like whether it will enter the industry as a processor and brand, or just as a brand. Engel does know one thing for sure: when OrganiGram enters U.S. hemp, it's not interested in becoming a cultivator.

"We have not formally entered the U.S., but we are very actively looking at what are the opportunities. And I think where we look at opportunities in the CBD market in the U.S. is we don't want to be a cultivator. There is lots of hemp cultivation happening," Engel said.

But before it breaks into the U.S., OrganiGram has its sights set on Europe. It already has an investment in Alpha-Cannabis in Germany, and Eviana, which produces hemp in Serbia. The company will also continue to focus on its edibles and beverages strategy in anticipation of the Canadian government legalizing infused edibles, vapes, and beverages this fall. OrganiGram's listing comes hot on the heels of a $15 million investment into a high-speed, high-capacity, chocolate production line.

"By having the top line equipment, it's going to allow us to really produce the best products. With that team and the innovation we are doing, we are going to offer a broad range of products to lead the markets, and we know chocolate is a major category," Engel said.

The company is also exploring the beverage space, and has created a fast onset, tasteless, water soluble version of cannabinoids that can be used in hot or cold beverages. Engel said that although the company does not have a plan to launch its own beverage currently, it is search of a partner.

"We are actively looking for a strategic partner on the beverage side right now," Engel said.

Technological innovation is at the core of OrganiGram's business, from its preference for indoor, vertical farming over greenhouses, to its investments in a company that extracts cannabinoids from yeast. It's this approach Engel hopes will help the company differentiate itself from other cannabis producers in an increasingly crowded space.