What’s one great way to tell if an industry is doing well? More jobs open up, and salaries improve. What’s a great way to know there are problems? When more and more jobs get cut. That’s where we are today, as mass layoffs continue in the cannabis industry, signaling a host of problems, with no solution in sight.
When the industry first started it was a true free-for-all. The predictions for market growth were off-the-charts, and it seemed like every big international company wanted to swoop into newly legalized locations to take advantage of this new reported cash cow of an industry. Everyone wanted in. Lots of people made investments. We all waited with baited breath to see who among us would become the new weed industry millionaires.
Now, we’re a few years in, and the landscape has changed, along with expectations. CBD has faded out into almost nothing, medical markets are getting eclipsed by recreational markets, which themselves are still often eclipsed by black markets. Prices remain high in many places due to insane taxing, and governments have been slow to pick up on this as an issue. Overproduction has (let’s be honest, predictably) come into play, causing prices to plummet in every venue. And the once thriving industry, is now showing its cracks, with sales plummeting in many places.
Last year the reports started really rolling in about industry closures and layoffs. Smaller names were already having a hard time making it in due to expensive regulation, extreme competition, and extra costs like slotting fees at dispensaries; making it seem like a game for the big dogs only. But even they’re having issues. And now as 2023 gets underway, the mass layoffs continue, both in the US, and around the world.
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Mass layoffs in the cannabis industry – global
Clever Leaves Holdings is a Colombian cannabis company with operations in Portugal. On January 23rd of this year, the company announced restructuring plans that include cutting nearly ¼ of its staff. Clever Leaves is in the medical space, creating pharmaceutical-grade products. This restructuring means winding down all operations in the Portugal location. In fact, the company wants to move everything back home to cut costs, saying:
“By exclusively cultivating and producing our cannabinoid products in Colombia, we aim to leverage our existing cost efficiencies in the country as we ramp our dry flower offering,” said Andres Fajardo, CEO of Clever Leaves. “We believe this transition will allow us to optimize our production infrastructure and drive increased cost savings, positioning us to compete more effectively in the global medicinal cannabis market.”
As of the end of September, the company had $12.1 million in assets in Portugal. The facility included cultivation, post-harvesting, and manufacturing activities; though it sounds like all of this will eventually end. It’s also not the only company operating out of Portugal that wants to cut back. On January 17th, cannabis giant Tilray Brands announced it too was looking to cut about a quarter of its staff. The facility in Cantanhede is also a medical cannabis products facility. Said a Tilray spokesperson to MJBizDaily:
“A total of 49 jobs will be affected in the production, manufacturing, quality, quality control (laboratory), cultivation, supply chain, facilities, warehousing, logistics, procurement, and IT. These changes, which are in line with Tilray’s rightsizing to meet the needs of the current economy and the state of legalization across medical and adult-use cannabis, will take place over the next three months.”
To give an idea why this is happening, consider that in the quarter ending November 30th, 2022, the company posted a $61.6 million net loss. Tilray is a public company and can be found on the NASDAQ and Toronto Stock Exchange under TLRY. Clever Leaves also had huge losses of $37.3 million, in the first three quarters of last year. It only earned $13.2 million in the same time frame. Clever Leaves is publicly traded under CLVR on NASDAQ.
In Canada, Delta 9 announced that it would temporarily lay off 40 people. This is interesting wording as it implies the company does believe it will be able to reverse these layoffs. Realistically, maybe it will, but a stronger reality might be that none of these jobs are coming back for any of these companies. This cut in the company’s Winnipeg facilities accounts for 40% of its staff.
Fellow Canadian company The Flowr Corporation (OTC:FLWPF) a cultivation services enterprise with locations in several countries, made some big changes last year to keep from bankruptcy. It cut employees to the tune of $4 million in savings, accounting for 40% of its workforce. Along with this, it made a deal to sell off its subsidiary Flowr Forests, a 16 acre property for cultivation. This is considered a non-core asset, and makes the company $3.4 million in revenue.
Mass layoffs in the cannabis industry – US
The US might not have federally legal weed, but it is home to the biggest cannabis industries. However, things aren’t doing better within the borders of the US, than they’re doing outside them. One of the big ones to announce major cuts of late? Columbia Care, Inc., which operates in several states, and owns Green Leaf Medical LLC, which is about to make a bunch of people jobless. How many? 73. As of February 28th.
According to the company: “In order to meet the appropriate supply and demand levels of the market, it was necessary for us to reduce the workforce at our cultivation and production facility.” It continued, “We are hopeful that with adult use on the horizon, this facility will be back up to full capacity in the future.” It’s pretty clear this cut is indeed due to a lack of business.
Leaflink, a wholesale tech platform out of New York, is also cutting jobs. Late last year it was reported that 80 employees were sent looking for new work. Much like the other companies to make cuts, the company explained: “Unfortunately, as the cannabis industry continues to face headwinds and the current macroeconomic environment, we needed to take the next step in our evolution to continue supporting the industry.”
Truelieve, a company offering medical cannabis products and services out of Tallahassee Florida, and which operates in many states, also made a similar announcement at the end of last year. Workers were cut from its McKeesport Pennsylvania cultivation facility, numbering approximately 36. This is technically small potatoes considering the company employs in the neighborhood of 8,000, but its also not the first cut. The company laid off workers in three Florida locations: Midway, Monticello, and Quincy, as well.
While the cut was blamed on “Trulieve’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Arizona-based multistate operator Harvest Health & Recreation in 2021,” it also came on the heels of the company posting a quarterly loss of $115 million.
Yet another Florida company, Springbig, a technology company for weed-specific marketing software, cut 23% of its workforce (37 employees) late last year. The company is trying hard to turn a profit amid an industry that seems harder and harder to turn a profit in. These cuts were meant to save $200,000 in the short term, and 21% in the first three quarters of 2023.
Springbig had just merged with Tuatara Capital Acquisition, in order to get on NASDAQ; trading under SBIG. The company’s shares have plummeted from $4.50 last June, to 82 cents at the end of 2022. Prior to the drop it had reported $24 million in yearly revenue, with a $275 million valuation, as per Green Market Report.
If you’re a big reader of cannabis news, then the publication Leafly is likely familiar to you. Well, even Leafly Holdings is having problems. In October of last year, it was reported that the cannabis resource and marketplace, would cut 56 jobs, or 21% of its staff. Leafly, traded under LFLY on NASDAQ, is looking to save approximately $16 million a year, saying, “These reductions will help preserve our ability to respond to opportunities as this industry continues to mature and expand, and allow us to more effectively manage our capital.”
Previously mentioned layoffs in the cannabis industry
This is unfortunately not the first time I’ve reported on cannabis industry layoffs. Last year made one thing very clear: the market is not as sound as many wanted to believe; and the overall market predictions in place, are falling short of reality.
Some of the big layoffs already reported on, include Weedmaps, which cut about 25% of its staff; Curaleaf Holdings, which just got rid of 220 employees; Akerna, which released 1/3 of its staff, or 59 workers; Dutchie, which removed 8% of its workforce, amounting to 67 jobs lost; Canopy Growth which sold all its retail locations, and cut 245 jobs last year; and Aurora Cannabis which cut 12% of its workforce as a part of corporate restructuring to save money.
With the biggest names in cannabis faltering, it brings up the question of who can survive. More companies to let employees go recently, include California’s Eaze, which laid off around 25 employees last year; Lume, a cannabis company out of Michigan closed four out of 30 of its stores; and Nature AZ Medicine, an Arizona medical cannabis company, cut up to 100 employees as a result of medical sales falling.
There’s nothing saying that 2023 won’t turn into a banner year for cannabis sales, and there’s nothing saying that all of these companies won’t recoup their losses, or hire back the numbers they lost. But right now, things aren’t looking fantastic for cannabis industry growth, and these layoffs are a good indication that more bad news might be coming.
Will the cannabis industry rebound? Or are these mass layoffs an indication that the weed industry has hit a wall? And maybe most important to ask, if it can be saved, what kind of changes are necessary in order to facilitate this?
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