Curaleaf Holdings, Inc. has acquired Cura Partners Inc. in a $948.8-million all-stock deal that will allow the companies to offer a full range of products nationwide.

Curaleaf, a vertically integrated multi-state cannabis operator, signed a definitive agreement May 1 to acquire Portland, Ore.-based Cura, which owns Select, a producer of oil for vape pens.

With this transaction, Curaleaf will acquire Select’s manufacturing, processing, distribution, marketing and retail operations, as well as all adult-use cannabis products under the Select brand name, according to a company press release.

“The transformational acquisition of Cura and the Select brand is another step in our journey to create the most accessible cannabis brands in the U.S.,” Curaleaf CEO Joseph Lusardi said in the press release. “The combination of Curaleaf and Select is a perfect fit. With our industry leading capacity, expansive retail distribution network and Select's impressive sales and marketing capabilities, we intend to meaningfully accelerate our topline growth trajectory with the addition of the Select Oil product range. In addition, we intend to create significant operational synergies from the integration of Select’s wholesale business with our vertically-integrated cultivating, processing and retail platform. We look forward to welcoming the talented Select team who will bring superior brand marketing expertise and a culture of innovation in technology and product development.”

The acquisition unites Curaleaf’s retail locations, vertical integration, wellness brand and strong East Coast presence with Select’s wholesale model, lifestyle brand and large West Coast presence, the release states.

Curaleaf operates 44 dispensaries across 12 states, Bloomberg reported, and recently announced that it will sell CBD products. Select’s THC products are sold in more than 900 retailers in Western states including California, Arizona, Oregon and Nevada.

“I could not be more excited about this transaction with Curaleaf and what it means for the Select brand and for our industry,” said Cameron Forni, CEO of Cura and founder of Select, in a public statement. “The leading companies in the industry on the West Coast and the East Coast are now joining forces to progress the legalization and mainstream acceptance of cannabis across the country.”

The transaction has been unanimously approved by independent special committees and the boards of directors at both companies, and is expected to close in 2019, subject to the customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

The House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health held a legislative hearing April 30th to discuss three separate bills concerning veterans’ access to cannabis: the Veterans Equal Access Act (Equal Access Act), the Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act (Safe Healing Act), and the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (Cannabis Research Act).

Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, veterans currently cannot get a recommendation for medical marijuana through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) therefore introduced the Equal Access Act, which would allow health care providers at the VA to provide recommendations and opinions to veterans concerning medicinal marijuana. 

The Safe Healing Act, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), would accomplish a similar goal by codifying into federal law an existing Veterans Affairs administrative policy that protects veterans from losing their benefits because of cannabis use in states where such use is legal under state law. 

The third cannabis-related bill discussed yesterday–the Cannabis Research Act–authorizes the VA to conduct and support research concerning the efficacy and safety of cannabis as a treatment for veterans. That legislation, sponsored by Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), would facilitate research concerning medical marijuana treatment for veterans enrolled in the VA health care system.

At the subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Ranking Member Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said that he “could not agree more” that research should be conducted on medical marijuana.  He also opined that marijuana’s status should be moved from Schedule I to Schedule II in the Controlled Substances Act. 

Rep. Blumenauer “recognized a tragedy” in that “[w]e sent more than two million brave men and women [to Iraq and Afghanistan] to fight in very difficult circumstances to say the least” and now “lethal opioid overdoses among VA patients are almost twice the national average.” With respect to medical marijuana, Rep. Blumenauer noted, “VA physicians should not be denied the ability to offer recommendations they think might meet the needs of their patients. Veterans should not be forced outside the VA system to seek a treatment that is legal in their state.”

To that end, Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) stated: “[A]s a more recent vet and someone who still serves in the [National] Guard, we need to utilize all tools available to us to deal with folks as they are still encountering the wounds of combat and of service.”

Another veteran and member of the Subcommittee, Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA), observed at the hearing, “we have to look at the VA as an institution that can lead, that can break new ground, that can cross these frontiers, and when there’s innovation and reform in health care we need to be at the front, not behind, not entrenched in the old way of doing things.” 

Dr. Keita Franklin, the VA National Director of Suicide Prevention, provided a statement at the hearing. Franklin said that the VA currently supports a clinical trial of cannabis for the treatment of PTSD.  However, she added, the VA does not support the Cannabis Research Act.  “Please know,” she testified, “that our existing policy in VHA already permits discussion and documentation and clearly states that veterans will not be denied benefits by discussing this information with a VHA provider.”

In response, Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), expressed a need to address veterans’ confusion concerning the consequences of using cannabis. According to Congressman Steube, several veterans in his district believe that they will not be able to get VA services if they test positive for THC, even if they used it in accordance with state law. He therefore believes that federal legislation clarifying veterans may indeed use medical cannabis in accordance with state law, without risk of losing VA benefits, would be helpful.

Carlos Fuentes, the National Legislative Director at Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), also testified at the hearing.  He said the VFW is “[p]roud to support” the Cannabis Research Act.  According to Fuentes, medical cannabis “is a more suitable option than the drug cocktails the VA prescribes.” He cited a study that found veterans experience chronic pain 40 percent more than non-veterans. He added that the VFW supports the intent of the Veterans Equal Access Act, but cannot offer its support at this time because it does not want to do so if the VA itself cannot directly provide the recommended treatment. 

Stephanie Mullen, the Research Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), testified that 83 percent of IAVA’s members believe cannabis should be legal for medical use, and 90 percent think it should be researched for medicinal uses. “IAVA members are calling for cannabis research, and it is time for the Department of Veterans Affairs to catch up,” she said. “If Veterans are unable to go through VA to get medical cannabis, they’ll go around it, but veterans shouldn’t feel they have to hide and circumvent VA to access the standard of care their civilian counterparts can access easily.” According to Mullen, the IAVA is proud to support the Equal Access Act, Safe Healing Act and the Medicinal Cannabis Research Act.

Even if none of the bills discussed at yesterday’s hearings becomes law, pro-cannabis members of Congress are making progress. By taking-up standalone cannabis bills in an incremental fashion, pro-cannabis members of Congress believe that their efforts ultimately will lead to broader marijuana reform. With more veterans groups now supporting medical marijuana as an effective treatment for illnesses or disabilities that veterans acquired as a direct result of service to the nation, it appears to be only a matter of time before the federal government facilitates our veterans’ access to medical cannabis.

Robert Kline is a partner at McDermott Will & Emery and a member of the firm's Cannabis Industry Group.

Three growers share how to most effectively monitor, control and automate various aspects of your grow.

Monitoring data points in a cannabis cultivation facility—and then controlling those data points either manually or through an automated system—are the core principles of environmental control in an indoor grow.

“Monitoring and control impact our crops’ performance in many ways,” says Andrew Lange, chief technical officer of Agrios Global Holdings, an agriculture technology and services company based in Canada. “Due to the amount of control we have in our facilities, we are able to maintain extremely controlled cultivation environments, which lend to more consistent, higher-quality products. Eliminating environmental variables is one of the most important things you can do in your cultivation facility. Monitoring and controls help with that, but to do it efficiently requires high resolution and frequent readings from your monitoring system.”

Monitoring systems are the backbone of data tracking and collection, Lange says. The more a cultivator monitors, the more data he or she has to review to find correlations in environmental variables as the plants grow.

“Every time you [review the data], you learn a little bit more, and then you’re able to …  know your grow and how to fine-tune your system,” says David Bernard-Perron, VP of growing operations for The Green Organic Dutchman, a licensed producer in Canada.

“More data allows us to make decisions affecting the plants quicker and with more insight and accuracy,” Lange adds. “Not all data is useful, though, and the key is learning what is relevant and what isn’t.”

While there are many areas of the cultivation facility that can be monitored, Lange suggests that cultivators monitor the following in their grow rooms:

Cultivators should only monitor the variables they want to ultimately control to optimize the grow, adds David Holmes, founder and CEO of Clade9, a full-service cannabis-cultivation business that manages grows in Arizona and Las Vegas, and its own cultivation facility in California.

“The reason we monitor variables is to allow us to make decisions on changing parameters to improve crop performance,” he says. “Typically, we monitor and collect data, then we analyze and make changes to our control system based on our results. The benefits can be vast, from improved yields, quality and consistency to labor reduction and strain selection.”

While growers can control any of the data points they monitor, Lange says temperature, relative humidity, CO2 concentration and on/off light sensors are the most critical. Holmes recommends controlling light intensity and irrigation, as well.

An on/off control is the most basic control system type. If a room’s target temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit (F), for example, but the monitoring system detects a temperature of 74 degrees F, the on/off control system determines that the target is above the set point and turns the air conditioning system on to cool the room until the monitoring equipment reads 72 degrees F, and then the control system turns the AC off. While on/off controls are cheaper than a predictive system, they are not as energy efficient and they don’t offer the same level of control, Lange says.

Predictive and variable controls control the equipment on a scale of 0-100; if the room only needs 25-percent of the total available cooling capacity, for example, the control system can run the mechanical equipment at 25 percent, Lange says.

“This is much more efficient than the on/off option and it provides more stable environments,” Lange says. “There are no large spikes—just a smoother, more consistent temperature.”

“With automated controls throughout your facility, you can use data monitoring to inform the precise range of values to trigger your equipment and processes to optimize production,” says Holmes.

Automating variables will reduce human error and labor while increasing the precision of the variables being controlled, Holmes adds. “This precision can increase yields, uniformity and quality.”

Cultivators must perform a cost analysis to evaluate whether automation makes sense for their operations, Bernard-Perron says. “It’s all about keeping in mind your margin as the space is getting more and more competitive. There are some tools that are very nice, neat and sexy, but will you be able to monetize that? You need to do some cost analysis and workflow analysis to make sure that you’re implementing the proper solution in terms of monitoring, control and automation that’s going to be able to really optimize your production, flow and crop quality or ease your workflow because sometimes labor is an issue.”

Lange suggests that cultivators automate as much as they can within their budgets and cautions them to take the time to properly integrate them into their operations.

“Even if you buy off-the-shelf automated solutions such as trimmers and packaging equipment, expect to spend a significant amount of time dialing these pieces of equipment in so they work just right,” he says.

The devil is in the details of these three strategies, and the differences can help your business grow.

When it comes to climate control, cannabis cultivators often group monitoring, controlling and automating the various aspects of their grow under one umbrella, but the three concepts are actually quite different, and each is an important piece to the indoor environmental control puzzle.

Monitoring systems provide cultivators with data for review. While many variables can be monitored in a cultivation system, most commonly monitored are temperature, relative humidity, vapor pressure deficit (VPD), CO2 concentration, light levels, air movement and soil moisture levels.

“There are sensors out there for pretty much anything, so we have a lot of options when it comes to monitoring,” says Agrios Global Holdings Chief Technical Officer Andrew Lange. “The more we monitor, the more data we have to optimize our grow environment.”

Of course, simply placing sensors anywhere in a cultivation area will not automatically provide useful data, he adds—proper placement is important. For example, Lange recommends placing CO2 monitoring sensors near the canopy, and at the same level, for obtaining more accurate concentration levels.

Sensor resolution and frequency must also be considered, Lange adds, noting relative humidity (RH) measurements as an example. “If our sensors are only accurate within 5 percent RH, then we can only be within a plus or minus 5 percent range for that data. If you want tighter tolerances, which is recommended, then you need a higher-resolution sensor. Also, if your sensor is only giving you one data point every 10 minutes instead of every minute, then you will generally see larger swings and less stability when taking the next step to control it.”

Controlling is the next piece of the climate control puzzle and allows cultivators to act on the data they receive while monitoring.

“Controls allow us to turn that data into actions,” Lange says. “For instance, if we have monitoring equipment for something common like temperature, it’s going to tell us that our room is 74 degrees Fahrenheit (F), but that’s it. Now, with controls, we can input a target set point of 72 degrees F, and when our monitoring equipment says our room is at 74 degrees, the controls system determines that is above the target temperature and will turn on the air conditioners in that space until it hits the 72-degree target temperature.”

Controls come in multiple configurations, from basic on/off controls to predictive software that helps optimize efficiency as it performs assigned tasks.

“Controls allow us to fully use the monitoring data we are collecting and truly help increase the quality of product produced as well as improve consistency,” Lange says.

Automation occurs when a control system is set up to replace manual responses to the monitoring systems. “We are automating some processes by completely removing the manual steps that our control system has taken over,” he says.

In the above example where temperature is monitored, for example, the monitoring system could send an alert that the temperature is outside the desired target; adjustments to the temperature setting can be made manually, or as in the example cited, the control system can automate that task.

“Automation can be implemented in many areas of the cultivation and processing side of the business to increase consistency and reduce labor costs,” Lange says.

Automating watering or potting are useful cost-effective improvements in cultivation, Lange says, while automating trimmers and packaging equipment can decrease the costs of post-harvest processing.

“The goal with automation should always be an increase in consistency with a decrease in labor,” Lange says.

Boulder, Colorado, April 2, 2019 — PRESS RELEASE — Surna Inc. has announced the launch of SentryIQ, its new sensors, controls and automation platform that will help its customers achieve the precision environmental control, energy management and advanced automation required by cannabis growers. A formal product introduction was made April 2 at the Cannabis Conference in Las Vegas.

“As the industry continues to evolve and energy efficiency and precise environmental control gain importance, it became obvious that the existing controls systems in the marketplace were limiting our ability to reach the full potential of the systems we design. To meet cultivator performance demands, Surna has developed its own climate control platform featuring proprietary controls sequences developed with the predictive algorithms essential to optimum climate control, including direct temperature and humidity control as well as CO2 monitoring,” said Troy Rippe, Surna’s director of engineering and R&D.

1. Cultivators can now source both their heating, ventilation and air conditioning products and their sensors, controls and automation technology from Surna, as a single vendor offering a turnkey solution.

2. In addition to agricultural considerations, critical energy conservation needs are also addressed in a single, fully integrated technological solution.

Surna can now budget and quote its sensors, controls and automation (SCA) systems to existing or prospective customers. We also have a demonstration center in our Boulder offices which provides a real-time operational experience.

Surna can now budget and quote its sensors, controls and automation (SCA) systems to existing or prospective customers. We also have a demonstration center in our Boulder offices which provides a real-time operational experience.

Our launch of the SentryIQ product line marks the completion of several milestones as part of our recently announced strategy and “Product/Service Depth and Facility Lifecycle Matrix.” Going forward, we plan to develop and sell an expanded offering of products and services to meet a wider range of cultivators’ environmental control needs over the full lifecycle of their facility. We will now be offering products and services across all four phases of the facility lifecycle, as compared to the past where we only addressed two of the facility stages. The four stages are what we define as the “full lifecycle” of a facility: (1) Pre-build, (2) Construction, (3) Startup, and (4) Operation.

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Cannabis Business Times’ interactive legislative map is another tool to help cultivators quickly navigate state cannabis laws and find news relevant to their markets. View More

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