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Liberty Health’s top two executives resign

Liberty Health Sciences Inc.’s two top executives are resigning, the U.S.-focused company said last Friday evening. The announcement comes days after Aphria Inc., Liberty’s one-time parent company, cut ties with the firm.

George Scorsis has resigned as CEO and will be stepping down from his board position. Rene Gulliver, the company’s CFO, will step down in mid-April. The pair are being replaced on an interim basis by Victor Mancebo and Scott Meyers, Liberty’s president and director of finance, respectively.

The explanation for the resignations is that Liberty “continues to work towards enhancing its directors and senior executives based in the United States, to more closely align with the US geographical focus of the business,” according to a press release. Liberty’s focus is medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida, and the company is expanding to Massachusetts and Ohio.

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The changes, however, mirror what has happened at Aphria in the two months since a short seller, Hindenburg Research, accused Aphria of overpaying for Latin American assets, to the enrichment of investors with ties to company insiders. Liberty was also the target of a Hindenberg report late last year alleging insider dealing.

Both Aphria and Liberty deny wrongdoing. But both companies have moved rapidly to replace senior management in the wake of the allegations. Aphria CEO Vic Neufeld resigned as CEO and is stepping down from the board, along with Aphria’s co-founders Cole Cacciavillani and John Cervini.

George Scorsis joined Liberty in mid-2017, shortly after the company – which was put together through U.S. acquisitions by dealmaker Andy Defrancesco and his firm the Delavaco Group – went public with Aphria’s backing. The firm was touted as Aphria’s U.S. play, but Aphria was forced to start divesting from the company in early 2018 to stay onside TSX listing rules. Until last week, Aphria retained a connection to Liberty in the form of a $60-million promissory note and the right to buy back its stake in the company if U.S. cannabis laws changed at a federal level. Last Tuesday, Aphria’s independent board members voted to terminate the relationship with Liberty and liquidate the note.

Mark Rendell

Zimbabwe to issue 37 cultivation licences

Zimbabwe said Saturday that 37 investors that will be issued a license to grow cannabis for medical or scientific uses. The state-owned Herald newspaper reported Saturday that more than 200 foreign and local investors had applied for a license to grow cannabis, which is known locally as mbanje or dagga.

“Cabinet has approved about 37 of them and they will be issued with licences,” Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos of the department of lands, agriculture, water, climate and rural resettlement told the Herald. “For now we are in the process of registering them.”

Cannabis Professional sent requests to several LPs to determine if they were among the 37 prospective licensees.equests for confirmation were sent to more than 10 other Canadian LPs, but most did not immediately reply. Organigram, Tilray, CannTrust and Supreme Cannabis said they were not among the successful applicants, while a spokesperson for Cronos Group said “we do not have anything to share at this time.”

Last year, Zimbabwe became the second African country (after Lesotho in 2017) to legalize cannabis for scientific or medical purposes. Last March, Supreme said it was spending $10-million for a 10-per-cent stake in Medigrow, a locally licensed company that produces cannabis oils for international distribution. At least two other Canadian LPs have put down roots in Lesotho, including Canopy Growth Corp. and Aphria Inc.

- Rob Gilroy

This and that ...

  • Fire & Flower Holdings Corp. of Edmonton has announced the appointment of Rob Cherry as vice-president, general merchandise manager and head merchant. The company says Mr. Cherry, who has previous experience at Wal-Mart, Target and Giant Tiger, will lead Fire & Flower’s purchasing and merchandising departments. 
  • Calgary-based Sundial Growers Inc. said Brian Harriman has joined the company as chief operating officer. Mr. Harriman was previously the president and CEO of Alcool New Brunswick Liquor and CannabisNB. Sundial says Mr. Harriman will work with the senior leadership team on the company domestic and international expansion.
  • Nova Scotia-based Mernova Medicinal is Canada’s newest licensed cannabis producer, having been granted a cultivation license on Feb. 15 from Health Canada. The company, which was purchased in a $10-million cash-and-stock-based deal by Australia’s Cresco Pharma in 2017, operates a 20,000 square foot facility capable of producing up to 4,000 kilograms of dried cannabis annually.
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