- Jushi Holdings CEO Jim Cacioppo joins us to discuss managing growth and taking a leap in the US cannabis industry.
- Growing strategically and avoiding pitfalls of cannabis industry; good management is essential.
- Volatility in the market. Picking the right company in cannabis after many got it wrong, advantages of being an MSO.
Editors' Note: This is the transcript version of the podcast we posted last Wednesday. Please note that due to time and audio constraints, transcription may not be perfect. We encourage you to listen to the podcast, embedded below, if you need any clarification. We hope you enjoy!
Rena Sherbill: Hi, again, everybody. Welcome back to the show. It's great to have you listening with us as always, super happy to bring you our conversation today with Jim Cacioppo, the CEO, Jushi Holdings (OTCQX:JUSHF), a MSO, I am sure most listeners are familiar with.
Jushi has had quite a growth story, but a responsible growth story this past year, especially, and has really risen to a certain echelon, especially with the news about Virginia going online, even though that online doesn't look to be until 2024, but a lot of good news for Jushi in a lot of states that Jushi is present in. And Jim talks about that today. How they got to the place where they're at.
We had Kim Bambach on a couple weeks ago. The CFO from Jushi and she was telling us a bit of the story and how she came on a lot because of the founders, Jim being one of them. And he talks about leading with that vision and with that strategy in mind and sharing that with us. And where he sees the future of the U.S. cannabis picture, how he sees it playing out, where he sees Jushi's place in that, a fantastic conversation, one where I imagine many listeners will be feeling like, 'yeah, I really heard something from the CEO of Jushi, just now.' Jim gives us a lot of great insight about leading in general and in the cannabis space in particular. So, hope everybody enjoys this one.
Before we begin, a brief disclaimer, nothing on this podcast should be taken as investment advice of any sort. I'm long Trulieve, Khiron, Isracann BioSciences, the Parent Company, AYR Strategies and the ETF MSOS. You can subscribe to us on Libsyn, Apple podcast, Spotify, Google Play, and Stitcher.
So Jim, welcome to the show. It's great to have you on Seeking Alpha. It's great to talk to you about Jushi.
Jim Cacioppo: Great. Thank you, Rena. Thank you for the opportunity.
RS: It's our pleasure. So, catch viewers, listeners up on how you got to the cannabis industry and then how you started Jushi?
JC: Great. So, I was a hedge fund guy since 1995, and I was lucky enough to be very early in that industry. And I was involved on co-founding one that went from 300 to 5.5 billion and I co-ran it as President. Co-Portfolio Manager, then I started one, called One East Capital Advisors that I still have. It's more of a family oriented [fund now]. And in 2014, I decided to move from New York City to Florida, Sunny Florida, where it's my background here. And I took, kind of a break mentally from the so-called rat race and investing in hedge funds in New York and had more time to think and the cannabis industry started, sort of came to me. People came and said, hey, you should be investing in this. And I got involved, I would say between 2015 and starting of Jushi in 2018.
I got involved in about 25 different investment situations. And obviously it was very fortuitous time. We picked good ones and it worked very, very well. There were private ones, there were Canadian ones, the public Canadian ones, private Canadian ones, U.S. private, and U.S. public, and everything from touching the flower doing what Jushi does on a state-by-state basis, or the service industry. So, it's a great overview of the industry.
RS: And how long did it take you to decide, kind of, or the specific project came to in that way. And so, it was kind of streamlined for you how you wanted to get into the cannabis industry?
JC: Well, what I found was, I was happy being an investor, I'd always been that and I'd run companies as well. My background, I had this background of being a distressed debt investor, and you end up taking over companies, you give up the debt for equity. That's happening, you know, in certain situations like [indiscernible] right now in the cannabis industry, by the way. And so, I had become like a private equity sponsor taking over companies that became by billion dollar companies. So, I was very used to running companies, including the hedge funds, which were pretty giant. I mean, we had tons of revenues, a lot of employees, we got global, they were startups. So one point in my investment cycle, I realized the best opportunity was MSOS in the United States.
In fact, it was the only - I thought it was by far the best opportunity. The problem I found was there were no good management teams that I could invest in. Now there were some private ones that were pretty good that we all know became public later on, but I did - those were not available to me. And so I decided to start a company. And that's, sort of how it transitioned. And we incubated the company at One East, which was a hedge fund management company in 2017. John Barrack, who is President of Jushi worked for me at the hedge fund, and he had worked on all the investments. And so we put together a couple deals and brought them to - really brought them to the table when we started Jushi into early 2018.
RS: It's interesting, that's very much like the development of the cannabis industry is. Specifically, I mean, not every time, but so many of the good companies are formed by seems kind of what's out there and either doing it better, or buying up who they think is doing it really well. How long did it take for you from starting Jushi, I mean, now you guys are starting to get some really good traction out in the marketplace. Were there times when you were starting, where you were wondering if this was the model that you wanted to stick with?
JC: No, I never doubted the philosophy. I've always been one of these people from when I was just, you know, a teenager, who set my mind to something and you know, pick out good strategic things, and then just move forward to execute on those. Now, I'm not afraid to pivot at all, but the - I mean, the strategy is clear in this industry, right? It's like prohibition. And the people need the product medically. And from an adult use perspective, people enjoy the product and they use it medically in adult use markets as well, they just don't need a prescription, they kind of understand what's good for them.
So, I understood that there was a large illicit market and this huge market that was opening up to new users, like baby boomers, who really hadn't used a product in years, or ever, who are now using it instead of things like opiates, or sleeping pills or things that might speed up your diet, you know, medicines for your migraines or headaches. So, you got this whole new market really caused by a much better product and tested product, better delivery systems. So, I never doubted where we were going. It wasn't easy. And like you said, we have received a fair amount of... seven firms and in Canada in the United States covering a Jushi now. And that was an easy getting that kind of, you know coverage. We're a multi-billion dollar company in terms of our value. That wasn't easy. And we had to avoid a lot of pitfalls and landmines along the way.
If you - and I'm sure, Rena, you know the industry very well, since you've been involved in it. But if you look at it, there are - not all the companies have survived. There are companies that were the top of the industry. Now they're going through restructurings. And there are some that were top of the industry that functionally are, you know, dead and kind of don't have any real ability to grow. And so, you have fallen top companies, probably about four or five different top companies that have fallen very, very far. And some are being liquidated. And then you have this whole middle tier, which where we would have fallen, or even the lower tier where we would have fallen, where the miss ratio is, you know probably well over 50%.
So, when you think about our philosophy of taking a company based upon a simple thought process of, you need a great management, it's a regulated industry, which has its own issues. It's a growth industry which has its own issues managing growth is difficult. It has this, it has this landmine set-up in the industry by being federally illegal, like tough banking, limited access to capital.
And a lot of entrepreneurs in the business that might have been in the business for over a decade, which means that they actually were operating in the business when it was not legal. So, you have a lot of characters in the business. So, you know, you have this broad set of issues that don't present itself in other industries. And then each state is like a different country. You have to operate in that state, a ring, fence, iron wall, whatever you want to call it in that state. So when you think about that you're running. If you're in 10 states, you have 10 different businesses.
So from an accounting perspective, from compliance, legal perspective, it's all different. Different laws, and then you have to consolidate all that. So, it's a very management intensive business. I don't think enough people really understood that in the beginning. So, we built this platform. Right now we're running, believe it or not around $22 million a year in corporate G&A to run Jushi, and we happen to be in six states. So, we're not even that big.
Now, some people have a lot more overhead, but we're very efficient at it. And so, to run this business requires a management team that's kind of like, you know, chicken and egg. You need the businesses to generate revenues to cover the overhead, but you also need the management team to run the business. So it requires you convincing the markets that you are worthy of their investment, to build this business, or you have to go out and get this business and not be able to manage it.
So, it's really tough dance, and that's why there's been so much failure. And if you compare that to the technology business, and I'm sorry, I'm speaking so much, but if you compare to the technology business, you know, when you have a great invention, you know, like a social media platform, or an app or some sort of, you know, AI technology, there's a lot of risk of starting the company based upon R&D and actually figuring out something that works, the hit ratio is very, very small, because you have, it's effectively an invention, and then you have to find a commercial application for it.
Two different things. But there's a failure rate very high, because a lot of inventors don't invent, they fail or there's something better out there, they didn't know about. In cannabis, you know, it's going to win, the market is huge, people love the product, but getting there is very, very difficult. So, I think that's what we've done at Jushi. We've managed to build the business based upon your simple philosophy of being a top well-managed company.
RS: And, to your point about, you know, being a well-managed company, and there's been companies that have not been well managed, and, you know, the market is seeing very much who's swimming naked right now. But I think another point to bring up is, you know, and a lot of times people will equate good management with good backgrounds, you know, like you're speaking from the financial world, or wherever it is that, you know, supports tight corporate governance, more than as you said, the illicit cannabis market was doing for so many years. But I think also what has happened is there were these kind of, you know, things that - companies that looked well managed, let's say, but then were mismanaged right?
People with the good backgrounds were coming in, but then either overspend or over expanded or spend your responsibly or took on crazy packaged debt, kind of fill in the blank. Do you feel like that? And I'm talking about the people that are coming from kind of a business finance background? Do you feel that's a notion of greed and kind of coming to the market and just being greater than then you should be? Or do you feel like it's a notion of getting into this business, over estimating how much somebody's business sense is going to be applicable in something that, as you said, is so heavily regulated, is so ever changing? You don't just have to have good business sense, but also be nimble and thoughtful and creative, and so what do you - what would you attribute it to?
JC: I think what the market suffered from, which hurt all of us, by the way, but funny enough, the way we are is with our background, investing in troubled situations, it actually helped us because we were able to raise money and take advantage of the situation when prices were low, because people were kind of messing up to be honest. So, you know, the good news, the bad news is kind of good news for people like us at Jushi. People with some background in the distressed sector.
So, to answer your question, I don't think it necessarily - there's always greed in capitalism, but I think there was a - the market doesn't get a free pass. I think that the people investing in cannabis were unable to discern what good management teams and bad management teams are. If you go back and look at the reports that were written by the analysts up in Canada, two, three years ago, all they talked about was the footprint. That's all they talked about.
They talked about what states they were in, what the population those states were, the, you know, it was all this dream, they never talked about the management team. And it didn't take a genius, it took actually not that sophisticated investor to take a look at these things and say, wow, these people have no experience. This person was a doctor, this person was a salesman, this person was - has no experience, they didn't do anything. They didn't even go to a good school. So, that's how about CEOs. And so, you know, and amazingly, they were just so caught up in the footprint and so we stayed away from that and we told them what we were going to do. We didn't go to Florida, we didn't go to New York because they were pushing everybody, both in New York go public, two of the biggest states. We said you know what, that everybody's rushing the licenses are too expensive. We're going to go on Pennsylvania and Virginia. And I'm going to pick up a little something here in Illinois.
So, we went our own way and looked for value in states that weren't necessarily being marketed. So, I think there was this - the investors, the machine in Canada all have fault with the way they did the industry, but the managers themselves, the CEOs, the investors, sure, I mean, there was a, there was a big degree, I don't call it greed as much as I call it promoters. They were promoters old fashioned. So, in the oil and gas industry, which is an industry that I've been involved in earlier in my career full of promoters, Wildcat, you know, they call the Wildcat, you go, you go say, hey, I got this great play out here, you drill, drill, drill, and you get all this oil. And, you know, it's great. It's like, you know, it's like finding money, right? Find all, like finding money. And the industry was overwrought with promoters, people who would sell all these ideas. So, it's totally greed, on that basis, but the important thing is you're able to promote it.
So, these people with these fallen companies, if you look at the biggest ones, the biggest ones that were the biggest market caps, who fall in the most, they were promoters. So, you had a gullible audience who were actually very smart knew, well, you can't lose in cannabis. But you have to pick the right companies. Those are the three things to making an investment work. One is the market, you know if the market goes down 50%, like being - that being invested in cannabis and going to be the best thing in the world, right? So they had that right. The market, you know, goes up and down. So, you shouldn't worry too much about that, then you have to get the company, right.
So that's where a lot of people were getting it wrong. The good news, though, is right now, I believe, starting about 12 months ago, well not even 12 months ago, I would say seven or eight months ago, last summer, they started the market and the people in Bay Street after going in hibernation. A lot of people probably lost their jobs up in Canada. And a lot of companies started to stop doing it because they had so many failed stock offerings. You had people who actually thought about the management teams, and were a lot more capable of assessing the situation. So, I think that set up, and you have this group of 10 or so winners, which we're in. And then there's another view, if you look at the stock charters another 30 companies or 40 companies very hard when you dip down into that group.
RS: Yeah. I think that's such a good assessment of the past few years. I mean, it's pretty much when I started this podcast was exactly what you were saying, all the analysts from Canada saying everything that you just went over. I think that's very true. So, now we're getting to a place where investors are starting to understand the picture more analysts are starting to understand the picture more, even the media is starting to understand the picture a tiny bit more, but within that we're seeing crazy volatility, where I feel like we should be seeing kind of, you know, as you said, like from last summer, it's been kind of just like a straight trajectory sloping upwards.
And now that there's so much more good news in the marketplace, albeit for maybe lesser amount of players. I'm curious, why isn't being more reflected in share prices? And overall, you know more bullish sentiment, do you feel like it's the technical nature of the market working itself out, and you know, kind of short sellers and all the games that are being played until it happens?
JC: So, I mean that's a good question. I actually think the market has gotten to be pretty good. And so for me, running this company is somebody has been spent a career in, you know, building companies and getting them public and doing things like this. I would say that I'm actually very enthused with how the market is acting right now. The market shouldn't go straight up. So what's happened is, is the market went too far down.
So, if you look at Jushi as an example, we raised money from our investors for the first time at $1 a share and then we kept raising money. We went public at $2.75. This is in U.S. dollars, and which is our ticker symbol JUSHF now. That's a U.S. dollar ticker symbol, JUSHF. And so we went public at $2.75. Then we went down below $1 in the dark days. Now, we always had enough cash compared to a lot of folks, but having said that, we did not - we weren't, we didn't have any excess cash, and the truth is, we needed to raise more money to complete the plan that we had put into perspective, everybody knew that. That was how the industry was formed. We all had these grand plans that required more capital to capital intensive business.
So, everybody knew that and so but when it went down what happens with all that volatility like you're speaking with, the cannabis entered a bear market, we were the last deal to go public. We entered the bear market as we went public. And then the equity markets virtually shut down to cannabis. While it was still a pretty good neighborhood for most companies in the stock market, including, you know, all these tech stocks that were going public or doing direct listing to whatever it is. So, then you come around, you go to COVID. Well, that wasn't good for anybody. And the COVID market took us all the way down. So, if you look at it, you know, it was an industry that required capital where the spigot was turned off for like a year.
So, functionally we all became - we were on the virtual - all became, you know, if you did your analysis, can you play pay the debts when they come due? Do you have enough liquidity to do that for a year? You know, that's what a gap measurement is one year of short term liability. We were all functionally didn't have enough to get past the year almost all. Maybe there was one or two that were no they, but they would have to cut back their capital plans to get there.
So, it became the survival of the fittest and very, very difficult, I would say. And that's why only 10 of us or so made it. The 10 I think best managed companies, I think it's - I'm not surprised by and when I say 10 I don't know, it could be 11, it could be 9, I'm not sure what that number is. But it was a really good group of companies that pulled through. And we had to do something extraordinary at Jushi, which we'll get to. And I think we did something absolutely extraordinary at the bottom of the market to be one of those companies, but the truth is, it was a functionally distressed industry.
So, when you look at the stock prices, they had gone too far down the markets had it took the market another year, I'm just saying, the bear going in hibernation, saying, well, I have to, this was just a terrible party. I got a big hangover. I lost too much money. I'm going to sleep. I don't know what's going on in this industry. And so the market just went away. There was nobody - nobody had - the only super smart, super aggressive investors kind of like I would have been if I was on the other side of the table at the time, you know, we're able to say, you know what, this is kind of what I like to do. I like to go in this and figure out where the mess is, you know, let me just get down deep in there.
And so, so that moment in time, it was very, very little money out there. And so, I think that, you know getting back to your question, you know what's happened in the market is, that was kind of too punitive. And so what's gone on now is, we looked like we went from $1 a share to you know we're trading about seven. Well, we didn't really go from $1 to seven. They were from 2.75 to $1 to 7], so we really went public 2.75 to 7, which is closer, right, you know, a 100% gain over what will be two years in May, right when we raised that money. So, you know, for growth industry, that's not you know, terribly bad, but it looks like we were up 600% or something like that, or 700%. But that's not really what happened.
So, there was a lot of value creation in those three years. So, I think now it makes sense for the market, just to say, you know, these stocks have had a big move, you know, and I kind of liked the fact that they're all just trading around a bit and you know, the values of kind of being, you know, thought it's not straight up and straight down. We call it in the investment world school yard left and school yard, right, everybody goes in the same direction. I'd like to school yard analogy, because kids actually aren't the most thoughtful compared to and so they all move in the same direction very often. So, I like you know, very faddish, you know, think of it as a fad. So now people are discerning people are taking a break, and I kind of like the trading patterns of the stock and I think it's actually quite positive for the industry.
RS: So, you think it's kind of shaking out to a more realistic valuation?
JC: Yeah. And that's not to say the stocks won't double next year, I don't know. That's I say, there won't be a 50% or down 30%, or something like that. But, you know, I think there's a ton of, you know, a ton of positive things in the industry, which will drive values much higher over a period of time, but it could be, you know, longer-term period of time, but as a long-term investor, and as an owner of this business and manager of this business, you know, I think that, you know, it's a great time to be involved.
RS: And in terms of like the MSO, you know, you talked about being bullish on the whole MSO picture, would you say that it's mostly what you see it as, as the ability to scale and the ability to grow within that scaling?
JC: Yeah. I think that's right. I think - so when you look at this industry, okay, let's not forget the regulatory, okay. The regulators - it's a highly regulated industry. There's not, you know, and there will be mistakes made by all companies. There will be somebody in your one store someplace, or maybe, you know, several times a year that does something, you have to do it, you have to report it, and then just happens that way, in a regulated business. If you look at Wall Street, there's always things, it's a highly regulated business, where a broker does something or a banker does something doesn't mean the whole institutions bad. So you have to really minimize that and manage it. So when you see that as an exception, you do it and you report it and you self report, you do all these things.
So that's a hard structure. So, you have to manage on a highly regulated fast moving business, multiple states. Then on top of that, you know, you have to grow your product. Then you take the product, you dry it, you cure it, and then you manufacture it or you sell it as a dry cure product, right? That's been 50/50. So there's like two businesses right there in highly regulated business. Well, on top of that, then you're running a retail network, right. And then part of running a retail network, you need to run an online business and put a great website and menu, which was something we happen to be very good at.
And so it's like running five or six businesses in one. You know, if you think about an online center like, you know, Amazon, you know, who's gotten into the physical business, but much bigger on the online business, you know, that's one business, you know, but when you look at, you know, a CVS, that's a retail business, but we do the whole thing.
The only comparable, really, is in the oil business, where you find oil, you drill for oil, and then you sell it to gas stations. You know, it's fully integrated, almost no businesses like that. So, getting back to your question, managing that growth is very, very difficult. And that's why I think the market has not had, right. It's very, very hard. So it's - I think, managing the growth, managing the change, and just getting all that stuff, right is very hard. And then you put on top of that, to - what you're really supposed to be doing, if you have the capability to be doing and I don't think there's many of us that do at this point, you should be acquiring companies and having a national network. There's lots of reasons to do that if a bigger market cap a more liquid stock, you have brands that you can distribute throughout the country, and you could amortize the value.
You know, doing brand architecture is quite expensive. It involves a website and it involves different websites for each you know, different information, different content for each product. And you test your products it's very data driven. You don't just say, okay, I like I'm going to call this project the product Rena, you know, Rena's Finest, you know, and I'm just going to do that. And that's not what you do. You actually test the name. We have an edible called Tasteology where we must have tested it against different things, a dozen times before we decided on that name. And then we tested the look of the cans themselves that they go into, the tin, cans, and then the artwork on that can. So that's a lot of time, a lot of money. And you want to amortize that across the country. So there's tons of reasons to be national do acquisitions, but it's very hard on top of running your business. And I think that there are very few companies in a position to do that.
RS: It's interesting. I'm a big basketball fan. I talk about this sometimes on the podcast, and one of my favorite players, Steph Curry, he talks about how in practice, he wears weights and all of, you know, on his arms and on his legs, and he plays with a heavier basketball. And then when he's in the game, every shot is much easier for him because it's much lighter.
And it seems like for cannabis companies that are exactly what you're describing, you know, a totally onerous operation to run. And then when we talk about, kind of the banking opening up and the safe banking, opening up and taking away some of those more draconian regulations like 280E, or the ways that you guys have to run a corporation because it's federally illegal interstate commerce, you know, once those things, I think start to open up, it's kind of even crazier, how much growth there's going to be.
I guess my question is, not just saying, how great that's going to be, but my question is, where do you see it going? And how quickly do you think that that's going to open up? Because even when the laws get written, it's still not going to - they're still not going to be implemented? So, how far away do you think we are from that? And how much time do you spend thinking about that?
JC: Well I love your analogy, and get me back on track if I get off track, but the Steph Curry - I've heard him say that before or I've seen it on a video. And I just want to complete that analogy. We wear the weights every day in the game.
JC: I think that's your point. The weights were on the cannabis management team, which is why there's so many failures, which is why it's such a difficult environment as an investor. And so, you know, in terms of the regulatory change, you know, none of that's really in our control, but if it's more in our control, you know, as people who can lobby you know, the our federal system and state by state system is built on people, you know, looking after the self interest and industries and employees, you know unionizing industries coming together trying to get rules written. And, you know, people who don't want it for whatever reason coming in and lobbying and you have all these different folks lobbying, so in the state by state areas, you know, the industry, you know, has set up good examples.
I think a great example is the state of Illinois, where there was a great adult use law put in place that included money that went to social equity for them to open up their businesses and allowed lots of room to run for social equity or reasonable cap on the number of dispensaries not too low, like three that you see in some states, maybe not too high, you know, 10 to 20 is probably the right number, and they came in at 10. But - and so, I think that's - so we have these examples, you know in Illinois that have worked really well. We have a medical example in Florida and Pennsylvania that worked really, really well. And they have to transition to adult use both those states, I think are in the process of doing that.
So for us, it's a matter of just educating the folks who need to be educated. And it's remarkable, you know that just doesn't happen. I mean, they're just not like trying to figure out the cannabis industry, that's - they have so many things are doing, they're really focused right now on COVID. You know, and - but they - in most states, there's a lot of people who really want this to happen, they want a good social equity component to it. And so I think we as an industry need to do a good job of just educating everybody really what it comes down to, on the benefits of the industry and how it should work, and maybe the Illinois example or some other examples. Okay, so the state-by-state stuff for Jushi will be really important, because we have Pennsylvania, which, you know, New Jersey just went to adult use, so think about, you know, 6 months to 8, 12 months to implement maybe a little bit more, but that's a huge border with Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania wants to do it anyway.
The governor has gone around - the deputy governor has gone around and surveyed every county, I think there's 69 counties. They came back widely in support. So they want to do it for the wrong reasons, then they have this neighboring state doing it, which means to go spend their money and pay taxes in New Jersey, so they'd like to probably do a little bit quicker. And let's give a bipartisan legislature and we're finding that, you know, people, you know, on both sides of the aisle, you know, think it's a good thing for their citizens and their tax revenue. And so, and then Virginia, you know, they've moved the fastest I've ever seen. We happen to have, I think one of the best licenses in the country, and what we have in Northern Virginia, and they have, I've introduced flower, which in the medical market is half your, you know revenues, and they introduce that as quick as I've seen it being introduced.
We just started the program in fourth quarter 2020. And they've already introduced flower, which is coming into play probably the third quarter of this year. And then that just passed a few weeks ago, that's one of the reasons why Jushi has been a popular stock is people are probably the best, most concentrated play on both of those states. And then Florida when we're not in - they'll go through a voting process in 2020 to 2024. And so they're - all these states have these different things, which are positive for us in the industry. So, and then the federal side, so that's separate, and that's a positive thing. I think that, you know, the horses so to speak are out of the barn, and they're not going back into the barn. They're enjoying the fresh air and sunshine and it ain't going back, right. Nobody's, you know, so that's done. And then the federal side is moving very, very, very slow. And, you know, and slower that I think, you know, all the stock promoters.
I mean, they were people wanting companies when they went public saying that we were going to be federally legal, like in 2019. I just thought that was the biggest lie that I ever heard because there was no way that was going to happen. And if you had any sense of what was in front of you, there was no way that that was going to happen. Maybe I got a 3% chance or a 7% chance, but not a 25% chance. And so but now federal - the federal side, which is very hard to predict they have a lot of things they're doing that the country needs, and how this fits into their legislative agenda, we don't know. We believe that the banking thing seems pretty good. Will that include 280E reform, and will that include, which I think it needs to, will include the ability for us to list our stocks on the exchange in the U.S. So, we don't have this whole Canadian U.S. thing going on for companies that are domiciled here.
So, I think there's a lot of things going on that could be positive in that. So, we don't know what that's going to look like, the devils in the detail. And then there's states rights, which I think is the most likely outcome, you know, for a more far reaching legislation. And that would come later I think, you know, there's a chance they come together. And I look at, and that could be next year or you know, maybe after the next election, who knows. But it all happened very quick. We don't know. I look at, you know, when I first started this industry, I used to tell people, look what happened in the gay community with gay marriage, like you had this country split between states that allowed it and states that didn't. And then all of a sudden, you know, I went to a marriage with the two men who are married, you know, the week that Supreme Court allowed, made it federally legal, it was in New York, so it didn't matter for them. They had their wedding set up. But it was a huge celebration at the reception. Because it was such a - and it just happened and surprised everybody. It was unbelievable. That's how this country works. You just don't know how it's going to work at that federal level.
RS: Yeah, totally. And I think your point is really true about the states that have gone online. I mean, I think Jushi was extremely well positioned. And what do they say, you have to be, you have to be smart to be lucky. So, I think that that probably worked so well in your favor. But again, it has to do with how you are building the base. The thing I wanted to follow up on is in terms of the states opening up and the issue of federal legality. Pennsylvania is a state that comes to mind where there's talk from the politicians about treating cannabis like alcohol, and, you know, government getting involved in terms of, you know, taking some profits, it being more government run, do you see that as a possibility? It seems to me like that's not a real reasonable possibility.
JC: I don't think that's going to happen. You know, I think the term is sought - the thought, you don't want to know how the sausage is made. I don't eat sausage anymore. I did when I was younger, but I don't like the way sausage is made. And I think the political process for people like me, who haven't really been evolved into a great degree. Now, we have people in our company who were charged with, you know, helping us do this. But I have never been involved in it. And that whole process is foreign to me, to be quite frank. And, but they, because there's so many go back to the Illinois example, and maybe the Massachusetts example. And there's so many examples of how it's been done that are good examples, Arizona now.
So, I think what you see is, there's just as trend, the trend is just there, like, why are you going to be so different? You know, do the alcohol distribution companies want a piece of the action? Absolutely. You know, and will they be involved in lobbying for themselves? Absolutely. Will it go in that direction? I don't think so. I don't think it makes sense. That's not what the people want. Because at the end of the day, the legislators, and the governor ends up doing what they think the people want. And what the people want is to go to a store, like a CVS for their products and have more control. They don't want to have to go to some, you know, statewide thing. And so that's a legacy, I think that exists because it's there, and they're lobbying and they've kept it there, because of benefits now. But I don't think the people of Pennsylvania want that.
RS: And as we see the states open up more and more how - what's your feeling on the viability of the MSO model, or these companies growing as you guys grow? And as you scale and as you have a bigger presence across the states? And then it starts to really open up? Do you see Jushi as, you know, kind of keeping on its rise to the top of the cannabis picture? Or do you see an acquisition happening? Or is that something that you don't really think about because you're taking it kind of step by step?
JC: So, yeah, I think the MSO model, you know, people told me when I first got in the industry, wow, you're so late, you know, there's, there's already six companies and so they're going to dominate. It turns out that I don't know that three of them are gone, you know. And pretty much from the top, you know, tier and some of them are liquidating. And so - and I always said, why is 6 or 5, there could be dozen, you know, this is, you know, you're limited how many licenses you can have in a state. So, I think you're going to have a good dozen or more of these MSOs that exist on a national scale. And so it's - which is unusual, you know, but in the growth part of an industry, if you go back in your history books, and look at the car industry, back in the 19, whatever it was early 19th century to mid 19th century, there were hundreds and hundreds of car companies.
You know, we think all these EV companies are so, you know, novel by all these EV companies, it's nothing compared to what happened, just in the United States, this was going on in Europe, too. And probably in Asia, were getting car companies, hundreds of them, and then they consolidate it over time. So, as laws change, and things happened, and economic circumstances change, you know, as industries mature they consolidate. So, I think you're going to have a lot of MSOs. And I think we'll be one of them and I think it's harder than people think. So I think there's going to be more people who stubbed their toes. I think there's very few companies know how to acquire businesses. We will definitely be acquiring businesses. We have $180 million or so of cash on our balance sheet. We have about 60 of that earmarked for growth opportunities within our portfolio building out stores, building out to grow processors, acquiring more land, around some of our grow processors, things like that.
Ultimately, we'll be able to finance some of that with leases and debt, so we'll get some of that back, but the reality is, is we have about $120 million, which we're focused on for acquisitions, and the typical acquisition looks, part cash, part seller notes, and part equity, because we prefer not to give out too much of our equity because we're bullish on it. So and, and so that's how it all - that's how it works. And if you look at Jushi now, we have this big Pennsylvania footprint.
We have a big and in fact we were very early in Pennsylvania, it's how we have 18 different retail location licenses for 18. I think 11 are open right now. And which is tied for Number 1 in the state. And then we have this Illinois footprint and Virginia. Virginia is very unique, you know, everybody can own Virginia, there's only four operational licenses, but Pennsylvania, you know, if you look at the big companies, they've all gone in, you know, because it's a great state. Now, a lot of them came in late, and they're putting together blocks of things. And but I think the days of Jushi being an acquisition target, probably, you know, past us, because there's too much overlap.
I would be totally open to that, you know, I mean, like, it's all about the shareholders. You know, if we're sold to a well managed company, fantastic if they wanted to stay on fantastic if they didn't fantastic, you know, it all depends upon what happens for our share price. And so, but so I think we will be a consolidator most likely and we will be adding on the platform, ultimately, that's the better play for Jushi shareholders, I believe, because I think we are probably the top in the industry at acquiring companies. And I don't say that lightly, you know, I'm not really a braggart, which is why I'm not good at, you know, investor relations. We have a great investor relations team, but I don't like to say things like that. And basically, the reason why that is, is we have this heritage of really being very, very data driven. And we do that in our business, you know, the way we analyze, I mentioned how we analyze brands, and we do all the testing, and we look on.
We get headsets, data chain technologies data, and we, you know, a lot of it's anonymous data from people who, you know, give it to them. So, we all could understand the data, which is very common in any industry. AC Nielsen does that for food stores, and IMS does it for pharmaceutical stores. So, the industry, we know we're doing that to and then so we understand our consumers and what the consumer behavior.
So, we do it there, but when we do acquisitions, you know, I had a comment from a senior person in our business that they've never seen the kind of diligence that we do, you know, I mean, it's - and they're very, very experienced business people. So, we really, really dig deep. We get comments from buyer sellers, about us being the most professional group they've ever dealt with. And, you know, in these deals, there's always issues that come up with.
So, I actually think that's very hard. And if I - knowing what I know as an investor, again, when you go below that top number of companies, and a couple of those companies have stubbed their toe real hard on acquisitions, and don't have a strong history of acquisitions. And if you look at them, you can figure that out. But then you go to that next 20 below, like I would be very, very careful investing in there if they are doing acquisitions, because many of them have no capabilities. I mean, giving them money to go out and buy stuff is like, you know, giving candy to a baby, you just don't want to do that. So, I think that there's very few of us in that position.
So, being a company in that position that I think is one of the best, clearly one of the best, maybe the best at doing this. I, you know, and we've had to do it, by the way, some of these great big companies, the biggest market cap companies they were great at winning deals, you know, winning by faith. They were there six or seven years before us, they created enormous shareholder value winning licenses. We didn't have that opportunity, because we were what we call the Harvard Business School, we were a fast follower, you know, there's the innovator, and then there's a fast follower, you know, I would have liked to have been the innovator would have been, you know, a better for our shareholders. And I'm the largest shareholder, but that wasn't the case.
You know, I was a little a little more cautious, you know, the cannabis industry in 2014. I didn't even think of it a 12 or whatever when these people got involved. If you got involved in 14, you were thinking about in 12 right. And so, you know, I do believe that this is a skill where Jushi is one of the companies that has the most upside from acquisitions because we have a smaller footprint and this capability in house. So, it's super exciting position that we're in and we have all this cash, I get calls from, you know, big shareholders and others once in a while saying, you know, hey, when you're going to, we don't feel the pressure, you know, we got plenty of things we're doing. And you know, if you look at what we've done in the last six months, we had like about a two-thirds interest in our Virginia license, we consolidate that.
We own a 100% before they added flower, before they have adult use legislation, which in bringing in, in 2024. Do you know how great a trade that was for us to buy that? It was fantastic. So, we did that. We also are in the position of acquiring more land around our facility in Virginia. So, we can have the capability to have about 200,000 square feet or so for you know, adult use is not something you would need in the medical market. And then in Pennsylvania we've acquired the property around our grower processor. So, if that goes adult use, you know, we, you know, we can expand that to a quarter of a million square feet or higher, you know we got capability 350,000 square feet, it's almost limitless, how big we can get there. And so, we picked that asset up by the way for, like, you know $16.5 million of cash and 17 million in debt. So, I mean, we have the capability to take it to this huge, huge number.
So, there was a pretty good facility with at 88,000 square feet, needed to be turned around poorly run, but you know... So, you know when we look at that, you know we've been doing tremendous things for our shareholders, now. We've done a big, splashy acquisition, you know, we're involved in looking at a bunch of those things, but they have to fit in. We look for the culture - at this juncture, we can't do too many turnarounds. It's not like you can turn around every company at the same time in every state, that's just like humorous right, that's just like, okay, you're just not going to, you're just going to screw up, you know, we don't have that kind of depth. We have a lot of depth, but nobody has that kind of depth, not even the biggest have that kind of depth.
So, we want to buy some well run businesses. And we want to take some things from them as well, you know, some of their best attributes, maybe it's their chocolate bars, maybe it's - they have fantastic gummies, I don't know, but we want to pick up little nuggets, maybe it's a - they have a couple of great cultivators so we can move one to another state that requires a turnaround, right? So there's all kinds of things we can pick up in these deals. And so we want them good values, and so we're finding a lot of great opportunities to do that, but those kinds of deals, you want to share values, you don't want to acquire something, you know, it's really well run, where you're paying for this cash flow stream, and they need to replace everybody because, you know, you're all not copacetic. So, these are complex things. There's plenty of targets out there. You know, there's very few companies that combine, look at the top three companies in the industry. They're like off the table in most states.
They can't buy. I think, I mean, I'm sure Boris doesn't mind me giving them free press. But I think Curaleaf (OTCPK:CURLF) they're done. I mean, there's pretty much nothing they can acquire. And by the way, they probably have the most capability to acquire because they are the biggest market cap, they're done. And if you go down from there and just look at those companies, you could just go, oh, yeah, they're done pretty much except for here and here. And then you look at the next one down. Oh, yeah, they're done except for here, here, and maybe here. And then we're at Jushi, we have like a dozen places we can go. And we're good at it. So, I think it's super exciting time.
So, if you look at our - let me talk a little bit about Jushi's numbers. But if you look at our valuation, and you look at our multiples, and we haven't shared 2022, yet, but we've shared 2021, between $205 million to $255 million of revenue guidance. And I think, you know, we've been on track beating our - beating our quarters for the last few quarters. So, the model is proved to be somewhat conservative. We're not trying to be super conservative we're just trying to get it right, you know, and so - but on top of that, you know we have and which is by the highest growth rate in the industry over the past, you know, 12 months, 18 months, by far. I mean, we exited 2019, excuse me, with annualized. So, if you took the fourth quarter annualized, it was about 23 million, 25 million or something in revenue, okay, for the year.
So, you annualize the fourth quarter. So multiply that times four, you get to about 23 million, 25 million for the year. We're run rating now about 150. You know, I think that was known in the public more or less. And we've already provided guidance. So, I mean it all fits in, but that's growing that rate of growth 25 to 150 in a little over 12 months, I mean, that's kind of ridiculous. And so we have that in the business because Pennsylvania, well, we're rolling out we have seven, I think we have 17 stores now. And people should check our website because I can't keep track of all - we open up new ones all the time.
And my job isn't really Investor Relations. And we're opening this year about 12 stores. I mean, that's just tremendous. And we have this huge growth process from Pennsylvania, we're turning around and adding to which we should have more capacity on that in the third and fourth quarter of this year. And then in Virginia, we started a facility that didn't exist. It's just doing its first harvest as we speak. It's curing now and drying the first harvest.
So, we have all this growth embedded in the company in great markets. And our Illinois stores are some of the industry's best across the whole country. The two that are essentially East St. Louis across the bridge from St. Louis in Illinois, they are adult use, and they're just - one of them, I think is, one of the best dispensaries after Planet 13 (PLNHF). And it's in a nightclub district, which is why you would spend so much money on it like Planet 13, I would say it's quite in a nightclub district, and just off the strip in Vegas. And, but we have this tremendous dispensary, which we just opened up in December that has a trajectory on it, that's amazing.
So, we have all this embedded growth and then on top of that, you know, I believe we'll be able to do acquisitions that the markets when we do it, we will like when we announce them, and I believe we will have a series of those. And nothing too big, you know, that's going to be like, you know, game-changing on the company, meaning you know, you know, it's unlikely we require an MSO or anything like that, but it's one state, maybe even one dispensary. So, we're willing to do the hard work, a lot of these big companies now, they want to acquire one dispensary.
They're not set up to do it anymore. You know, they just want - they want scale, when they do an acquisition and they want they want to get 100 million in revenue or whatever each time, and the ability to get to 100 million revenue. We will pick up one little one, another one, another one, another one, and we have a team set up to do that. So, we'll do the hard work on the small stuff. And then the big stuff will come when we see the deals and the shared values.
RS: I think exactly what you're saying is proven out also by the fact that most companies are not issuing guidance, and are not coming out with, you know, hard and fast plans or numbers and a lot of promise. And I think also a lot of investors are expecting some kind of crazy deal to be announced without realizing the problem with Limited License states and the other factors that you mentioned. So do you feel like it's just a matter of kind of where we started from, which is good management? Is that what leads you to be able to issue guidance when most of the sector is not?
JC: Yeah, I mean, I think we were leaders in issuing guidance, quite frankly, for a small company. Yeah, I think it is good management. And I'll speak to that a little bit. I'll put some meat on the bones of that question. I think our model, so when we do deals, we look at other people's models. And before we decide to go the state-by-state approach of just taking this platform we have this management platform, corporate G&A, like a $22 million. And now if we add EBITDA on that it's all creative below that. We have to add maybe a couple accounting professionals, maybe some more compliance to, you know, manage that asset. But we don't have to bring on a new CFO. We don't have to bring on a new legal department. We have all that. It scales, you know, it just scales, it's - what they call a business goal operating leverage, meaning that it's a fixed cost, you put that on, you don't have to necessarily increase it very much.
So, yeah, so like, we've seen a lot, we've seen MSOs, we thought about trying to, you know, put it together with another one and get there quicker. And, you know, it's extremely unlikely that's going to happen, by the way, that's why I can speak about it. So we've seen these models, both from these MSOs and both from, you know, the state by state operations. We have like the best model by far, what should actually be logical. I mean, we are Wall Street people that's what you do when you go to Wall Street. You learn how to build Excel spreadsheets, and you learn how to model businesses and value businesses. So that shouldn't surprise people.
We have a group that same group is now split into two and one of it is focused internally on understanding the costs and understanding KPIs in the grower processors. We take that data that technology, that technique, and we put it into our models, the model acquisition targets and our own business. So, we have a very, very detailed, you know, I don't want to throw out the number of pages, but if it's less than 50 or 60 pages, I'd be surprised because I don't really know. I'm not in there like looking at the balance of the model at this point.
Jon Barack runs that group in that model, he's a President, that's how high level that is. So, we've been able to understand our cash flows, which is why we were never, you know, going to run out of cash is because we have a model that gives us month-by-month where we stand. And, you know, we were operating like, you know, we didn't have enough cash to finish the job, because we didn't, and so like, we had this model built for a couple years. So, we have experience with the model.
So, yeah, we have a high degree of confidence. Now, we will be surprised on the upside and downside over time, stuff happens like COVID. I mean, awful. I mean, who thought that was possible? Now, it was downside in the beginning but then it's turned into upside, because I think people are probably using the more product because they're sitting at home. And then maybe when COVID comes off, that will be like, oh, well, maybe that's a maybe that's a little bit lower than we thought, who knows, you know. And so, but we have so much growth it doesn't matter, because we're opening 12 stores and what I told you about the growth processors. So that's a huge, you know, advantage that we have.
Now, but embedded in that initial group that we split into two, what is called financial planning and analysis that runs this model, and gets into the bowels of the company to do the data driven stuff that allows us to understand our KPIs and manage our business from a very quantitative perspective. On the other side of that is the Business Development Group, which is run by Oliver Buckner, that group is our M&A Group. So, we have like a private equity group that has multiple people in it that have been on Wall Street and hedge funds and private equity firms. And so we have like a private equity firm built into Jushi. And these are top quality people who could work for investment banks, or for private equity firm or distressed debt fund or whatever it is.
So that's a great group. And they're super data driven. And they kind of, those two groups where one, and they know each other, and they feed on each other in sort of going back and forth with the education process. And then, you know, our CFO is completely separate. Kim Bambach has run six different startups, she's tremendous, she's a force. I always say, if Kim and I took the standardized tests, like the SATs or the G-MATs, you know, those wonderful tests that we all enjoyed so much, she beat me every day of the week, because she's super smart. So, I have full confidence in my CFO, and what I just told you about being able to pull in all these different, you know, all these different, you know states and consolidate them, and then I have a couple of lawyers who run the legal side, Tobi Lebowitz and regulatory, and then the other is really securities and litigation and employee stuff.
So, we'll separate the two. Matt does the regulatory tremendous, you know, with a big group underneath them that they built. We hired the top people first in each case and then they built a group. In human resources we have Nichole Upshaw, she was about to get moved up to the highest levels was really at the highest levels at a private company called RaceTrac. They built some of the most tremendous gas stations. It's kind of like, if you're at a Wawa in Pennsylvania, and I'm there are a lot so I have to know those gas stations. These are the new... they have like 12 different you know, places where you can park your car and fill it up. And maybe 50 parking spots, they have great sandwiches, some healthy food, everything, you want - a lot of room. So it's COVID friendly, you know, you're not jammed into a small store. So, you'll always go to those if you have a choice.
And so she has this - is that's a tremendous background for a retail job. Most of our employees are retail. So, she's fantastic. She came on for us as she's built the group underneath her. She was our first human resource employee. So, in each case, we hire these top people who roll up their sleeves, and we didn't hire anybody who didn't roll up their sleeves. So, if you needed 20 people to run your accounting department on day one, you weren't considered. Kim had run six startups, she could do it. She I mean, she - so we didn't want to conductor, you know, we didn't want somebody to sort of like we wanted the people playing the violin. And so this is what we built in this management team. And we run with a ton of energy and super efficient, I'm at the top and a hedge fund, you have nothing more flat than hedge fund industry in terms of how its managed.
Okay, so I'll explain that to you. And you can go look at, you know, the history of the hedge fund business, a lot of them shut down the top people leaving, I'm not saying I'm so great or whatever, I'm not a bragger. But what I'm saying is, is it just no bureaucracy, right, because you have this very flat organization, almost all the people report to me, and I make the decisions, and I have a tremendous amount of information coming my way. And that has been a tremendous amount of work getting there. But I have a tremendous amount of information, I can rely on all of these people. I've been working with all them now for at least two or three years. And some of them like Jon Barack, you know, 6, 7, 8 years, you know, all the people I worked with who run business development I worked with prior to Jushi. So, they've come and joined the group because I was with a company because they have experienced with me and they've trusted that we'd be able to get this done together. So, it's a tremendous team and I can't emphasize that enough.
RS: You know, I think it's so great to talk to management. I talk to a lot of management, and the ones that are so excited, and they can't talk fast enough because of how excited they are, and how much they want to share about the company. And then you're talking to management who speaks a lot in sound bites or in headlines or in shiny package sentences, but not really saying a whole lot. So, this is just to the viewers. This is not for you, Jim, this is just for the viewers that soak up what you're saying, because not all management speaks like this. And this is part of what I'm really trying to do with this series is talk to management.
And you can really glean so much about a company beyond the financials, how exciting the passion that they're bringing, and how much they're sharing about the company because that means that you're thinking about it and that means that you're also expressing it which means it's true. So, you say that you're not part of part of IR, but I would say that it's really authentic IR this - what I think of this as.
JC: Thank you very much.
RS: I just speak from the heart. So, I wanted to end with asking where you got Jushi the name from, you were talking about before the importance of names?
JC: Yeah, I want to get back to that remind me, but it's just one other aspect. And it will be the bridge from your audience to getting to know Jushi. So, we have a creative director, who I should have named Andreas Neumann, he's built this and he's created, he's the most creative people I've ever got to know this well. And he's the one who's marketing the brands and all that, all that and it's very, very data driven. The people - the numbers people in his group are as good as the people who came out of, you know the top Wall Street institutions in our business development and other numbers oriented group, Kim's group. She's the CFO.
And so Andre has built a website, and an information apps where we have the best ordering menu, I mean our online sales are tremendous. All of our industry partners like Jane Technologies and and Springbig, which is the loyal - customer loyalty program, think we're like the beta customer, because we get have - they have open APIs, right, and we can get in and create a front end to their systems. And we help them develop their system.
So if they've worked better for the industry and for us, so people are copying us now. So, we have this tremendous system driven out of creative for branding, and really online ordering, which is kind of like our version of being an Amazon, right, you come on and you just pick it up, you know. We can't tell, you know, in some market like Virginia, we can deliver in California. So, we will do that, as we're developing the company. We're very much headed in that direction, but it's limited by the regulatory not many states allow that. So, that's great, but the upside to the investor in your audience for that is this, our website is tremendous.
So, if they just go onto that, the Jushi website, they'll understand where the name came from as well. I hope, because I think it's there, and you'll go in there. And there's a tremendous amount of information about the company. On the investor website, you can see our stores and pictures and videos and a huge amount of what we call content. We create a - we're constantly creating content. Why wouldn't you create videos about your customer with Tik Tok, and you know Instagram videos, I mean, it's all the new generation wants video. So, we do that. We create the video.
So, we're a 2030 company, not trying to be 2000 or 1900 company. So, it's really driven for the younger, and the millennials who are, you know, getting a little bit older, and so they can really, kind of understand our business. And then in terms of Jushi, so we had a lot of pressure, I started in a number of companies. And it's very hard to name a company. Because what happens is, is everybody has good names. And so what I noticed in the industry, generally because I didn't like any of the names, because I thought as an investor, I knew them all. And I said, you know, do these have any meaning?
You know, and you know, I'm not going to sit here and, you know, disparage any companies in particular, some are better than others. But I thought there wasn't a great amount of thought put into these things. And then once a great amount of thought put it up, put in ours either to be quite honest, but I happen to get lucky and I went out to the internet, and I started searching medical cannabis and just made some searches. And all of a sudden I came across the Jushi Kingdom, the first known use of medical cannabis was in the Jushi Kingdom, which is thousands of years ago. It's in China, as you would expect. And there was a shaman, and he was buried in a tomb. And I don't know if you've ever been to a tomb in China? I have.
They'll excavate is huge tombs thousands of years ago, and they'll have all the, you know, they'll have all statues around them in certain cases, they were warriors facing their enemies and the really cool stuff, right. And this Jushi shaman had cannabis all around him in urns. And apparently, as the legend goes, you open up the urn, and it was beautiful smelling product and so it preserved. And so, I just thought that was a really cool name. And amazingly, it's persevered. I don't think it was a lot of people who loved it as much as I did, but I think we're getting a lot of compliments on it now and people love the meaning.
RS: Yeah, that's awesome. That's really awesome. The closest I got to a tomb was in Egypt and I would have loved to have seen like a smoking session set up there.
JC: Exactly. That would be a good place. That'd be a good place to have a session.
RS: That's awesome. Jim, this was a pleasure. It was really great talking to you. Great catching up with Jushi. We had Kim on the Cannabis Investing Podcast and she is as smart as you say. It's great to have you on and great to hear - I would love to have you back on at some point down the road. This was a fantastic talk. So, thank you so much for not just sharing your time, but your energy. So, thank you.
JC: Thanks a lot Rena.
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