Cannabis Brand High Times To Become ‘First Ever’ IPO To Accept Crypto

Francisco Memoria
  • Cannabis brand High Times is reportedly going to become the "first ever" to accept cryptocurrencies in its initial public offering (IPO)
  • The move, according to its CEO, is meant to avoid leaving crypto investors out, and to be at the forefront of popular culture.

Cannabis culture media firm High Times Holding, which claims to be the “original voice in cannabis,” has recently revealed it’ll accept bitcoinand ethereum in its initial public offering (IPO), allegedly making it the ‘first ever’ to accept cryptocurrency investments.

According to a post on its website, the firm is set to accept cryptocurrencies as its part of its mission to be “at the forefront of popular culture.” High Times is selling its shares at $11, with the minimum investment amount being of $99. The brand is looking to go public on the Nasdaq exchange, with the ticker “HITM.”

To accept the cryptocurrencies the firm filed a Regulation A+ report with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which details a near $29 million negative equity reduction, a decrease in operating losses, and debt reduction.

The Regulation A+ (Reg A+) lets small and early-stage companies access capital in an “alternative to a traditional IPO” that lets them sell shares to the general public and not just accredited investors. According to Nasdaq, the filing lets businesses raise as much as $50 million in a 12-month period from members of the public.

Per High Times CEO Adam Levin, cryptocurrencies created a new “investor base across the world” the company didn’t want to exclude from its IPO. He was quoted as saying:

While we didn’t believe that the ICO process was the right move for our brand, it would’ve been foolish to leave this emerging investor base out as we continue to transform into a diversified media, events and merchandise giant.

Adam Levin

High Times was notably launched back in 1974, and is now seen as one of the most important media organizations in the industry, with an online magazine whose “presence [is] still going strong.”

Cannabis and Crypto

Cryptocurrencies have been pointed to as a solution to one of the cannabis industry’s problems. In the US state ballot initiatives made marijuana usage legal, but a number of banks refuse to offer cannabis-related businesses banking services. As a result, these operate only in cash.

Operating this way makes cannabis businesses a target for criminals, and forces them to spend money on security: safes, armored vehicles, guards and more. Given their features, cryptocurrencies could be adopted as a safer and cheaper alternative.

The Dash community has worked to be more involved in the cannabis industry. Last year, dash partnered with Alt Thirty Six, paying it $496,000 to “integrate Dash as a payment option in the cannabis industry’s point of sale (POS) systems.” The move was set to help vendors save 10-15 percent.

Potcoin, a cryptocurrency created for the cannabis industry, made headlines earlier this year after former NBA star-turned diplomat Dennis Rodman appeared on CNN wearing a Potcoin t-shirt.

How Bakkt Can Bring the Crypto Space an Institutional Investor Influx

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts have for years been waiting for institutional investors to enter the space. While the introduction of bitcoin futures contracts on regulated exchanges in late 2017 didn’t gain a lot of traction, but Bakkt may.

Bakkt is a long-awaited bitcoin futures exchange and on-boarding platform from the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) - the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange – and it’s set to launch this year. Bakkt itself has remained tight-lipped over the precise launch date after delaying its launch last year, with ICE CEO Jeff Sprecher in February simply saying “later this year.”

It’s possible that this quarter may see the launch or at least more news about when the exchange is finally coming. At the end of March, Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler explained:

While we’re not yet able to provide a launch date, we’re making solid progress in bringing the first physical delivery price discovery contracts for bitcoin to the U.S.

Bakkt’s launch could be a major milestone for the cryptoasset industry. A venture backed by Microsoft and Starbucks, its institutional pedigree alone will switch many cautious investors on. Specifically, the firm is set to help consumers pay for goods and services with cryptocurrencies, with Starbucks being the flagship retailer in its arsenal.

Bakkt’s Bitcoin futures contracts will be the first physically-settled derivatives on a regulated trading platform. This means investors will receive the contract’s underlying asset, bitcoin, when it expires.

Currently the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) offers cash-settled bitcoin futures contracts, meaning investors get the equivalent of BTC’s value in fiat when the contracts expire. This is seen by some as a major development in the cryptocurrency space, as it shows traditional finance is willing to interact with the nascent cryptoasset industry.

It’s worth noting that earlier this year the ICE’s CEO called Bakkt a “bit of a moonshot bet,”  as it was organized in a way “very different than the way ICE typically does business.” The firm has its own offices and management team, and could undergo more rounds of financing in the future.

Bakkt And a Potential Bitcoin ETF

What’s significant about Bakkt’s launch beyond this, is that it may bolster the chances of a Bitcoin Exchange-Traded fund (ETF) being approved. Such a product would make it easier for institutional investors to gain exposure to cryptocurrencies.

In August, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected nine other ETF applications, in particular highlighting how those applying hadn’t provided evidence that “bitcoin futures markets are of significant size’” for an ETF to be launched.

Once Bakkt is launched its trading volumes may very well help quell the SEC’s concerns over the bitcoin futures markets’ small size as institutions and other investors may feel comfortable entering it. Larger futures contracts trading volume, increased liquidity and a well-established company involved may prove enough to convince the SEC that the time is right for a Bitcoin ETF.

Bakkt therefore represents a very significant milestone for a maturing cryptoasset industry and may well herald the “institutional influx” that many have been anticipating since 2017. Despite the markets remaining relatively flat throughout 2019 these looming decisions in the U.S. have the power to move the entire industry forward, for better or worse.