[UPDATE]: The article below is one that we have stood behind from the day we posted it, and do to this day. What it shows is how a young company, one without the oversight of a more mature outfit, can make rash decisions and overpromise in a way that they hope will allow them to make a splash, without realizing that splash could fly in the wrong direction.
Instadose, as it arrived on the global cannabis product scene, spent money on promotion and that promotion was terrible. It set the company to look like smoke and mirrors, and when we wrote about it, that perception set the company back a long way when it could afford such a delay the least. Instadose had made a near fatal flaw, and we kicked the living crap out of them for it.
But a funny thing happened between our posting about it and this very moment, as you read this, and it’s something journalists live in the hope of happening always; the company we were writing about, that we were critical off, that we’d used harsh words to describe and expected legal action from, instead reached out to us and said, “fair comment, mistakes were made, would you help us improve?”
This isn’t always the way. More often than not, being critical of a company means hearing from their lawyers, or being frozen out of any comment by their desire for your story to be forgotten by the sands of time.
Instadose management did not do this. They came to us and told us they appreciated the insight, heard the criticism, saw ways they could improve and – this is a first for us – asked us to be part of that process.
Usually, we make our money by including companies in the investor conversation if they buy marketing programs from our site. With over 6,000 companies we could be writing about, many like to jump that queue and be often in front of our investor readership, even at the risk that what we write won’t be complimentary (and sometimes that’s the case – no refunds!).
Instadose wanted something else, however. They weren’t asking for promotion or marketing. They wanted to hand us all their documentation, every LOI and proposal, every deal and every asset claim, and have us go through it in an unbiased, journalistic way. If we found good things, then we’d say so. And if we found bad things, we’d say so too – with their blessing.
Often, journalists have to ply their trade from the outside of the boardroom. We ask for comment, dig for data, and fill in any gaps the best we can, and often receive little in the way of help in that pursuit.
But Instadose proposed that we do so with their company in an ongoing basis, and that they’ll not only provide all documents we ask for, but pay for our time in doing so, that they’ll fly us to the places they say they’re building, that they’ll invite us to the conversations where the planning is happening, and that they’ll take on board our criticisms as they go, leading to a more informed story on our side than we could ever hope for otherwise, and a better run company on their side, with journalists watching over their shoulder in case the desire to overpromise once again takes hold.
We have accepted that arrangement, with enthusiasm.
The article below exists because it was important, but the next one, the more informed and better sourced one, is being worked on currently.
This is important. Every company, in our opinion, has their moment where they might make a choice that can damage its perception among the general public. Some get away without a journalist noticing. Some get pounded out when a journalist spots it. But every company has a choice to learn from their mistakes and make a pledge toward improvement going forward, or not.
We’re delighted Instadose believes bringing a journalist aboard won’t make things worse but will actually show a better company than before, a bigger opportunity than might otherwise have been, and will work to better serving the investor audience with clearer, verified, transparent information going forward.
What journalist, or investor, could ask for more?
Today, on his earnings call, iAnthus (IAN.C) CEO Hadley Ford said something that all in the Equity.Guru newsroom found very appealing, and startlingly rare.
“There’s two keys to success in the US right now and iAnthus has executed on all of those. Expansion of footprint, access to capital and hiring great people. But let’s talk a little bit about the money right now. We are the first [Multi-State Operator] to go public. The first MSO to raise money in Canada, the first MSO bought deal, the first to do a convert. And, to date, the largest private investment in a public MSO. But the real question is, what the hell have we done with all that cash? It’s your cash. It’s not ours, right? You are the shareholders, we work for you. […] Thanks for your votes in the shareholder meeting on Monday, and thanks for the chance to get out of bed every day and make all of us rich.
Hot damn, I think I got a semi listening to that. Because WE DON’T HEAR FROM CEOS THAT KNOW THEY WORK FOR US ANYMORE.
I’m so freaking sick of the relentless waves of grinders, grifters, conmen, self-dealers, card sharks, money launderers and CEOs that have hit the weed space in 2018 that it’s starting to feel like I’m never talking about anything good anymore.
Just this last month we’ve had Anthony Jackson and Justin Liu being hauled over the regulatory carpet for their Bridgemark money laundering scandal that appears to have run some $80m deep. We’ve had Vic Neufeld, CEO of Aphria (APHA.T), being exposed as the head of a ‘buy from ourselves with our company’s money’ scam that he keeps insisting he’s going to rebut but hasn’t weeks later, and has now been met with a fake takeover attempt from a company Aphria part owns. We’ve had Emblem Cannabis (EMC.V) finally capitulating, accepting a takeover offer so weak it appears they just want to end it all and move on to other things.
And that’s just the top three scandals. Inside the Bridgemark family of scammed companies, we’ve got Liht (LIHT.C) (formerly Marapharm) having taken two terrible shady financings that both shredded their share price in half, respectively, we’ve got Affinor Growers’ (AFI.C) boss Nick Brusatore using company resources to buy into his side hustle, shortly before taking off for extradition-difficult Aruba (and sending me a legal threat into the bargain). We’ve got Ascent (ASNT.C) management being shot out of a cannon when they lost their license for selling product out the side door. MedMen (MMEN.C) stock getting shittered after the top three execs paid themselves a large part of their $60m loss in company bonuses.
And then we’ve got every other damn weed company having their stock pounded out in the wake of all the lost confidence in the weed sector because EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE.
But I can take all of these issues in stride because the public markets are, at the end of it all, regulated. The rules may sometimes feel arbitrary, they may be casually enforced or not even enforced, or even not enforceable by design (such as the BCSC rule that says insiders must document when they buy or sell stock, but if they leave it for a year, the most they’ll get is a $150 fine even if they’re selling millions of shares in the shadows because the regulators ‘have no other way of knowing they’re not filing’ than encouraging them to do so late rather than not at all.
I’ll take a lot of shady market action at face value.
But one thing I won’t stand for is a straight up lying, manipulating, plain as the nose on your face, scam that doesn’t even respect me as a sensible person who can tell when I’m being kicked in the balls. I will not stand for dumb ruses that one can see through with the most minimal amount of effort, going unchallenged.
Enter Instadose Pharma.
Ugh. The first words on their website and I already hate them like poison.
This not-yet-public ruse for rubes claims, in a paid for, non-bylined, promotional piece sent out this week to wire services that don’t have quality control, that it’s ‘Canada’s largest cannabis producer’ and is bringing down CBD oil prices by 96.3%.
Those two claims are actually in the headline.
Also worth noting: Both are lies. Instadose doesn’t ‘produce’ anything. It hasn’t brought down any prices because it doesn’t sell, or produce, or grow or export or import or do a damn thing.
Here’s a sample of the lies:
TORONTO — Flying under the radar for the past few months, InstaDose Pharma is ready to hit the market with 2 million liters of CBD oil in 2019. InstaDose Pharma has over 200,000 farmers harvesting cannabis out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on over 100,000 hectares of land. The main production facility is GMP certified and pharmaceutically accredited with EU Pharmacopeia standards.
Ready to hit what market? The stock market? The Congolese CBD market?
200,000 farmers farming a football field of land each?
Instadose is a scam. It’s a fraud and I’ll stand right here at the risk of a lawsuit and say so to it’s lying, scamming, fraudulent, asshole face.
How do I know it’s a scam?
Because their own fucking website features a news item from Congolese media, translated poorly, which states the Minister of Agriculture in the DRC has met with the company and aims to figure out if growing cannabis is even possible.
This is how the news appeared in October, posted to Instadose’s site:
Kinshasa 24-10-2018 Sante – A Canadian delegation of Instadose Pharma, led by Mr. Grant F. Sanders, asked Tuesday in Kinshasa, the support of the government in the implementation of a comprehensive project of production of drugs and processing of agricultural products.
According to Grant, this program relies heavily on the production of cannabis and other tropical plants, including castor and ginger for the production of drugs. One thousand four hundred (1,400) new products will be put on the market through advanced technology where science is involved on a large scale, he said.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture Noël Botakile welcomed this initiative, promising to involve experts from other ministries for technical advice related to this project. It is for him to see if cannabis can be at the origin of pharmaceutical products produced in the DRC.
You got that? The Congolese Deputy Agricultural minister (they couldn’t get the head honcho out of bed for this apparently) says he’s going to see if cannabis can be produced in the DRC.
Two months later, suddenly Instadose tells us they have 200,000 farmers ‘harvesting cannabis.’
Boy, that was quick!
InstaDose Pharma has over 200,000 farmers harvesting cannabis out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on over 100,000 hectares of land.
FUCK YOU AND YOUR BULLSHIT SCAM, GRANT.
Instadose has a website, and it’s very helpful in determining that the company is about as profitable as your average Nigerian email scam, perhaps less, and definitely as real.
To determine their bullshit levels, all one needs to do is compare the news stories it has paid for to, well, the other news stories they paid for, and to what’s actually featured on the company’s own website, all of which contradict themselves.
“The cannabis companies of Canada need to understand that just because you are the biggest goldfish in the pond doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned about the whales in the ocean. Everything in the Canadian cannabis industry is based off the cost being $2800 per litre for CBD oil. While international forces outside the Canadian bubble are able to produce 99.7% purity level at $102.50 USD per litre.” said Grant F Sanders, CEO, Instadose Pharma Corp.,
“We’ve kept our operations in the shadows due to concerns about the reaction of this news with licensed producers and the public investment sector. But now that our first crops are about to hit the markets in a few months, I think it’s about time the fish learned about the whale.”
Yes, they’ve kept their 200,000 farmers and 200,000 football fields of weed in the shadows due to concerns about the reaction from LPs…
To date, Grant has spent over $76 Million USD on building the current operation and is already in motion to expand production land to 250,000 hectares after the first 90,000 liters hit the Canadian market.
$76 million? In North American money or Congolese francs?
There’s your supposed GMP certified pharma facility accredited with EU Pharmacopoeia standards.
Here’s a closer look.
Sophisticated! I especially like the guy having a smoke at the table our front, and the Congolese paramilitary guys chilling by the door.
How do I know they’re soldiers? Google image search 101.
“Invest your money in us, boys! What could go wrong?”
Instadose also has many pictures of its farm equipment, which is essential if you have 200,000,000,000 farmers producing for you on seventy gazillion acres.
Here’s a sampling of that cavalcade of janky John Deeres.
“Magnificent colour! Lovely plumage.”
How could you not invest in this company with that sort of collection of high tech hemp and cannabis farming machinery at hand?
I mean, other than the machinery we’re looking at can’t actually be used for hemp, or marijuana, at all. You could use it to grow millet, assuming you can get this collection of 1970’s Soviet technology, rust, and broken dreams to actually start an engine.
I particularly like this one, which is clearly home to a family of lemurs when Whitey McBoardroom isn’t around taking pictures.
Someone appears to have stolen the tractor’s… well… everything.
Not being a pubco means douchebag shellcos like this can make all manner of broad and unsupported claims in their dogshit PR, and never have to answer for it anywhere but here, something a public company would never get away with… haha, sorry, I tried to keep a safe face.
..MOST public companies couldn’t get away with..
For example, there’s this one, made on December 27, when they paid to place a story on the Financial Post.
IDP is currently in discussions with major pharmaceutical companies to assist with the release of the first batch imported into Canada.
It’s illegal to import cannabis CBD into Canada from Africa, but do carry on, I’m sure changing federal drug and trade laws won’t be a problem for a major Congolese player.
A week earlier, they were more specific about who they were talking to when they paid to place this piece of reworded drivel on Cision Newswire:
We are selling our oil with off-take agreements worldwide including Canada, with the first release of 90,000 litres and are currently in discussions with major pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer.
Bayer, you say!
Really! You’re talking to Bayer about sending them Congolese Blood CBD? Are you just? Wows.
Guys like this can’t get even the basics of their scam right. Here’s the headline of their FP piece:
Canada’s Largest Cannabis Producer Brings Down CBD Oil Costs by 96.34%
And here’s what it says a few paragraphs down:
Currently, the largest licensed producer of cannabis in Canada, Canopy, has approximately 40 hectares of production land.
Wut? Which one is Canada’s largest already?
They also can’t keep track of where they operate. The website says Colombia and the DRC. But this story, linked above, says Colombia was a dead end and they’ve moved on.
According to Grant Sanders, Colombia was just not enough for them to be able to expand to their maximum potential. “We quickly realized that growing there was not the smartest option and the production capacity and price that we could achieve in the DRC was 99% more beneficial, to both us and the end user,” said Sanders.
Oddly, a week earlier, they were in way more countries:
Instadose Pharma Corp. is also located in Colombia, Argentina and Chile
Anyway, if you were going to go around saying, on your website, right there in big font, that “Instadose Pharma Corp. is the largest producer of cannabis oil in the world with production capacity of over 2,000,000 kilos in 2019″, you’d need a big fat series of tanks to show you were serious, right?
Well here’s a picture from the Instadose website of some HUGE tanks. I mean, these are bitchin’ large tanks that, if they were filled with CBD oil well, wow, that’d be worth billions. They’re clearly meant to inspire you to take them seriously. They even included them in their corporate tour video!
Only, they’re not any of that.
They’re not Instadose tanks, they’re not CBD tanks, they’re none of the above. These are tanks, we think, owned by the DRC/Italy construction company CSI, presumably for holding concrete or chemicals needed in that business.
If you look up close, they all have CSI logos on the top.
UPDATE: We’re told that’s actually a GSI logo, that those are grain storage tanks, and the company concerned is called GSI Grain Systems.
Either way, they’re not in any way, shape or form, Instadose’s facilities, nor capable of holding CBD oil. At all. Sue me if I’m lying.
The Instadose facility video tour is very illuminating. It’s like a music video if your band was a guy doing Corey Hart covers on some old tractors and rusty shipping containers.
Here’s an overhead screen capture from 4 seconds in, of the area in which Instadose claims to have built their megafacility.
In the top of picture you can see the big tanks their neighbours own. But I struggle to see the two schoolhouse-like ‘GMP certified’ buildings pictured above, with the soldier security guards. Lots of temp buildings with tractors apparently, and a cropduster hangar and runway.
But no farms. No lab.
But otherwise it appears to be shipping containers, not a ‘GMP certified pharma facility’.
Though the company claims, at various points, to operate in many Latin American countries, it doesn’t make mention of Nicaragua.
It probably should.
Because that’s where CEO Grant Sanders used to be on the executive of Hemp Agro, a 1990’s Canadian project that sought to grow hemp in the Central American nation before it was ingloriously shut down, it’s fields burned, and it’s sole on-site principal jailed and charged with marijuana cultivation while the others, including Sanders, awaited possible extradition in canada.
Not helping matters: The only Nicaraguan aboard the enterprise was a notorious cocaine trafficker.
A Canadian company facing drug charges in Nicaragua is appealing to the Canadian government for help. Hemp Agro International was operating an industrial hemp farm in Nicaragua with the full approval of state officials. Suddenly, just before Christmas, Nicaraguan police burned the crop and charged the company’s seven Canadian partners with growing marijuana.
Company spokesman Grant Sanders says he’s meeting with External Affairs officials in Ottawa today to see if they can assist company research director, Dr. Paul Wylie.
Wylie, who had the misfortune of being the only company director in Nicaragua the day charges were laid, is in a Managua jail facing a possible 20 year sentence. Sanders claims the Nicaraguans turned on the company under pressure from the U.S. drug enforcement agency. However, the media in Nicaragua are challenging the credibility of Sanders and Hemp Agro.
Part of Hemp Agro’s public relations problem is its choice of a Nicaraguan partner. When it started negotiating with Nicaraguan authorities, Hemp Agro teamed up with Danilo Blandon — an admitted cocaine dealer.
“At the time we met him his status with the government and his relations with the government were very clear — he was very well liked,” Sanders told CBC News.
Sanders’ Instadose bio says he has run many small to medium sized business, but doesn’t mention Hemp Agro, or any other by name. We’re guessing that’s because there’s not much to crow about, especially if that was the highlight.
When we used the Wayback Machine internet archive to look at Hemp Agro’s old website, from 1999, we found not much has changed between then and now.
This planet needs Hemp…Well, we’ve got Hemp. In fact we are a worldwide leader in producing the finest Hemp anywhere.
Cool story, bro.
Canadian LPs, you’re on notice: Instadose, with its 3 million farmers on 5 billion hectares produces the best quality cannabis oil in the world, at 60 quintillion litres per second, and at a cost of -$0.32 per litre, which they’re selling to you without you knowing it.
And Bayer. They’re totally selling to Bayer. Any day now.
YOU’RE ALL GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SOON!
— Chris Parry
FULL DISCLOSURE: Happy New Year. May 2019 bring justice to the markets, a clean weed sector, and lots of opportunities for companies run the right way to emerge victorious. Time for some sleep.