In one of its first acquisitions, the newly public Australis Capital has bought out 100 percent of Mr. Natural Productions Inc., a California medical and adult-use cannabis company that’s focused much of its branding and production on veterans’ needs. The deal also includes the rights to the life story of founder Bob “Mr. Natural” Luciano, a longtime advocate for medical cannabis and a cultivator whose breeding lineage stretches back decades.
Australis Capital is a former subsidiary of Aurora Cannabis; the larger Canadian cannabis producer spun off Australis Capital in September 2018. Australis now trades on the Canadian Securities Exchange. (Aurora Cannabis holds two warrants as part of the deal, which will allow the company to acquire an ownership stake in Australis “when holding investments in U.S. cannabis assets will become permissible,” according to a press release.)
The $1.3-million deal will bring Mr. Natural products to more cannabis consumers—beyond the boundaries of the California market.
“If we are able to change one person in [their attitude] toward medical [cannabis], then my purpose is done."
- Bob "Mr. Natural" Luciano
“Bob’s passion for developing premium cannabis products and positively impacting people’s lives is inspirational. Our acquisition of the Mr. Natural life brand will see rapid expansion outside of California by leveraging Australis and partner assets,” Scott Dowty, CEO of Australis Capital, said in a public statement. “Bob has perfected his methods over many decades, developing proprietary growth techniques and unrivaled efficacy.”
In an interview with Cannabis Business Times, Luciano described the acquisition as part of his life’s work to bring an educated perspective to the medical cannabis marketplace—which has grown and matured in size, scope and sophistication since the early days of Mr. Natural.
Luciano’s story is rooted in southern California, in the gray-market years of a nascent medical marijuana program. “My primary concern at that point was veteran but we saw how other it was affecting other people—other patients—[with] similar conditions,” Luciano said.
Amid ongoing pressure from the federal government to shut down medical cannabis dispensaries, Luciano decamped to Sacramento, where he worked with CC101, a veterans collective that operated a dispensary in Sacramento. (Luciano and Mr. Natural Productions have also partnered with Kolas Dispensaries.)
It’s his experience in the history of California’s medical cannabis market that now has Luciano eyeing the Australis-backed expansion into a broader adult-use profile in the U.S. As the industry has matured in this country, Luciano said, the opportunities for education and research are legitimized—something that he’d been missing in earlier years. “Recreational, with me, is a target to do more research and development on the medical uses,” he said. It’s all of a piece.
Luciano spent time in Jamaica in the 1990s, and in that small Caribbean country he ramped up his education on cannabis genetics and plant nutrients. From there, he established himself full-time in California. He has worked with the U.S. Veterans Administration to ease federal restrictions on veterans’ access to medical cannabis.
Now, as a wave of reform efforts has successfully spread across the U.S. in the past few years, political support for such a thing has grown considerably. Politicians in Washington, D.C., have espoused the sorts of notions that Luciano was working on in California 20 years ago.
“If we are able to change one person in [their attitude] toward medical [cannabis], then my purpose is done,” Luciano says.