January 25, 2018 / 11:02 AM / 3 months ago

U.S. private equity firm raises more than $100 mln for cannabis investments

* Privateer raises more than $100 mln in Series C fundraising

* Brings total fundraising to $200 mln

* CEO estimates legal cannabis market worth $300 bln globally

By Joshua Franklin

Jan 25 (Reuters) - A U.S. private equity firm investing exclusively in legal cannabis said on Thursday it had raised more than $100 million in its third round of fundraising, underscoring investor appetite for the burgeoning industry.

Privateer Holdings has now raised a total of $200 million, which it said in a statement was the largest private capital raise closed in the legal cannabis industry.

“I think there’s massive pent-up demand between institutional investors and retail investors,” Privateer Founder and Chief Executive Brendan Kennedy said in a telephone interview.

“Every major financial institution that let’s say manages more than $5 billion has a team tasked with understanding this industry... They haven’t started to deploy capital in this industry, but they will.”

The Series C fundraising comes as California this month became the sixth U.S. state, and by far the most populous, to permit the sale of cannabis products of all types to customers at least 21 years old, venturing beyond just medical marijuana.

However, just three days after California formally launched its commercial market for recreational marijuana, the U.S. Justice Department rescinded an Obama administration policy that had eased enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that legalized the drug.

Kennedy said there had so far been little noticeable impact from the government action, but that his firm is looking more at deploying its capital in markets outside the United States.

“It is in part due to the uncertainty in the U.S.,” he said.

Kennedy predicted the global market for recreational and medicinal cannabis - the size of which he estimates at roughly $300 billion globally - will grow in 2018, with additional countries permitting its medical use and Canada set to become the second country after Uruguay to legalize recreational marijuana.

Seattle-based Privateer said it will use the new funds to expand its brands to new markets and make further acquisitions.

Privateer, which was backed in 2015 by the investment firm founded by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, has disclosed ownership in companies including online cannabis database Leafly and cannabis brand Marley Natural. (Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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