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Repeal of Cole Memo Raises Concerns, Opportunities for Cannabis Industry

NetworkNewsWire Editorial Coverage: Shortly after cannabis enthusiasts and investors celebrated California’s January 1, 2018, rollout of legal recreational marijuana sales to adults, the federal government reversed its course on marijuana policy, calling for tighter enforcement of marijuana laws. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memorandum, a 2013 policy that offered some protections from federal prosecution for the cultivation, distribution and possession of cannabis in states where the highly regulated plant is legal (http://nnw.fm/7h5KR). Sessions’ decision ushered in a deeper freeze to the banking dilemma facing cannabis retailers, who have found themselves relying primarily on cash transactions since cannabis remains illegal under federal law. Although the rollback of the Cole memo created serious questions and sent marijuana-related stocks lower, there continues to be positive movement in the cannabis industry as companies such as ChineseInvestors.com, Inc. (CIIX) (CIIX Profile), Overstock.com, Inc. (OSTK), MGT Capital Investments, Inc. (MGTI), Riot Blockchain, Inc. (RIOT), and Xunlei Limited (XNET) invest their attention and resources on alternative financing options and the technology behind them.

Confusion = Opportunity

Even amid what the media is describing as a potential future “crackdown” on marijuana-related business, the cannabis industry is expected to mushroom from $6.7 billion in 2016 to over $21 billion by 2021, according to Arcview Group research (http://nnw.fm/PL0e0). In rescinding the Cole Memo policy, Sessions said future prosecutions of businesses and individuals who sell cannabis in states where it has been legalized will be left up to individual U.S. attorneys (http://nnw.fm/E5rrP). Nearly 70 U.S. representatives of Congress wasted no time in proposing a spending bill amendment that would ensure protections for states that have legalized marijuana in spite of Sessions’ decision. Representatives said the proposed provision is written to specifically respect the constitutional authority of states to regulate commerce within their own borders (http://nnw.fm/v1yAU).

Warren Wang, CEO and founder of ChineseInvestors.com (CIIX), said that even during a time of confusion in the broader cannabis industry there is opportunity if one knows where to look.

ChineseInvestors.com, a diverse educational and consulting company for the Chinese-speaking community in China and the United States with interests in the cannabinoid (CBD) market, recently announced it is spinning off two of its divisions to allow the company to focus on its new cryptocurrency division.

“We are excited to announce our intention to spin off CBD Biotechnology and ChineseHempOil.com, Inc., as we believe the existing business lines and the new acquisitions in China, secured by CEO (of CBD Biotechnology Co., Ltd.) Summer Yun, will allow these entities to continue to grow in their respective markets, while bringing new value to the company’s existing shareholders,” Wang said in a December news release (http://nnw.fm/Yp1aN).

Cryptocurrency Options

The company recently announced an agreement with Blockchain BTM, LLC, to host a Bitcoin ATM in the lobby of its headquarters in San Gabriel, Calif. (http://nnw.fm/Vb6wQ). The Bitcoin ATM allows cryptocurrency enthusiasts to purchase up to $7,000 worth of Bitcoin daily. The company plans to expand this service in other Chinese communities located throughout the United States, in addition to providing onsite customer service representatives able to help customers with using the Bitcoin ATM. The machine offers translation into five languages including traditional and simplified Chinese, English, Spanish, French and Korean.

In the same announcement, CIIX unveiled its new cryptocurrency education and information services, including the first Chinese Daily Video Newscast, Bitcoin Multimillionaire, broadcast from the NYSE and covering cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. In November the company launched a free bitcoin news and education website in the Chinese language under the domain name newcoins168.com to serve Chinese cryptocurrency investors globally (http://nnw.fm/Vb6wQ).

“In addition to providing skilled investors with news about digital currency, ChineseInvestors.com, Inc., hopes to satisfy the average person’s curiosity about cryptocurrency, including how to purchase Bitcoin,” Wang said in announcing the company’s strategy. “Moreover, the underlying blockchain technology is extremely compelling and we expect to see many interesting developments in this area. Bitcoin ATMs are just one example of how this area is moving forward. We are excited to make this service available to the Chinese community.”

Viable Alternatives

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are seen as viable alternatives to conventional banking for the cannabis industry. Adopting this method of payment could provide a safer alternative to dealing solely in cash when conducting a transaction at a medical marijuana dispensary or retail establishment (http://nnw.fm/cMs5P). Cryptocurrencies are supported through blockchain technology, an encrypted digital ledger used to record financial and informational transactions. Wang, who remains bullish on the future of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, emphasized during a recent interview (http://nnw.fm/lGJ4G) that the Chinese-speaking community worldwide is eager to learn more about buying and managing digital currencies, despite China’s ban on trading cryptocurrencies on a regulated exchange.

In an interview with the Bad Crypto Podcast (http://nnw.fm/oO7WI), Wang said the Chinese investor is an important target for cryptocurrency entrepreneurs.

“The Chinese investor is an advocate of gambling,” he explained. “Most today trade Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on the offline market. The Chinese-speaking people within China and also in North America — the U.S. and Canada — are excited about Bitcoin.”

Legalization of recreational marijuana for adults is inching closer in Canada with an expected July 1, 2018, opening date. Blockchain technology, the underpinning strength of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and Ethereum, is quickly being touted as the financial security tool of the future for the cannabis industry, its producers, growers, labs, specialists and dispensaries (http://nnw.fm/1OY0z). Industry giant IBM is also reporting that blockchain technology could provide “an irrefutable chain of custody” for cannabis — from its infancy as a seed to final production and sale of the plant’s various forms (http://nnw.fm/6qH4i).

Blockchain Believers

Among other companies developing opportunities in the blockchain sector, Overstock.com (OSTK) solidified its goal of bringing greater transparency and efficiency to capital markets by launching an initial coin offering (ICO), cryptocurrency’s version of a stock initial public offering (IPO), in December through its exchange operator, tZERO. The “pre-sale” phase targeting strategic purchasers began Dec. 18 and a “subsequent sale period” phase seeking agreements with other accredited investors is scheduled to begin Jan. 18 (http://nnw.fm/rOJa6). Overstock is the third most active corporate blockchain investor worldwide.

MGT Capital Investments (MGTI), with facilities in Washington state and Sweden, ranks as one of the largest global bitcoin miners. The company is also deeply invested in cybersecurity technologies for mobile and corporate applications. The company announced agreements in December to secure “reliable and adequate” electrical power in Sweden to begin bit mining operations there by the end of January. Stephen Schaeffer, president of the company’s Crypto-Capital Strategies business unit, said the company is “exploring cost-efficient locations for hosting and electricity on a global basis” (http://nnw.fm/4UwVJ).

Riot Blockchain (RIOT), a strategic investor and operator in blockchain technology, focusing primarily on bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains, has its own bitcoin mining operation. Its portfolio includes investments in cryptocurrency accounting and audit technology services, a Canadian exchange for digital currencies and a telecom industry escrow service based on the blockchain. Riot recently announced it has established Digital Green Energy Corp. as a wholly owned subsidiary to explore international infrastructure opportunities. The company is identifying environmentally friendly projects with large energy capacity and a cost-efficient rate for cryptocurrency mining and data center operations, according to a news release (http://nnw.fm/2FH1p).

Based in China, Xunlei Ltd. (XNET) is an online advertising service provider that also provides downloading services and online game platforms for game developers and users. Its products and services include Xunlei accelerator and cloud acceleration subscription services, in addition to providing mobile device applications. Onething Technologies Co., a subsidiary of Xunlei Ltd., recently brought its OneThing Cloud technology that integrates “crowd sourced computing + blockchain” to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. OneThing Cloud is a smart device that can collect idle computing resources including bandwidth and storage from users who are then rewarded with a form of digital asset called LinkToken (http://nnw.fm/wf87Z).

Blockchain technology is being touted as one of the single most important advancements in the securities and financial sectors. Cannabis-related business owners, along with other ancillary retail industry sectors, are paying close attention to the progress being made by companies leading the way in today’s fluid environment as the public and politicians grapple with marijuana’s next chapter.

For more information on ChineseInvestors.com, please visit: ChineseInvestors.com (CIIX)

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