William Wrigley Jr. II, whose great-grandfather made chewing gum a cornerstone of American confectionery history, has made a major investment in a company to make medical marijuana someday as mainstream as his family’s famous Wrigley’s Spearmint gum.
Wrigley, who retired in 2010 as president and CEO of the world’s largest gum manufacturer, was named chairman of the board at Surterra Wellness after he led a $65 million investment round for the medical cannabis company, Bloomberg reported. Surterra makes cannabis oils, tinctures, vape pens, transdermal patches and sprays.
Wrigley, who is known as Beau, told Bloomberg that medical uses of cannabis inspired his investment.
“When I understood the massive benefits, it really changed my mind about the industry,” Wrigley said in his public comments.
Jake Bergmann, Surterra founder and CEO, said Wrigley’s involvement in the company will significantly shift the direction of medical cannabis, starting in Florida where residents approved medical marijuana by constitutional amendment by more than 71 percent of the vote in 2016.
“For Beau Wrigley to put his name and iconic brand with ours is a real vote of confidence,” Bergmann told Marijuana.com. “This will help build not just our company, but the entire medical cannabis industry.”
Wrigley took control of the family confection business in 1999 after his father’s death and in 2008 sold the Chicago-based firm to candy giant Mars Inc. for $23 billion in cash, according to Forbes.
Bergmann said he believes the medical cannabis market will eventually surpass recreational marijuana. Either way, Bergmann said that being associated with a brand with a rich history and worldwide recognition will likely bode well.
“With Beau on the team, we’re taking medical cannabis from the fringe to the mainstream, making it socially and culturally accepted, as it should be,” said Bergmann, who met Wrigley through one of the company’s early investors.
Surterra, which has licenses in Florida and Texas, will expand to at least 10 states, including Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, and California, Bergmann said.
Other immediate plans include adding 35 dispensaries to the company’s current 10 and broadening its cultivation footprint. Surterra, one of 14 companies licensed in Florida to sell medical cannabis products, currently owns the largest cannabis greenhouse in Florida.
“We’re disrupting Big Pharma with alternatives to opioids,” Bergmann said. “Over 100 million Americans could qualify and benefit from medical cannabis. This is real medicine.”
In Florida, cannabis advocates have at least one lawmaker on their side.
Bergmann hosted a roundtable discussion Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, with a group of veterans and Florida Democratic US Rep. Charlie Crist.
In the meeting, held at the Surterra Wellness Center in Largo, Florida, Crist said protecting veterans who use cannabis was “an issue of fairness … an issue also of compassion.”
Crist introduced the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act on July 26, 2018. The bill seeks to protect prospective federal job applicants and employees from discrimination for cannabis usage in legal states.
Veterans, who constitute one-third of the federal workforce, are a high priority on Wrigley’s and Surterra’s list.