NEW YORK – Joe Montana, the former Hall of Fame quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, is betting on the newest California gold rush: cannabis.
Montana, who founded a venture fund in 2015, took part in a $75 million fundraising round for Caliva, one of the top-selling brands of marijuana products in California’s legal market. Former Yahoo! Inc. Chief Executive Officer Carol Bartz also put money into the company and is joining its board of directors, Caliva said in a statement Thursday.
Caliva operates a cultivation facility and retail store in San Jose, and has its own delivery service in the Bay Area. It also sells branded weed, joints and vape pens at more than 200 dispensaries through the state, the largest legal weed market in the world.
It’s the first time the company has raised outside money. Caliva will use the funds to expand its distribution and product line, including adding beverages and a line of lotions to treat help with sleep and anxiety, according to CEO Dennis O’Malley. The company also plans to open five or six additional retail stores in major cities in the state this year, he said.
As investors size up the fast-growing U.S. cannabis industry, some are betting that the future lies in branded consumer products, rather than cultivation or retailing. The thesis is that as regulations ease and the legal market expands, U.S. consumers will want to get their hands on California cannabis, which is already familiar to connoisseurs who have been acquiring it on the black market for years.
“What we’re trying to do is be the No. 1 brand in California,” O’Malley said. “We believe this is where global brands are made.”
Montana, 62, invested in Caliva because the company can develop products that will “make a serious impact on opioids use or addiction,” according to the statement. He joins a growing list of athletes and celebrities who have a presence in the cannabis industry, including singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, former NBA player Cliff Robinson and former U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner.