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Canaccord Fumes Over Pot Deal

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Canaccord Genuity (CF.TO) is a broker dealer, but don't call them a toker dealer.

The Toronto-based wealth management and securities company helped aspiring pot grower Enertopia  (ENRT) raise $1,293,800 million in a private placement transaction, but, upon being informed by TheStreet that it had been credited in a press release accompanying a regulatory filing, Canaccord wasn't feeling the vibes.

"To confirm my voice-mail message to you, you have used the Canaccord Genuity name in the attached media release WITHOUT the approval of our Firm.

"Please WITHDRAW/RECALL this communication immediately and, if you reissue it, delete our name from any subsequent public communication. As a courtesy, please advise us when these steps have been implemented so that no further action on our part is necessary," read an email from James Beamish, a marketing executive in Canaccord's wealth management division, to Enertopia CEO and President Robert McAllister. (The capital letters are included here as they were the original email.)

Scott Davidson, Canaccord's Global Head of Corporate Development and Strategy, confirmed the email, and characterized the situation as a "misunderstanding."

"We have a process that we use," he said, "it's more of a procedural issue than anything else." He said Canaccord wasn't an underwriter for Enertopia and didn't act as its adviser. Rather than putting the firm's official stamp on the transaction as it would if were representing Entertopia, one of Canaccord's wealth managers reached out to one or more of his own clients with the opportunity to invest in the company, Davidson said. Those clients are considered accredited investors under Canadian securities laws because they meet certain minimum asset requirements, so the rules for selling securities to them aren't as strict as they are for most retail investors.

In other words, the investors who helped finance Enertopia were not deemed to be relying on Canaccord's advice the way a small investor would.

Enertopia's McAllister said he would comply with the request, though he was initially puzzled as he believed Enertopia was required by securities laws to disclose the identity of any parties to which it pays fees for helping it raise capital. For arranging the transaction, Canaccord split about $100,000 in finders' fees, 8,000 shares, and nearly one million broker warrants with two other parties that helped facilitate the private placement.

Davidson said Canaccord doesn't have a "fully-formed view" on the extent to which it wants to advise companies tied to the marijuana industry. It has underwritten transactions and provides research coverage for GW Pharmaceuticals (GWPH), a UK-based company that develops marijuana-related drugs.

Enertopia is similar to that of many publicly listed marijuana-related companies that have seen their shares soar in recent months. It announced plans to enter the marijuana business last year, shifting focus away from its previous business (clean energy, in Enertopia's case) which wasn't making a profit. It still has yet to earn a profit in marijuana and has issued millions of new shares to acquire marijuana-related businesses, including a pot-growing facility and an e-cigarette company.

Since announcing its marijuana focus in November, Enertopia's U.S. shares, which trade over the counter, have shot up to 32 cents from 2 cents despite the substantial share dilution. Enertopia is listed in Canada on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the ticker TOP. The CSE has 207 listed companies in all, including one other that is in a pot-related business: Abattis Bioceuticals  (ATTBF).

 Follow @dan_freed

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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