Yes We Cann: New venture for Cannabis Corp founders after Yeend spat

The entrepreneurs behind the controversial Australian Cannabis Corporation have resurrected their plans with a re-badged medicinal cannabis business, after a high-profile fallout with financial backer Shane Yeend.

Jun 07, 2017, updated Jun 07, 2017
Ben Fitzsimons, during his time as director of Australian Cannabis Corporation. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Ben Fitzsimons, during his time as director of Australian Cannabis Corporation. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

But the new business model is set to be on a significantly smaller scale than the grand plans of the multi-billion dollar economic boon outlined with great fanfare late last year.

InDaily revealed last month that ACC director Ben Fitzsimons had tendered his resignation, with Yeend claiming on Facebook that his former associate was liable for substantial company debts.

But Fitzsimons and ACC-co-founder Reece Formosa have now launched a new venture – We Cann – whose brand was launched on social media in recent days.

Like the legend of the phoenix, #WeCann is here!

— WeCannAu (@WeCannAu) June 2, 2017

Fitzsimons, a property director and former general manager of the Adelaide 36ers, told InDaily that “everyone who was involved with the previous venture is back on board – bar one party”.

He did not comment on Yeend specifically, and it’s understood the former ACC partners are bound by a confidentiality agreement.

“We’re just picking the pieces back up, and that’s where things are at,” said Fitzsimons.

He described his messy departure from ACC as “a small bump in the road, which has been overcome”.

“There’s hopefully some exciting things coming online very soon, as far as product, and we’re hopeful of having something in the market within weeks for people to access,” he said.

But that product will be imported, with Fitzsimons lamenting that “the path to importation of product is far simpler and easier than it is to actually set up an industry in Australia”.

“So in the interim we’re importing product from overseas to meet the needs and demands of the people who require it,” he said.

We’ve gone from our original proposal, employing thousands of people, to probably employing five people

It’s understood We Cann has already met with the State Government to renew channels of engagement that became strained amid Yeend’s much-publicised spat with Premier Jay Weatherill.

The businessman had threatened to hire a camera crew to hijack Weatherill’s media conferences in the lead-up to the state election, having threatened to sue him for verbal assault over a heated exchange at a Labor fundraiser last year.

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The stoush appeared to impact the ACC’s business plans, with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute pulling out of a deal to partner with the company to “provide the evidence base for the use and commercialisation of medicinal cannabis”.

Asked whether We Cann would seek to resurrect the SAHMRI arrangement, Fitzsimons said: “Absolutely… I’d be silly not to look at things that provide great benefit to everyone in that agreement.”

He also insisted the start-up would not seek to make mileage from publicly attacking the Government.

“No, not at all… we work with the Government,” he said.

Instead, he blames the national Therapeutic Goods Administration for “blindsiding” stakeholders by failing to unravel the red tape facing prospective cannabis companies and patients.

“We don’t have a growers’ licence, because it’s a protracted process… so that means importing from overseas is a better business model at the moment,” he said.

“The reality is it’s years away from hitting the market in a homegrown industry, which is completely baffling… we’ve gone from our original proposal to Government, which was looking at employing thousands of people, to looking at a best case of probably employing five people.

“You go from having an industry which continues to from from strength to strength overseas, to one that’s absolutely castrated by the TGA in Australia… patients still can’t get the product, doctors don’t know what’s going on.

“They need to allow people to replicate what we’ve see overseas… I don’t understand it, but we’re playing the game.

“We’re pushing on with the rules we’ve got.”

Manufacturing and Innovation Minister Kyam Maher confirmed in a statement his office “has been in contact with representatives from WeCann regarding their intention to enter the medicinal cannabis industry in SA”.

“I and my department are in contact with several companies interested in the medicinal cannabis industry and these discussions continue,” he said.

“The licensing of companies to cultivate, process, manufacture or import medicinal cannabis in Australia remains a responsibility of the Federal Government.”

Yeend, who was a shareholder in ACC, has previously claimed that he would continue to operate the brand as a “company shell” with his own funds.

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