YourWay Cannabis Brands Inc. (CSE: YOUR) (OTC: YOURF) (FSE: HOB) (the “Company” or “YourWay“), a consumer-centric House of Brands committed to redefining the way consumers and cannabis brands interact, is providing an operational update, including initiatives being taken to address the management cease trade order (the “MCTO“), the delays in releasing the Company’s audited annual financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2021 (the “2021 Annual Financial Statements“), details of the Company’s newly appointed leadership team, and the Company’s expansion plans in Arizona.

“There has been significant change and evolution in our business over the past twelve months,” said Acting Chief Executive Officer, Jakob Ripshtein. “We have overhauled the organization from top to bottom, driven by a strategic corporate transformation and renewed corporate vision.”

The transformation began with a corporate rebrand in December 2021 from Hollister Biosciences Inc. to YourWay Cannabis Brands Inc. This update was tied directly to the Company’s revamped strategic commitment to creating intuitive brands, releasing thoughtful products, and working intentionally to create a House of Brands that caters to every moment in a consumer’s life.

The Company is working with the auditors to finalize the 2021 Annual Financial Statements and the related management’s discussion and analysis. Due to a combination of factors, including (i) the complexity associated with a change of the Company’s auditors, which took effect on December 6, 2021; and (ii) changes in the management personnel of the Company, the Company is requiring additional time to support the auditors in finalizing the 2021 Annual Financial Statements. We expect to release our 2021 Annual Financial Statements by the end of 2022. Over the past few months, the Company has instituted enhanced financial and operational controls to improve  accuracy, efficiency and reporting compliance.

In addition to the work being done to finalize the 2021 Annual Financial Statements, the board of directors of the Company (the “Board“) resolved to demand repayment of all amounts advanced, which total approximately US$166,325 to Ionic Brands Corp. (“Ionic) pursuant to a demand promissory note dated May 20, 2022 (the “Ionic Promissory Note“). YourWay has provided notice to Ionic of its demand for repayment, but the funds have not yet been returned.

Throughout the year, there have been several adjustments to the leadership team and the Board to oversee the strategic corporate transformation of the Company. Recently, Jacob Cohen resigned as Chief Executive Officer of the Company to focus on his operational role as President of Arizona Operations. Mr. Cohen has extensive hands-on experience in the Arizona cannabis sector, and the Arizona marketplace continues to be a focus of YourWay’s sales and marketing efforts.

The Arizona cannabis marketplace is in flux, and since recreational marijuana sales launched in 2022, the Arizona medicinal market has seen a downturn. The Arizona Department of Health Services has reported a steady decline in the Arizona medicinal market.[1]

This shift in the Arizona market has altered the focus of the Company’s retail customers, and YourWay’s sales team is adapting to satisfy the shift from the medicinal market to the new demand for recreational cannabis products. The Company is making an effort to balance out its portfolio by introducing several established brands to the Arizona marketplace. For example, Old Pal is a well-known and in-demand cannabis brand that has continued to be a strong performer since the Company began Arizona production and shipment in May of 2022. YourWay’s exclusive multi-year licensing agreement to manufacture, produce, promote, distribute, and sell certain Old Pal-branded cannabis products in Arizona, including whole flower, pre-ground flower, pre-rolls, and distillate cartridges in association with the Old Pal brand, has allowed YourWay to capitalize on the shift in demand in the Arizona market.

Additionally, in February of 2022, YourWay signed an exclusive agreement with AIRO, one of the top-selling cannabis brands across multiple markets, including Nevada, ColoradoIllinoisMaryland and Washington. AIRO is currently available in more than 1,300 dispensaries across the United States and Puerto Rico. Expanding the AIRO offerings is currently under consideration by the Company, and under the terms of the exclusive multi-year licensing agreement entered into between YourWay and AIRO, YourWay has exclusive right and license to manufacture, produce, promote, distribute, and sell certain popular AIRO products in Arizona, including the AIROPro®, AIROSport™, and AIROX®, featuring formulations from AIRO’s Strain Series, Artisan Series, and Live Flower Series, plus additional products.

In addition to balancing our portfolio of brands, the Company has made a conscious effort to rationalize existing product SKUs, including price adjustments when appropriate and eliminating non-profitable products. In the past, a large portion of revenue was derived from non-branded bulk distillate and extracted products. Maintaining a reasonable margin within this category has been a challenge, and most related sales have now ceased. Although we expect an impact on total sales revenue based on the termination of this category, this will allow for an increased focus on the YourWay core strategic objective of creating value with its own brands, partner brands and select retailer control brands. The Company will continue to monitor opportunities in the bulk category and maintains the optionality to reactivate this category should business or market conditions change.

YourWay has experienced operational challenges which have hampered the Company’s ability to satisfy some of its contractual arrangements to provide services and generate revenue. While the Company reports cannabis-related revenue and expenditures due to financial reporting requirements under International Financial Reporting Standards, the Company does not have any cannabis licenses itself and, accordingly, is reliant upon third-party license holders, which has limited the Company’s sell-through capabilities during 2022. An ongoing focus by the Company is to address operational challenges, and there are signs of improvement in that area.

While the rapidly expanding recreational Arizona cannabis market provides many growth opportunities for the Company, it also presents an influx of competitor brands across the state. Throughout 2022 all wholesale product prices have decreased. The drop in the high-end market of the Arizona indoor flower price has dipped below those of California, with the breadth of quality and pricing adding to the complexity of retailing in the Arizona cannabis market.[2],[3] To combat this influx of competitors, the Company’s growth strategy includes expanding the Venom Extracts brand, which has been part of the Arizona cannabis market since 2017 and as such, has developed significant brand awareness and loyalty amongst legacy cannabis users. Venom Extracts is positioned as an affordable cannabis brand with a following of consumers who exhibit a tendency for repeat purchases. Plans are in place for several line extensions to the Venom Extracts brand, including pre-rolls and infused pre-rolls.

With COVID-19 restrictions eliminated for most of the hospitality and travel industries across the United States, many states, including Arizona, are seeing a significant increase in tourists. Increased tourist traffic to the state will provide an opportunity to market cannabis brands to visitors who may or may not have readily available legal cannabis for sale in their home state.

Labor force participation in Arizona still remains below pre-pandemic rates and continues to be an issue for many industries in Arizona.[4] Delays in securing the appropriate labor contingent and licensing delays have impacted the Company’s ability to bring the Cottonwood facility (the “Facility“) online. Based on the delays and current state of the market, the Company is strategically reviewing options related to the Facility. The substantial increase in the supply of raw materials with attractive quality and wholesale price points as a result of new facilities coming online throughout the state creates additional optionality for the Company.