From gum to gummies, Wrigley takes pot public

Billionaire William "Beau" Wrigley Jr is taking cannabis producer Parallel public, in a merger due to complete this summer with Canadian-listed Ceres Acquisition Corp that values the Atlanta, Georgia-based firm at $1.88 billion.

Wrigley, who sold the chewing gum business in 2008, told Reuters his deal with Ceres signals an inflection point in the burgeoning legal weed business.

"Now, I think that the industry has matured some more, people are beginning to look more specifically at the metrics and the fundamentals from an investment standpoint, and say, what are the best companies and why?" he said.

Ceres, based in Toronto, is what's known as a special-purpose acquisition vehicle, or SPAC, a publicly-traded entity designed to acquire other firms and grant them access to capital markets.

It currently trades on the NEO exchange, a smaller rival to Toronto's TSX.

Ceres is helmed by Joe Crouthers, who quit Goldman Sachs to move into the marijuana sector.

"Leaving Goldman, I thought my mother was going to kill me. I'm going to leave this business to get into cannabis? And I'll tell you, I think now? The conversation is much more 'wow.' There's a lot of good that's coming from this," Crouthers told Reuters.

Wrigley will be the CEO of the combined firm. He's optimistic that the U.S. Congress will pass the SAFE Banking Act, a bill designed to permit federally-chartered banks to offer financial services to marijuana companies operating in states where the drug and its derivatives are legal.

"I think that will loosen up. And that will make things easier for companies like ours," he said.

Despite many U.S. states's moves to decriminalize and regulate cannabis, it remains a federally controlled substance.