At first glance, this week’s headline on CNN Business about a 154-year-old company in the cannabis industry could have been a feel-good story — if, that is, you weren’t aware of the long controversial history surrounding Scotts Miracle-Gro and weed.
There’s no denying that Miracle-Gro has been in the marijuana cultivation supply game for a minute. As far back as 2011, CEO Jim Hagedorn was telling the Wall Street Journal of his plans to get into the gardens of pot growers. And get in the gardening company did, buying up many of the companies that were leading the market when it came to cannabis cultivation in the 2010s: Aerogrow, General Hydroponics, Gavita, and Botanicare, to name a few. The firms were subsumed by Miracle-Gro’s subsidiary, Hawthorne Gardening Company, which focuses exclusively on the weed-growing market.
By 2016, Jim’s son Chris had become the company’s executive vice president, Scotts shares were skyrocketing, and the corporation’s Black Magic brand supplies could be copped at Home Depots across the country.
But that dedication has not been enough to woo many conscientious canna-growers. It’s hard to forget Scotts’s super-tight ties to Monsanto, which was once the world’s leader in genetically modified crops. Scotts was, and still is, the exclusive marketer for Monsanto's (now Bayer's) Roundup herbicide, which may cause cancer.
Roundup sales are far from the only environmental controversy which involved Scotts. In 2012, the company sold feed for wild birds containing insecticides that were, in fact, fatal to our fine feathered friends. Scotts was fined by the US Environmental Protection Agency to the tune of $12.5 million — hardly an insurmountable penalty for a company that is currently estimated to be worth $5.24 billion. In 2021, its cannabis-related sales through Hawthorne Gardening Company made up whopping 30% of the parent company's sales.
That may not be enough in profits for Scotts's corporate higher-ups, however. The company recently announced that it will be putting its money behind lobbying efforts for federal legalization in the United States.
“It's our belief, and this is not a grand revelation by any stretch: Federal legalization is obviously going to happen; the question is when and how," Chris Hagedorn told CNN Business. "When it does, what are the most valuable assets going to be in a post-legalization world? I think anybody who thinks about it for a while says consumer-facing brands [that make and sell cannabis products] will be the most valuable."
The move may portend an expansion into the plant itself for the publicly-traded corporation. In March, a Canadian investment firm in which Scotts holds an interest bought New York cannabis company Etain Health. The transaction is thought by MJ Biz Daily to have been the most expensive purchase in history of a woman-fronted marijuana brand.
That news was accompanied by the tidbit that Scotts executive Mark Sims was the investment firm RIV Capital’s new CEO. His agenda? To “lead the company’s formal entry into the US market and expansion into licensed adult-use operations in New York.”
Just in case you wanted to let your favorite pothead with Monsanto cannabis conspiracy theories galore know the latest in the corporate daisy chain linking the mega-corporation with weed!