The Case for Marijuana Stocks Is Growing
The marijuana industry is abuzz with optimism again. Looming legalization in Canada, cutting edge research and development and a pivotal shift in favor of state rights in the Trump White House have all raised the stakes for cannabis stocks. These developments could generate an industry worth $47 billion annually in about ten years, according to ArcView.
Trump’s Decisive Move
President Donald Trump made a bold move earlier this month by reversing a Justice Department proposal to crack down on the marijuana industry. In doing so, he may have ended a looming legal battle between states that have legalized recreational marijuana and federal prosecutors who want to enforce national laws against them.
Perhaps more interesting is the fact that Trump made the decision without consulting Jeff Session, the Attorney General who decided back in January that Obama-era guidance was not needed. This meant that federal prosecutors could pursue legal action against marijuana growers even in states where the substance is legal.
Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner was instrumental in convincing the Trump administration to abandon the Justice Department’s proposal. Legal weed sales have generate $1.5 billion for the state since prohibition ended in 2014.
Cannabis and Pharmaceuticals
Pharmaceuticals account for the largest share of established marijuana companies when measured by market cap. The sub-sector is primarily involved in cannabinoid research to treat ailments like cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and other chronic pains. Now, a prominent researcher is on the verge of getting FDA approval for a cannabinoid-based drug.
The company is GW Pharmaceuticals (GWPH) and the drug is Epidiolex, which is designed to treat childhood-onset epilepsy. The FDA is expected to reach a decision on the drug by the PDUFA deadline of June 27. PDUFA dates usually give federal regulators ten months to review new drugs. Priority drugs are given a six-month review window. FDA approval of the drug would not only boost GW share prices, but catalyze the entire industry.
Other prominent cannabis drug researchers include Insys Therapeutics (INSY) and Axim Biotechnologies (AXIM).
Canada Leads the Charge
Marijuana legalization has been high on the government’s agenda since Justin Trudeau took office in 2015. Although the timeline for legalization has been pushed back, Canadians will still be able to buy weed legally this year.
A final Senate vote on the mater is scheduled for June 7, with full legalization to commence shortly eight-to-12 weeks later. Although the Conservative party is opposed to legalization, the Senate is expected to pass the measure easily.
Legalization will open the door to a $5 billion industry, leading to direct and indirect spending that could add billions more.
Canada’s Marijuana Index is currently valued at $24 billion, much higher than the still-underdeveloped U.S. equivalent. Some of the most active companies on the Canadian cannabis scene include Aurora Cannabis (ACB), Canopy Growth Corporation and Aphira (APH).
The North American Marijuana Index rose 1.3% on Thursday to settle at $256.32. The Canadian Index advanced 1.4% to $652.46. By comparison, the U.S. S&P 500 Index fell 0.6% and the TSX Composite Index closed down 0.5%.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.