The Dramatic Rise and Fall of Cannabis Company Stocks
The unprecedented expansion of cannabis across North America took the investment world by storm, as investors raced to cash in on the “green rush”.
Yet, even as changing regulations unlock new opportunities, it seems as though the cannabis stock bubble has already burst — at least temporarily.
Today’s visualization dives into the roller coaster of cannabis company stock valuations over the past few years, and which companies remain standing in this hazy market.
A Wild Ride for Cannabis Stocks
The North American Marijuana Index tracks the equally-weighted stocks of leading companies operating in the legal cannabis industry in U.S. and Canada. Companies listed on the index must have at least 50% of their business strategy focused on the legal industry, including ancillary operations that support companies and consumers.
At the tail-end of 2017, the promise of upcoming legalization in two immense markets—California state and Canada—had investors all fired up. The index’s low (105.31 on June 27th, 2017) shot up almost three times to 358.93 by January 8th, 2018.
Things took a sharp turn in the second quarter of 2019, as the expectations for cannabis company stocks encountered a harsh reality post-legalization.
|Index||North America||🇺🇸 U.S.||🇨🇦 Canada|
Note: 52-week period data captures Dec 9th 2018-Dec 9th 2019.
What are the reasons behind such a nosedive? Could the cannabis industry still make a comeback in 2020? We look at some opposing perspectives to answer these questions.
So Much For the Green Rush
The cannabis industry is experiencing significant challenges. In the U.S., legal cannabis faces high taxes—come the new year, consumers in California will see an 80% mark-up on their cannabis at checkout, up from 60%.
North of the border, federal legalization led to immense consumer demand for Canadian cannabis—but supply can’t keep up. To make matters worse, retail stores are slow to roll out, which means Canada is feeling the crunch.
Steep prices, and difficulty purchasing products post-legalization, allow the black market to thrive. It’s clear many cannabis companies have taken a big hit as a result.
According to the Marijuana Index, here are the 10 biggest companies in the space now:
|Company||Symbol||Market Cap (US$)||Country|
|Canopy Growth Corp.||NYSE: CGC||$5.6B||🇨🇦 Canada|
|Curaleaf Holdings||CNSX: CURA||$3.67B||🇺🇸 United States|
|GW Pharmaceuticals PLC||NASDAQ: GWPH||$2.98B||🇬🇧 United Kingdom|
|Aurora Cannabis Inc.||TSE: ACB||$2.85B||🇨🇦 Canada|
|Green Thumb Industries Inc.||CNSX: GTII||$2.42B||🇺🇸 United States|
|Cronos Group inc.||TSE: CRON||$1.83B||🇨🇦 Canada|
|Trulieve Cannabis Corp||CNSX: TRUL||$1.91B||🇺🇸 United States|
|Tilray Inc.||NASDAQ: TLRY||$1.46B||🇨🇦 Canada|
|Aphria Inc.||TSE: APHA||$0.96B||🇨🇦 Canada|
|Harvest Health & Recreation Inc.||CNSX: HARV||$0.94B||🇺🇸 United States|
Note: Companies listed on a Canadian index have had their market cap converted from CAD$ to US$. Top 10 companies are based on those listed on the North American Marijuana Index. All values as of Dec 9th, 2019.
Only one company outside of North America—and even the cannabis sector—lands on this list. The UK-based Big Pharma company GW Pharmaceuticals is steadily growing its industry presence, as it currently holds 41 cannabis patents in the U.S. and Canada combined.
Still, even these big players have seen their valuations drop since the industry was at its peak. Unless the aforementioned issues are ironed out, investors may continue to pull their dollars from the cannabis industry.
A psychological shift has taken place from everyone wanting to own (cannabis) to everyone involved now feeling burned. I think many investors are now over it.
—Chris Kerlow, portfolio manager at Richardson GMP
On the flip side, some investors aren’t calling it quits quite yet.
Long-Term Prospects Are High
While cannabis seems plagued with issues, some argue that these are simply short-term growing pains and will be solved as the industry matures.
Particularly in the U.S., experts predict that cannabis sales could reach immense heights in the next decade:
- $30 billion by 2025 (New Frontier Data)
- $50 billion by 2029 (Jefferies Group LLC)
- $75 billion by 2030 (Cowen Inc.)
- $100 billion by 2029 (Stifel Financial Corp)
Compared to a benchmark of $13.6 billion today, these numbers may seem ambitious—but they’re backed by major industry trends. 2020 could well be the year the market stabilizes, as consumers explore an array of retail options and vote with their wallets.
What’s more, key players in consumer industries—from alcohol and tobacco to beauty and fitness—are making big bets in cannabis and CBD-infused products. A higher number of partnerships could spark the next uptick for the industry’s potential.
The marijuana business is not for the faint of heart. But this is a big long-term game.
——Mark Zekulin, CEO of Canopy Growth Corp.
An Eye on What’s to Come
It’s clear there are differing viewpoints on the future of cannabis companies and their respective investors. As this snapshot of cannabis stocks unfolds and transforms in 2020 and beyond, could companies potentially buck the current trend and bounce back? Or will stocks continue to go up in smoke?
Timeline: Cannabis Legislation in the U.S.
At the federal level, cannabis is illegal, but state laws differ. This graphic looks at the timelines of cannabis legislation in the U.S.
Timeline: Cannabis Legislation in the U.S.
At the federal level, cannabis is still considered an illegal substance. That said, individual states do have the right to determine their own laws around cannabis sales and usage.
This visual from New Frontier Data looks at the status of cannabis in every state and the timeline of when medical and/or recreational use became legal.
Cannabis Through the Years
In the U.S., the oldest legalese concerning cannabis dates back to the 1600s—the colony of Virginia required every farm to grow and produce hemp. Since then, cannabis use was fairly wide open until the 1930s when the Marihuana Tax Act was enforced, prohibiting marijuana federally but still technically allowing medical use.
Jumping ahead, the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1970, classifying cannabis as Schedule I drug—the same category as heroin. This prohibited any use of the substance.
However, the 1970s also saw a counter movement, wherein many states made the move towards decriminalization. Decriminalization means that although possessing cannabis remained illegal, a person would not be subject to jail time or prosecution for possessing certain amounts.
By the 1990s, some of the first states passed laws to allow the medical usage of cannabis, and by 2012 two states in the U.S.—Washington and Colorado—legalized the recreational use of cannabis.
Cannabis Legislation Today and Beyond
The MORE Act (the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act) was passed in the House early 2022, and if made law, it would decriminalize marijuana federally.
“This bill decriminalizes marijuana. Specifically, it removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana.”– U.S. Congress
Cannabis still remains illegal at the federal level, but at the state levels, cannabis is now fully legal (both for medicinal and recreational purposes) in a total of 22 states.
Over 246 million Americans have legal access to some form of marijuana products with high THC levels. Looking to the future, many new cannabis markets are expected to open up in the next few years:
The earliest states expected to open up next for recreational cannabis sales are Minnesota and Oklahoma. There is always a lag between legalization and actual sales, wherein local regulatory bodies and governments set standards. States like Kentucky, on the other hand, aren’t likely to even legalize medicinal cannabis until 2028.
It’s estimated that by 2030, there will be 69 million cannabis consumers in the country, up 33% from 2022.
Overall, the U.S. cannabis market is likely an important one to watch as legal sales hit $30 billion in 2022. By the end of the decade, that number is expected to be anywhere from $58 billion to as much as $72 billion.
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