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The Big Pharma Takeover of Medical Cannabis

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The Big Pharma Takeover of Medical Cannabis

As evidence of cannabis’ many benefits mounts, so does the interest from the global pharmaceutical industry, known as Big Pharma. The entrance of such behemoths will radically transform the cannabis industry—once heavily stigmatized, it is now a potentially game-changing source of growth for countless companies.

Today’s infographic comes to us from CB2 Insights, and explores how and why the notorious Big Pharma are interested in the nascent cannabis industry.

Who are “Big Pharma”?

The term refers to some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, considered especially influential as a group. To give a sense of their sheer size, the market cap of the top 10 Big Pharma companies is $1.7 trillion—Johnson & Johnson being the largest, with a market capitalization of $374 billion.

So far, Big Pharma has watched the cannabis industry from the sidelines, deterred by regulatory concerns. What we are seeing now is the sleeping giant’s takeover slowly intensifying as more patents, partnerships, and sponsored clinical trials come to fruition.

Could Cannabis be Sold Over the Counter?

The cannabis plant has been used in medicine for 6,000 years. However, there is still considerable debate around the role it plays in healthcare today. There are currently almost 400 active and completed clinical trials worldwide surrounding cannabidiol (CBD), a type of cannabinoid that makes up 40% of the cannabis plant’s extract.

Cannabis relies on CBD’s therapeutic properties, and recent studies suggest it may be useful in combating a variety of health conditions, such as:

  • Epilepsy
  • Schizophrenia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Migraines
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer side effects

As of 2019, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use. Its potential for pain management has led some experts to recommend it as an alternative to addictive painkillers, with one study of 13 states showing opiate-related deaths decreasing by over 33% in the six years since medical cannabis was legalized.

As the industry evolves, data is becoming increasingly important in understanding the potential of cannabis—both as a viable medical treatment, and as a recreational product. The shift away from anecdotal evidence towards big data will inform future policies, and give rise to a new era of consumer education.

Big Pharma’s Foray into Cannabis

Further legalization of cannabis will challenge Big Pharma’s bottom line, and poach more than $4 billion from pharma sales annually. In fact, medical cannabis sales are projected to reach $5.9 billion in 2019, from an estimated 24 million patients.

Seven of Canada’s top 10 cannabis patent holders are major multinational pharmaceutical companies, a trend that is not unique to Canada.

Company Rank🇨🇦 Canadian PatentsCompany Rank🇺🇸 U.S. Patents
1. Novartis211. Abbvie59
2. Pfizer142. Sanofie39
3. GW Pharmaceuticals133. Merck35
4. Ericsson134. Bristol-Myers Squibb34
5. Merck115. GW Pharmaceuticals28
6. Solvay Pharmaceuticals76. Pfizer25
7. Kao Corporation77. Hebrew University of Jerusalem19
8. Ogeda SA78. Roche17
9. Sanofi69. University of Connecticut16
10. University of Connecticut610. U.S. Health and Human Services13

It comes as no surprise that many pharmaceutical giants have already formed strong partnerships with cannabis companies, such as Novartis and Tilray, who will develop and distribute medical cannabis together in legal jurisdictions around the world.

Data is the Missing Link

While the body of knowledge about the many uses of cannabis continue to grow, clinical evidence is key for widespread adoption.

Products backed by data will be a defining criteria for major companies to come into the market en masse. And ultimately, Big Pharma’s entry could accelerate public understanding and confidence in cannabis as a viable option for a range of ailments, and mark the next major milestone for the industry.

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The Dramatic Rise and Fall of Cannabis Company Stocks

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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.

IndexNorth America🇺🇸 U.S.🇨🇦 Canada
52-week High319.73137.07727.25
52-week Low110.1751.40195.73

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:

CompanySymbolMarket Cap (US$)Country
Canopy Growth Corp.NYSE: CGC$5.6B🇨🇦 Canada
Curaleaf HoldingsCNSX: CURA$3.67B🇺🇸 United States
GW Pharmaceuticals PLCNASDAQ: 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 CorpCNSX: 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:

  1. $30 billion by 2025 (New Frontier Data)
  2. $50 billion by 2029 (Jefferies Group LLC)
  3. $75 billion by 2030 (Cowen Inc.)
  4. $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?

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Visualizing the Boom in the CBD Beverage Market

CBD-infused beverages are considered to be the fastest growing segment in the overall cannabis market. How did this partnership of brews and bud come to be?

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Visualizing the Boom in the CBD Beverage Market

It’s safe to say that the cascade of cannabis legislation has sent the world into a constant state of flux. We are witnessing a seismic shift in culture, as cannabis steps out of the black market and into unexpected industries—from big pharma, to beauty, and now to beverages.

According to Zenith Global, the U.S. CBD-infused drinks market will reach an estimated $1.4 billion by 2023, making it one of the fastest-growing segments in the overall industry.

Today’s infographic comes to us from Trait Biosciences, and outlines the magnitude of the CBD-infused beverage segment, along with some of the subsequent challenges and opportunities that will shape the future of cannabis.

CBD and its Benefits

CBD is an abbreviated term for cannabidiol, a type of cannabinoid that makes up 40% of a cannabis plant’s extract. It has become increasingly popular for relieving pain, promoting relaxation, and lifting mood without the psychoactive properties that come with THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the other major cannabinoid.

Recent studies suggest that CBD’s properties may be useful in combating a variety of health conditions such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, migraines, arthritis, and even side effects of cancer.

The New Wave of Beverages

CBD-infused beverages will open the floodgates to new audiences who want to consume cannabis in different formats. They have many benefits, that will rival other methods of ingestion:

  • Easy to Administer
    Beverages are seen as the healthier way to consume CBD, especially compared to smoking.
  • More Accessible
    They are becoming more easily available in restaurants, bars, supermarkets, and online sites.
  • Functionality
    There is some evidence to suggest that CBD in caffeinated products can curtail the feeling of being on “edge”.
  • Higher Precision
    Dosage is controlled and, much like alcohol, consumers will be able to determine how much CBD content they want.
    • Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic product categories are currently being explored, resulting in some unexpected partnerships, such as Molson Coors—the world’s seventh largest brewer—and Hexo Corp, a Canadian cannabis product company.

      Trends Shaping the Future of CBD Beverages

      The CBD product landscape is constantly evolving. Demand for CBD-infused beverages will be fueled by three key trends.

      1. Changing Consumer Preferences: The decline of alcohol sales globally is evidence of changing consumer tastes. Sales are expected to fall further as more people exchange alcohol for cannabis products.
      2. Product Innovation: Sustainable packaging, transparency around ingredients, more convenient ready-to-drink solutions, and personalized strains are driving the furious pace of product innovation.
      3. Big Players and Influencers: Growing knowledge and increasing brand/celebrity endorsements are creating an established CBD industry in mainstream culture. Already, singer Willie Nelson and former NFL star Terrell Davis have put their names to two seperate lines of CBD-infused beverages.

      As these trends evolve, consumers will benefit from more education around CBD, which could lead to more CBD products, like beverages, entering the mainstream across numerous industries.

      What’s Next for the CBD-infused Beverage Market?

      CBD purity is a primary focus area of current scientific studies. For consumers, more transparency is needed around ingredients, dosage levels, and product labeling. For example, the state of Indiana now mandates that manufacturers must label CBD products with QR codes that can be scanned to show whether they contain acceptable levels of THC, CBD, pesticides, and other compounds.

      Most notably, new methods of CBD infusion will transform the beverages market. Many industry players have used nano-emulsion to infuse CBD. However, these fat-based nanoparticles have been known to accumulate in organs, causing health concerns. That’s why creating water-soluble CBD has been an emerging industry priority.

      CBD-infused beverages are poised to become the next big thing and create massive economic growth—despite strict industry regulations. Scientific advancements and changing laws will unlock the potential of the CBD market, potentially disrupting the entire beverage industry.

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