Cannabis stocks surge as US election opens new markets


Cannabis stocks surge as US election opens new markets

Thursday, November 26, 2020

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cannabis stocks are flying high after voters in New Jersey, Arizona and three other states cleared the way for expanding legal sales of marijuana.

Shares in some of the biggest cannabis companies, including Aurora Cannabis, Canopy Growth and Cresco Labs, are up between 24 per cent and 75 per cent so far this month. By comparison, the benchmark S&P 500 index is up 11 per cent.

Investors are encouraged because the successful ballot initiatives broaden the potential market for legal cannabis sales and show marijuana is becoming increasingly more accepted throughout the United States

The stocks began rallying after election day. Voters in New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota approved legalising sales of marijuana for adults. South Dakota also approved sales for medical use, as did Mississippi.

The expansion of sales to adults alone represents a nearly 20 per cent increase in the potential US market for legal cannabis, according to industry tracker BDSA.

“That continues to open up new markets for these legal US cannabis companies,” said Morningstar analyst Kristoffer Inton. “That supports a really robust US market growth.”

All told, cannabis is now legal for adults in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Thirty-six states allow for some form of access for medicinal use.

The successful state ballot initiatives have prompted analysts to revise their outlook for US cannabis sales. Cowen now projects the legal marijuana market will grow to US$34 billion by 2025, up from an earlier forecast of US$31 billion.

Morningstar estimates that annual US cannabis sales will reach US$70 billion for the adult-use segment and US$15 billion for medical.

The legal cannabis market has been growing as companies open more dispensaries. Curaleaf, which has operations in 23 states, tripled its revenue in the third quarter from a year earlier, thanks in part to having added locations in Florida and other states.

The Wakefield, Massachussetts-based company's shares are up 55 per cent this year.

Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries, which sells its products in California and 10 other states, is up more than 91 per cent this year. The company's third-quarter revenue more than doubled from a year earlier as it expanded distribution of its products.

Despite their big rally this month, shares in Aurora, MedMen Enterprises, Tilray and other big cannabis companies are down more than 60 per cent this year. It's a far cry from just a couple of years ago, when early enthusiasm about the prospects for rapid sales growth and blockbuster company mergers had cannabis stocks skyrocketing.

While industry analysts project the market for cannabis products will continue to grow over the next decade, the industry remains constrained by government regulations that stem from marijuana being illegal at the federal level. Those regulations are hurdles for companies when it comes to getting access to banking and other services.

Still, the fact that voters in South Dakota, Montana and Mississippi, states that tend to vote Republican, embraced some form of marijuana legalisation, bodes well for the industry's efforts to get cannabis-friendly laws passed nationally.

“The industry would have preferred a Democratic sweep, but the passage of all five ballot initiatives, including three in Republican states, makes cannabis less partisan,” said Bobby Burleson, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has already passed the SAFE Banking Act, which would free up banks to do business with license marijuana companies, but the bill has stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The outcome of two run-off elections in Georgia could determine control of the Senate, which would be key in future efforts to enact pro-cannabis laws.

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