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Are Marijuana Stocks On The Rise Once Again?

Major American companies have seen their values surging, thanks in part to the coronavirus pandemic.

Marijuana stocks did not have a good 2019. The global cannabis stock index has steadily declined since last March. Companies have experienced significant layoffs in 2020, which was only worsened by the overall coronavirus-induced market decline. As investor dollars dried up, companies scrambled toward profitability — partly because marijuana businesses don’t enjoy the financial safety net other industry typically experience.

But marijuana companies now see their fortunes on the rise, in no small part due to the nationwide call to label cannabis “essential business” amid the coronavirus pandemic. American cannabis companies outperformed their Canadian counterparts in recent months, according to Bloomberg. The Horizons US Marijuana Index ETF gained 94% since mid-March. The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF, which includes mainly Canadian businesses, added 38%.

“I think this is an inflection point where the U.S. market is becoming the dominant market in the global marijuana space,” Mark Noble, executive vice president of strategy at Horizons ETFs Management Inc., told Bloomberg. “I think the only thing that’s really keeping these stocks from overtaking the Canadian LPs is the fact that they’re not listed on the U.S. stock market.”

U.S. companies can’t be listed on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq, as marijuana is federally illegal, but Canadian marijuana businesses can. Same goes for the Toronto Stock Exchange. But investors worry far more about Canadian headwinds over potential U.S. hurdles. A vibrant black market remains in Canada, as just below half of Canadians admitted to buying from illegal sources a year after legal cannabis sales went into effect.

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Ontario, the most populous province in Canada, has also experienced a dramatically slow rollout of stores and the COVID-19 pandemic has virtually halted any progress. According to researchers, Ontario operates at a 96% deficiency in cannabis stores. Only five dozen stores exist for almost 15 million people living in Ontario. Alberta, which has a population of nearly 4.5 million, has 449 stores.

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The pandemic also caused CIBC Capital Markets to reduce its 2020 recreational cannabis sales forecast from $3.4 billion Canadian dollars to CA$2.5 billion. The investment banking subsidiary of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) slashed its 2021 forecast by CA$1.4 billion as well.

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Meanwhile, Green Thumbs Industries Inc. revenue rose above $100 million this month, becoming the first U.S. company to do so. Curaleaf and Cresco Labs, both American companies, also announced growth in recent quarters.

“For people putting new money into the marijuana market, it’s going into these stocks rather than the existing, legacy LPs from Canada,” Noble added. “It’s a startling divergence, in my opinion.”

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