The surprising impact Trump’s growing anti-marijuana sentiment could have on Canadian marijuana companies.
Marijuana stocks — once a hot commodity that influenced millennials to invest in stocks again — have plummeted over the past several months. High valuations and market obstacles have caused the previously widespread capital to dry up. Multiple companies in the space have shed assets and laid off employees to deal with the cash crunch.
Cowen analyst Viven Azer downgraded Canadian-based companies like Aurora Cannabis and Tilray this week, as investors worry market obstacles won’t disappear anytime soon. Most cannabis consumers have spoken with their wallets and shown a preference toward cheap wee — it’s a decision that has damaged Aurora, which initially focused on developing high-grade product for customers. Other headwinds include lack of enough retail spaces and the persistence of the black market in legal areas.
On the other hand, Canopy Growth exists in an odd in-between state. That’s for two reasons: (a) Constellation Brands’ $4 billion investment in Canopy — which Azer argues has helped the company maintain a healthy balance sheet — and (b) Canopy’s play for the U.S. market. Last April, Canopy agreed to acquire U.S.-based Acreage Holdings for $3.4 billion.
There’s an important catch, though. The deal only goes through when marijuana becomes federally legal in the United States. That doesn’t mean Canopy will lose $3.4 billion if legalization fails to materialize. Canopy instead made a $300 million payment up front to Acreage, which the latter gets to keep should the deal fall apart.
All of which means Canopy would likely prefer if Donald Trump wasn’t re-elected this year. This is not a reflection of the company’s politics, just its business. Close watchers of the Trump Administration have noticed a new anti-marijuana sentiment brewing in the White House over the past several months. Whereas Trump previously voiced support for the STATES Act—which would protect states with legal marijuana from federal prosecution—recent actions indicate something changed for the President.
Trump announced he would remove a rider provision from the upcoming 2021 budget that protects medical marijuana programs from Justice Department interference. (One congressman announced they would ignore Trump’s push.) A top Trump campaign spokesman confirmed the anti-legalization suspicion in a recent interview with Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS-TV.
“I think the president is looking at this from a standpoint of a parent — a parent of a young person — to make sure we keep our kids away from drugs,” said Marc Lotter, who serves as director of strategic communications for Trump’s 2020 campaign said. “They need to be kept illegal. That is the federal policy.”
“I think the president has been pretty clear on his views on marijuana at the federal level. I know many states have taken a different path,” he added.
According to The Motely Fool, if marijuana isn’t legalized within 90 months of Canopy’s upfront payment to Acreage, the deal would automatically terminate. A Trump win in the 2020 Election could make that all the more likely to happen.