Growth opportunities remain in cannabis, but it requires creativity, enterprise and knowledge, according to top investors.
Take this for an investing conundrum: Where do you put your money in an industry with enormous upside but where many companies don’t yet make profits? An industry where some states consider it “essential business” but the country considers its product illegal? Or an industry where the illicit market is potentially three times bigger than legal sales?
Welcome to cannabis investing, where massive potential and heartbreak live side by side. But opportunity does exist for savvy players, even amid a global pandemic that threatens practically every American business sector.
“The industry has found itself pandemic-resistant as cannabis has been treated as an essential business allowing dispensaries to remain open and, in many cases, showing record sales during this tough period,” David Feldman, a partner at Hiller P.C., a global law firm, told The Fresh Toast. “That said, most companies in the industry are not yet at break-even, and raising money remains a major challenge, as it has for about a year.”
Now could be the best time to invest in cannabis but maybe not stocks, says Andrew Laub, CEO of Keneh Ventures, a private equity company that specializes in ancillary cannabis companies.
“In the short term, it is a good investment because we are seeing discounts we have never seen,” Laub told The Fresh Toast. “And you may not see them six months from now, if things turn around in the world. There are a lot of opportunities out there right now in cannabis. It’s just being able to find the right ones.”
In Laub’s opinion, that means staying away from publicly traded companies as he describes many cannabis stocks as overvalued. While the handful of companies that are cash flow positive likely will continue their growth, Feldman adds, the majority that relied on capital influxes could continue to struggle.
He is not alone in that belief. Vivien Azer serves as senior analyst at Cowen Group and focuses on the cannabis, tobacco, and beverage sector. If her name sounds familiar, she was the first Wall Street analyst to cover the cannabis industry and her opinion holds considerable sway as a result. “Looking forward,” her team recently wrote in an cannabis equity research update, “much work and change still needs to occur in order for this industry to realize its full potential.”
That, however, does not mean you can’t make money in cannabis. Laub characterizes data and technology as huge right now. Places that appear to be an obvious stay-away at the moment might actually represent the biggest growth opportunities, like commercial real estate for cannabis companies.
“Real estate stinks right now, especially in commercial,” Laub says. “No one’s paying their rent. Retail is probably horrible. That might be an opportunity to buy some right now. Because it’s going to eventually come back, though it depends on the area.”
Laub adds, “So it’s a twofold question that you have because sometimes it’s something that doesn’t look good right now might be a buying opportunity because you could get an amazing discount.”
Optimism still abounds in cannabis investing, in other words. It just depends on who you ask. Brenda S. Smith, for example, is the Managing Partner of CB Capital Concierge, a capital markets and strategy advisor to the legal cannabis industry. She envisions cannabis as an entity as ubiquitous as the internet or beer, which might be why seizing opportunity where it exists is so important at the moment.
“In the not-too-distant future, cannabis will evolve beyond today as discrete product offering or unique supply chains and distribution channels to become integrated into mainstream industry,” Smith told The Fresh Toast. “Pharma and nutriceuticals will apply it for medicine and health, cars will use the strength of hemp in durable chassis, bars and clubs will offer it as alternatives, et cetera. And if we look far enough down the road, we’ll see cannabis as an ingredient of every industry.”