Everything is changing quickly in the marijuana industry and the legal landscape is evolving even faster. Understanding the changes as they occur is going to be extremely important for making successful investment decisions.
It’s an exciting time for investors in this new industry who are now able to purchase shares in companies producing cannabis products for the consumer and medical markets for the first time ever. It has also been somewhat frustrating however, because those investment choices are currently limited by an inconsistent patchwork of laws.
Major US stock exchanges – quite sensibly - will decline to list any companies who are engaged in illegal activity, and since marijuana remains illegal at the federal level in the US, that means no companies who deal directly with marijuana inside the country are traded on the NYSE or NASDAQ.
Currently, the marijuana companies an investor can purchase on those exchanges either operate only in other countries where marijuana is completely legal – most notably Canada – or are US companies that provide ancillary services to the marijuana industry but don’t handle the products themselves. There’s literally even an industry euphemism for that type of business – companies that “Don’t touch the plant.”
Many more companies are now operating in a legal grey area in which they are virtually certain of their immunity from criminal prosecution because they are following the laws of the state in which they do business, yet cannot use traditional banking and credit card services or deduct many expenses when calculating taxes owed, and also cannot list their shares on the major exchanges.
When marijuana becomes broadly legal at the federal level in the US as seems inevitable, there is likely to be a deluge of investment opportunities as a new crop of surprisingly sophisticated new companies seek to raise capital on major exchanges.
With regard to legalization, public opinion has been changing rapidly, with the latest Gallup poll showing almost three quarters of Americans currently favoring it at the federal level. Those results show some significant differences of opinion based on age and political affiliation, with younger and more politically liberal respondents much more likely to support legalization than those who are older and/or more politically conservative.
Continued . . .
Time to Buy Pot Stocks!
Fresh from a clean sweep of 6 election referendums, proposed federal legislation is about to open up the entirety of the US to legal marijuana. The sky’s the limit for investors.
Zacks has recently closed a +147.0% marijuana trade, and is currently riding several double and triple-digit gains in the industry that should still have a long way to run.¹ Plus, Monday morning we are posting a pharmaceutical company that could rival or surpass these performances.
Access to our recommendations must close to limit the number of investors who share them. Deadline is midnight Sunday, March 7.
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In addition to recent scientific research that suggests that marijuana is less harmful to users’ health than other drugs – including alcohol and cigarettes – proponents of legalization also see a potential tax windfall to be gained in the regulation and taxation of marijuana products.
Estimates abound about the potential size of the legal marijuana market ranging from very conservative to wildly exaggerated – including some numbers in the trillions. Careful research estimates that the US market will grow from the $19B that was spent on legal marijuana in 2020 to $73.6B through 2027. With state and local taxes of up to 25% in many municipalities where recreational sales are legal, it’s only natural that states and towns see marijuana sales as a way to shore up strained budgets.
The state of Colorado collected $68 million in taxes on legal marijuana sales in 2014 and that number has steadily increased to $267 million in 2018. The state passed the $1B mark in total tax revenues early in 2019 and had reached $1.6 billion by the end of 2020.
At first, some tax revenues were a disappointment. After many years of legal medical marijuana sales, businesses in the state of California sold $500 million less marijuana in 2018 – after it was legal for recreational use - than they did in 2017. The fact that taxes on legal marijuana sales in California range up to 30% seemed to be keeping the black market alive.
That was about to change.
In 2020, California collected more than $200 million in tax revenue in each quarter. Total sales topped $5 billion and are on pace to exceed $6 billion in 2021. That’s more than three quarters of the total estimated market.
States and municipalities now understand they need to balance the desire to collect new tax revenue with the basic economics of pricing.
There is also a criminal justice-reform aspect to legalization. Minorities have been disproportionately incarcerated for non-violent marijuana crimes compared to Caucasians, despite evidence that usage rates are similar.
Despite the difficulties posed by the spread of Covid-19 in the US that made it difficult to get cannabis-related initiatives on the ballots, November 2020 was a veritable “green sweep” for legalization with five states easily passing measures to legalize both recreational adult-use and medicinal marijuana possession, use and cultivation.
That brings the total to 15 US states that allow, regulate and tax retail markets for the sale of cannabis products and 36 states that allow medical use. Even more importantly, with the centrally located state of New Jersey voting to approve recreational markets, neighboring states of New York and Pennsylvania - with a combined population north of 30 million people – will be forced to take notice of the potential tax revenues that could potentially be gained by following suit.
Personal Beliefs vs Investment Opportunity
As the Gallup poll demonstrates, a significant number of Americans do remain uncomfortable with the recent pace of change in efforts to legalize marijuana. That’s a perfectly rational position and it’s understandable that investors who share this sentiment might be hesitant to buy the shares of companies who sell marijuana.
Keep in mind however that with a combined $232B in market cap, Phillip Morris International (PM) and Altria (MO) are owned by millions of Americans, either directly or as a component of ETF and mutual funds – even if those investors personally disapprove of cigarettes.
If you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance you can see that there are going to be some really exciting investment opportunities in the marijuana industry.
Let’s take a quick look at how politics and the legislative process might affect the industry.
Is Marijuana Legal?
That’s no longer an easy question to answer.
In terms of federal law, the answer is “no.” Marijuana remains illegal in the US and is classified as a Schedule 1 drug. The DEA and the Justice Department continue to investigate and prosecute those who violate federal law with regard to marijuana.
At the state and municipal level, the water is much murkier. Thirty-six states allow the cultivation, sale, possession and/or use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and 14 States and the District of Columbia allow the use of marijuana for recreational purposes.
Drilling down even lower, in states where marijuana is legal, counties and cities have generally been empowered to enact their own rules that are stricter than the applicable state law. The result is the patchwork regulatory quilt that means that there are spots in the country where a retail store might sell marijuana products legally, while the same business would be prohibited from operating directly across the street in a different municipality.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder made it clear that the Justice Department would respect the laws of the individual states and that there would be no federal prosecutions of marijuana crimes as long as the behavior was legal under state law.
Momentum Toward Legalization
Previous attempts to legalize marijuana at the federal level have been plagued by partisan infighting, but with the new administration in the White House, a much more generally accepting public opinion, and the prospects of shutting down the black markets while padding strained state tax coffers is beginning to make federal legalization look truly inevitable.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY), Cory Booker (D, NJ) and Ron Wyden (D, OR) have jointly promised to introduce comprehensive reform legislation in 2021.
The pace of change we see in the coming months and years will likely be rapid. After a period of significant disappointments, many marijuana companies have seen large percentage gains lately. Federal legalization will bring us the opportunity to own the shares of many more exchange-listed companies with the potential to reap big rewards from regulated, legal markets.
How Can You Profit from the Politics of Pot?
Future legislation about the legal status of marijuana in the US will almost certainly have a profound impact on the fortunes of the companies in the industry and on the returns of investors.
Investing responsibly in the marijuana space will involve staying abreast of pending developments in legalization - from what’s going to be included in referendums on state ballots, all the way to what’s happening on the floors of Congress and the Oval Office.
Those who see the potential in this nascent industry would be wise to pay close attention to the politics of pot as they make their investment decisions. Some of the early big gains (and losses) may well be due as much to the results of the political process as to the individual efforts of the companies involved.
Simple Way to Pursue the Big Profits
At Zacks we're monitoring political developments very closely as well as tracking individual stocks.
This space looks to EXPLODE from $19 billion in 2020 to $73.6 billion by 2027.² Yet only a few growers, pharmaceuticals, financial firms, suppliers - both established and start-ups - are the true innovators and offer exceptional profit potential.
So if you don't want to devote the constant attention and painstaking analysis to find these often little-known tickers, we can find them for you.
You're invited to take part in the portfolio service I'm directing, Zacks Marijuana Innovators.
Our approach is responsible and vigilant but we look for aggressive growth. Recently, it closed a +147.0% trade. Plus, it has uncovered pot stocks that have shot up +140.7%, +100.0%, +64.6%, +95.0%, even +257.1% in as little as 3 months.¹ And all of these could have a long way to run.
I’ll alert you what and when to buy and when to sell. I'll also brief you on breaking market news that directly affects your investments.
Our choices have been limited over the past few years because of the legal status of cannabis in the US, but the elections brought a clean sweep of 6 pot referendums in 5 states. With federal legislation about to be introduced, many US-listed companies are bound to emerge and current stocks could skyrocket.
Alert: New Stock Posting After Market Open Monday
I’m planning to add a pharmaceutical stock to the portfolio. This is a big company with much bigger upside thanks to the fact that it’s quietly forging partnerships with international firms engaged in cannabis therapeutical research.
In other words, you can be one of the very first to get in on this new addition to Marijuana Innovators. Follow all our live buys and sells for the next 30 days.
We can’t let everyone in, so your chance to gain access must end this weekend. Deadline is midnight Sunday, March 7.
See Zacks' Latest Marijuana Trades Now >>
Zacks Stock Strategist
David Borun is Zacks' Cannabis Stock Strategist. He applies 20 years of trading expertise plus concentrated industry study to the direction of our unique portfolio service, Zacks Marijuana Innovators.
¹ As of 3/4/2021. The results listed above are not (or may not be) representative of the performance of all selections made by Zacks Investment Research's newsletter editors and may represent the partial close of a position.
² Grand View Research
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