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Relaxed marijuana regulations lead to investor opportunities around the world

By Alexis Grace
Nov 05, 2018

So far, Canada and Uruguay are the only two countries in the world to make marijuana entirely legal for adult recreational and medical use. However, the regulatory environment has been progressive globally, so there’s anticipation of more countries joining the marijuana movement in the future. Here’s an overview of the regulatory status of marijuana legalization in top cannabis countries and what companies and stocks have the most considerable presence there.

United States: Federally illegal, but state-level legality varies

Despite having a much smaller market share than Canada in the global stock markets, the United States has been at the forefront of investors’ minds due to its growing presence of state-level legalization throughout the country. Nine states have fully legalized the recreational use of cannabis along with the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands. An additional 13 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands have decriminalized marijuana use, meaning there is typically no longer arrest, prison time, or a criminal record for the first-time possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal consumption in these states.

Although the use of cannabis remains federally illegal, some of its derivative compounds have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for prescription use, including the recent approval of GW Pharmaceuticals PLC (NASDAQ:GWPH) cannabidiol-based drug Epidiolex.

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GW Pharmaceuticals is currently the most significant U.S. marijuana stock by market capitalization with $4.73 billion followed by MariMed Inc (OTC:MRMD) with$935 million, MedMen Enterprises Inc. (OTC:MMNFF) with $424 million and CV Sciences Inc. (OTC:CVSI) with $555 million.

The U.S. Marijuana Index measures the performance of the largest U.S.-based publicly traded companies. Over the past year, the index value increased over 150 percent, even with the recent dip post-cannabis legalization in Canada.

According to an ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics report titled  “The State of Legal Marijuana Markets, 6th Edition,” in 2017 the worldwide legal marijuana trade grew by 37 percent and was worth $9.5 billion, with the U.S. accounting for 90 percent. At $0.6 billion Canada’s 2017 share was 6 percent.

The rest of the world combined made up the remaining 4 percent. The report also predicts that by 2022, legal cannabis revenue in the U.S. market is projected to hit $23.4 billion, or 73 percent of the market. During the same period, Canada is projected to reach $5.5 billion, or 17 percent and at $3.1 billion, the rest of the world will represent almost 10 percent of the legal cannabis market.

Canada: Fully legal

As of October 17,  marijuana became fully legalized at the federal level. Since then, Canada has drawn major investor focus in the global marijuana industry. Canadians have been celebrating, possibly a little too hard, leading to significant shortages for Canadian cannabis companies. It led to a rough start in the markets, but many believed a correction was due anyway and returns have since bounced back a bit.

Canadian marijuana companies dominate the equities markets by market capitalization, although many are traded on U.S. exchanges. Notable players include Tilray Inc (NASDAQ:TLRY) with $9.27 billion in market cap, Aurora Cannabis Inc (NYSE:ACB) (OTC:ACBFF) with $8.38 billion, Canopy Growth Corporation (NYSE:CGC) with $8.51 billion, Aphria Inc (OTC:APHQF)(TSX:APH) with $2.89 billion, and Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ:CRON) with $1.42 billion.

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Similar to the U.S. Marijuana index, the Canadian Marijuana Index measures the performance of the largest Canada-based publicly traded companies. Over the past year, the index value increased about 116 percent, falling a bit short in returns compared to the U.S. Index. However, both indices were initialized at 100.00 at inception on January 2, 2015, so Canada is clearly in the lead with its current index value around 600 compared to the U.S. value around 125.

Germany: Medically legal and decriminalized

Outside of North America, Germany is ranked at the top of the list of international marijuana markets. The same ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics research project predicted that marijuana sales in the country would reach close to $1.6 billion in 2022. In 2017, Germany legalized medical marijuana and began importing medical marijuana from Canada. More than 20,000 pharmacies in the country are authorized to fill medical cannabis prescriptions.

There are no German-based companies trading publicly at this time, but there are some noteworthy examples of Canadian companies investing in the German marijuana market to recognize.

[Midterm elections and marijuana: Part I, US Congress]

MedCann became the first German company to obtain import licenses when medical marijuana was legalized and was then bought out by Canopy Growth afterward. Germany now generates more than 10 percent of Canopy’s total revenue according to its fiscal 2018 fourth quarter results. In another example, last month it was announced that Wayland Group (CSE:WAYL) (OTC:MRRCF) entered into an agreement to supply German-based cannabis distributor Cannamedical Pharma GmbH with cannabis flowers over a three-year term with the first shipment in December of 2018.

United Kingdom: Medically legal

As of November 1, the United Kingdom’s government announced that patients can now be prescribed medicinal cannabis. Although estimated medical marijuana sales in 2018 are predicted to be only around $7 million, the ArcView and BDS Analytics study predicts that the medical marijuana market in the U.K. will reach $288 million by 2022.

Seeing as the United Kingdom is already expected to have the second largest non-North American market behind Germany by 2022 according to those predictions, this regulatory shift with medical cannabis is a massive win for the U.K. cannabis markets.

[MariMed beats marijuana stock market following partnership with BSC Group]

GW Pharmaceuticals is the most notable British marijuana company, headquartered in Cambridge. The company obtained a cultivation license from the United Kingdom Home Office in the year they were founded in 1998 which allowed them to conduct scientific research concerning the medicinal uses of marijuana. In September, Tilray exported a form of CBD oil to the U.K. to research treating a patient with a rare form of epilepsy following the anticipation of loosening medical marijuana laws.

Denmark: Medically legal

Although Demark’s marijuana market isn’t at the top of the global list size-wise, they should not go unnoticed. There was a breakthrough announcement in September of this year that the Danish marijuana company STENOCARE would become Europe’s first marijuana IPO. The company ended up going public October 26 on the Spotlight Stock Market exchange under the ticker name STENO. STENOCARE currently imports cannabis from Canadian company CannTrust (OTC:CNTTF).

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