The United States has the world’s largest, most innovative, and most diverse financial markets. Any stock, bond, security, ETF you can imagine is traded on the NYSE and other US markets. Nearly any, that is.
There’s one area, however, in which our friendly neighbors in Canada seem to be ahead of the curve: marijuana stocks and funds. Medicinal and/or recreational marijuana is legal in several US states—more and more each year—but is still a no-no on the federal level. For that reason, US financial markets don’t yet offer any exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that allow investors to put money into pools of marijuana stocks.
Not so in Canada, where the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF (HMMJ.TO) launched on the Toronto Stock Exchange this April. The $120 million fund allows stock market investors to put money into a pool of assets that includes growers like Aurora Cannabis Inc (ACB.TO), medical marijuana producers like GW Pharmaceuticals Plc (GWPRF.PK), and the fertilizer company Scotts Miracle-Gro Co (SMG.N), among others.
The ETF’s share price has ranged between $8-$10 for most of the past four months before spiking to $23.77 on August 8.
Canada’s Legal Weed Industry Has Tremendous Room for Growth
The most interesting part? Recreational marijuana isn’t even legal in Canada. At least not yet: this April, Canada’s parliament introduced legislation that would allow it to regulate cannabis production by July 2018. According to the bill—which is still moving through parliament—the provinces will decide how recreational marijuana is sold. The ETF dropped the word “medical” from its name this June, a clear indicator that it expects the bill to pass.
Stock market investors have reason to be excited about Canada’s recreational marijuana industry: a 2016 study by Deloitte estimated the total marijuana-related revenue could top $5 billion in the first year. Eventually, that could grow to $22.6 billion, taking into account retail sales as well as taxes, license fees, tourism revenue, and other ancillary revenue.
Can US Stock Market Investors Get into the Game?
Canada’s recreational marijuana industry looks like a strong bet both today and in the future. Unfortunately, what happens in Canada is likely to stay in Canada. Over 95 percent of investors in the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF are based in Canada, and SEC rules make it difficult for Americans to invest in Canadian ETFs.
President of Horizons Exchange Traded Funds Steve Hawkins told reporters that his company is looking at establishing a US-listed ETF through a sister company. He’s wary, however: there are currently just a few marijuana-related stocks traded on US exchanges, so any talk of an ETF is premature.
US-based investors can still invest in marijuana stocks, just not ETFs. The Marijuana International Corporation—a distribution and compliance company—even set up the United States Marijuana Index to track the performance of US marijuana stocks.
The index currently includes 18 stocks with a total market capitalization of $4.2 billion. The index took a major hit following the President Trump’s election last November, falling from 107.64 on November 8 to just 64.60 on December 21. The US market for marijuana stocks needs assurances that the Trump administration won’t squash statewide medicinal and recreational industries before it can completely recover.
What are Smart Investors Doing?
For now, it’s best to sit tight on marijuana stocks and ETFs. If you’re based in the US, take a wait-and-see approach before investing in any US-based marijuana stocks. They’re just too risky given the uncertain regulatory environment.
The Canadian market looks potentially a lot more lucrative, considering that passage of the recreational marijuana bill looks like just a matter of time.