Marijuana is transforming into the darling of daring investors, and the nascent legal weed industry is excited about the prospects for profits. But there are many risks to investing in this tricky business. Canopy Growth, a Canadian cannabis holding company, is representative of the hope and potential woes that go with buying stock in an industry still negotiating existence.
Located in the small town of Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canopy Growth claims to be the largest legal weed producer in the world, making a range of cannabis products in an old Hershey’s chocolate factory. It began trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange in July 2016, and now trades under the ticker WEED (originally it was CGC). The company’s stock fluctuations reflect the realities of marijuana market investment.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2000. As of Feb. 1, Canopy Growth was valued at $943 million, and on Feb. 21 the stock traded around $12 a share all day. That’s a lot more than the $2 it traded at in a year ago, on Feb. 22, 2016. But it’s low compared to the high hopes investors had for the company in November.
Just a few months ago, Canopy Growth was the hottest property on the Canadian stock market, the first marijuana business to attain the coveted “unicorn” status (a term reserved for startups valued at $1 billion and above). On Nov. 16, it “blew past” a $2 billion valuation and briefly traded at over $17 a share, with 24 million shares changing hands that day, according to The Motley Fool Canada.
The enthusiasm for WEED was likely based in part on US voting, as states had passed various legalization measures the previous week. It was also based on expectations that Canada would soon legalize recreational marijuana. When that happens (and experts still think it will), the industry is expected to generate about $5 to 8 billion in recreational sales annually by 2021, analysts say.
But right after the dizzying rise on Nov. 16., the stock price quickly dropped $10 that same day, The quick fall may have been based on a similarly speedy realization during trading that there are still lots of obstacles for marijuana businesses, like a legal framework for recreational sales. Although prime minister Justin Trudeau set up a federal task force to explore legalization of recreational marijuana, and lay out recommendations for its implementation in Canada by spring 2017, nothing is yet certain, and there are many pesky details left to work out.
It is not yet clear who will sell what weed in what forms exactly and to whom—there are oils, flowers, lotions, and countless other concoctions and potions being created today and the new national legal marijuana regime will need to interact with local provincial laws. The market is expected to be tightly regulated.
Still, on Feb. 15, market analysts at Seeking Alpha wrote that the company is the “best long term investment investment in marijuana.”
So, hope is still very much alive. Canopy Growth is already exporting products to Germany and Brazil and supplies medical marijuana to almost half of Canada’s legal weed users, or about 40,000 people. It is also expanding offerings locally. On Feb. 20, one of the company’s subsidiaries, Tweed, announced it will be selling cannabis-infused coconut-oil personal lubricants for women, a product covered widely in women’s magazines, and according to Cosmopolitan, very effective.
Steve Linton, Canopy Growth’s founder and CEO, told the Business Insider in early February that all the unknowns and volatility surrounding legal marijuana and WEED are actually what made the industry attractive to him to begin with. For now, it’s a risky business and competition is still limited—but that means lots of opportunity for the intrepid.
Correction: A previous version misrepresented the context in which a quote was given on the investment site The Motley Fool Canada. The quote was not about Canopy Growth, but about a different publicly-traded Canadian company.