In a matter of weeks, Canada will most likely legalize marijuana for recreational use. Expectations for a pot boom sent stocks soaring in 2017, and while enthusiasm ebbed early this year the index for cannabis stocks is up 71 percent from November last year.
Production of marijuana is expected to surge this year and companies are looking abroad for more investment.
“Cannabusiness” is one of the hottest market trends this year, but finding the right company can be challenging.
The industry is full of risky plays: growers who lack a market outlet, or distributors without access to sufficient product.
Analysts have become wary, even warning investors away from the riskiest plays.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of opportunity for investors who do their research to make smart choices.
Here are five companies that span the cannabis space, who could profit from this year’s biggest trends in the pot market:
#1 GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH)
This major pharma company is getting into the cannabis game through a major industry milestone: in 2018, GW Pharma received approval for its cannabis-based drug Epidiolex from the Federal Drug Administration.
For the first time, the FDA approved a drug based on cannabis for the American market…and GW Pharma’s stock enjoyed a huge boost at the news.
The drug itself is expected to be a big seller, one of the 10 biggest new drugs of 2018 according to Evaluate Pharma.
Epidiolex reduces seizures in patients and could mark the beginning of a new age of federally-approved cannabis-based drugs used for a wide variety of treatments.
Industry leaders are already arguing for cannabis as an alternative to opioids, which have ravaged the United States in recent years.
With the U.S. government ready to step in to reduce opioid abuse, cannabis drugs may provide an alternative. GW Pharma is the first to profit from an approved cannabis-based drug, and it could be the pioneer that brings cannabis drugs into the mainstream.
#2 BLOCKStrain Technology Corp. (TSX-V: DNAX)
Marijuana is an industry that comes with a lot of risk, and even more uncertainty—products are developed and sold on the black market, producers are unsure if their plants are adequately protected from intellectual theft, and consumers have little protection or quality control.
But now, a company has emerged to solve those problems by deploying the power of the blockchain.
BLOCKStrain (TSX-V:DNAX) is the first company dedicated to verifying marijuana products as they enter the market.
The company has developed a “smart hub” for cannabis, a repository that can act as a “single source of truth for cannabis strains and their ownership.”
The company uses the blockchain technology that allows transactions to be processed at lightning speeds without the need for a sluggish middleman.
BLOCKStrain’s network will act as a “clean, immutable, legal and transparent distribution network of product between producers and consumers.” It’s the first time a company has dedicated itself to bringing this level of security and transparency to the pot market.
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BLOCKStrain (TSX.V: DNAX) verifies every marijuana product that clients add to its blockchain database, tracking products and ensuring validity.
Their service is a crucial one. As Canada undergoes wide-spread legalization of marijuana, ensuring greater transparency for producers and consumers will be crucial to the industry’s growth, which could be as large as a $77-billion market.
BLOCKStrain has already signed on its first client: WeedMD Inc., a fully licensed producer (LP) under Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).
According to Derek Pedro, design, cultivation and production partner at WeedMD, “BLOCKStrain is best positioned to protect our intellectual property by further validating and securing our best-in-class genetics.”
In March, BLOCKStrain, as part of a strategic investment, received a $500,000 infusion from WeedMD, which ‘’will be amongst the first federally-licensed producers to initiate the integration of blockchain technology into its ecosystem’’.
And this deal could be the first of many and BLOCKStrain (TSX.V: DNAX) has its sights set on every LP in Canada…and now, there are more than 100 that could benefit from the services of the blockchain to verify and protect their products.
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BLOCKStrain’s CTO is a veteran of applying cutting-edge tech to the cannabis industry. As CTO of Weedmaps, he oversaw the company’s multiple technology systems during an exciting growth phase in 2015.
And why stop at pot? BLOCKStrain’s CEO, Robert Galarza, has already indicated interest in broadening the scope of the company’s services beyond cannabis to the grocery industry, which is valued at $2.3 trillion.
Blockchain could transform entire industries, and BLOCKStrain is poised to bring it to the weed business. This is a company to watch.
#3 Canopy Growth (NASDAQOTH:TWMJF) (TSE: WEED)
Judging by market cap, Canopy Growth is the biggest pot player around. The grower bucked the trend in early 2018. As most cannabis stocks slumped, it enjoyed a 10 percent boost, stemming from investor confidence in the company’s vertical integration.
Canopy is set for a large expansion, in anticipation of increased demand if Canada’s legalization indeed goes through this summer. The company has seven facilities totaling 665,000 square feet and is developing greenhouses on 3.7 million square feet in British Columbia.
While the company seems to be keeping expectations of growing potential conservative, with this much land, it could emerge by 2019 as Canada’s top grower.
As a sign of its potential graduation from scrappy start-up to established pot player, Canopy Growth has applied to list on the NYSE.
If successful, that could place it above the rest: a cannabis company listed amongst Fortune 500s and Blue Chip firms.
#4 Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. (NYSE: SMG)
A company with strong name-recognition in garden materials, Scotts Miracle Gro. has emerged as a significant stock in the cannabis industry and presents a way to invest in the marijuana boom without exposure to riskier ventures.
Scotts has a 75 percent stake in Gravita International, a company that manufactures hydroponics equipment, a crucial component in marijuana cultivation.
The company claims more than $250 million in revenue from their hydroponics holdings.
Scotts acquired another hydroponics firm last month, scooping up Sunlight Supply for $450 million.
The aggressive move into hydroponics is part of a strategy concocted by Scotts CEO Jim Hagedorn, who hopes to pivot Scotts into a major player in the cannabis industry after the company hit a rough patch in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
The move seems to have paid off: Scotts saw solid growth during 2017, as did much of the cannabis market. Still, the price has doubled since the doldrums of 2014, and with growers increasing acreage to meet future demand, Scotts should expect demand for hydroponics products to grow at a steady rate moving forward.
#5 Aurora Cannabis (NASDAQOTH:ACBFF)
This comes after another big acquisition earlier in the year, when Aurora bought out CanniMed for $852 million.
With so much money to throw around, Aurora is on the verge of pulling an “Amazon” -type move: dominating every aspect of the supply chain, from production to distribution.
The company has a huge, 800,000 square foot growing facility that is expected to become fully automated: once complete, it could produce 100,000 kilograms of dried cannabis each year. Another facility, 1.2 million square feet in size, is planned for next year.
CEO Terry Booth wants Aurora to be the top grower in the industry, and has his sights set on spreading Aurora to distribution after legalization goes through in Canada.
Like a lot of pot stocks, Aurora shot up in the early part of 2018, only to tumble in February and March. Investors are greeting the news of the MedReleaf acquisition with caution, out of concerns that the company is spreading itself too thin.
But there’s no question that Aurora has the potential to be the biggest grower in North America by the end of the year, in a superb position to dominate upstream and seize a huge chunk of the market.
Other companies looking to capitalize on the cannabis boom:
Hydropothecary Corp (CVE:THCX, OTCMKTS:HYYDF) is a another heavy hitter in Canada’s cannabis scene. With former BC Health Minister Dr. Terry Lake as the VP of Corporate Social Responsibility, and the well-versed Ed Chaplin, who has raised millions for his previous ventures, as the Chief Financial Officer, the company seems poised for a bright future.
With 4 primary products, including Canada’s only peppermint flavored medical cannabis oil sublingual mist, Hydropothecary has chosen quality over quantity. Offering patients the ability to administer their medication in a smoke-free format provides users with an option that is not available just anywhere.
Keep an eye on this stock moving forward as it may just have what it takes to take the industry by storm in 2018.
Emerald Health Therapeutics Inc (CVE:EMH, OTCMKTS:EMHTF) is another producer and distributer of medical marijuana. Based in British Columbia, Emerald Health is fully licensed by Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) and provides high quality medicine of different varieties. The company’s approach to research is what really sets the company apart from the competition. With the incredible emphasis placed on isolating the most important qualities in each strain and creating new products for patients, it is no wonder their medicine is so popular.
Beleave (CSE:BE, OTCMKTS:BLEVF): Beleave is a biotech company focused on the production of medical marijuana in Canada. Its wholly-owned subsidiary, First Access, applied for a pre-license inspection in March 2017.
Beleave became Cannabis Wheaton’s fifth production partner in May and the parties will work cooperatively to identify an appropriate second site to be acquired and developed by a newly formed special purpose subsidiary of Beleave ("NewCo"). The proposed second site is expected to be located in Ontario and designed to accommodate an estimated 200,000 square feet of cultivation space.
Aphria (TSX:APH, OTCMKTS:APHQF) is a Canada-based cannabis company which focuses on the production, sales, and distribution of legal marijuana. The company’s business model focuses primarily on online sales, which is easier for its patients. A simple point and click and medication can arrive at the patient’s in no time.
Aphria’s products are developed to treat a variety of patients and symptoms. The company offers several smoke free medications for those who are unable to consume the products in that manner. Aphria also produces low-THC products for patients who are more sensitive to marijuana’s psychoactive properties.
By. Meredith Taylor
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