Marijuana stocks are booming this year.
A handful of Canadian cannabis companies have successfully raised billions on American stock exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, but thanks to federal laws that forbid them from operating in the US, every cent of that capital is heading north of the border.
Legally-operating US marijuana companies — in places like Colorado where the drug is legal, at least on a state level — have largely missed out on the success stories of their Canadian peers due to federal drug laws that stand between their equity and a listing on a major exchange. Derek Peterson, CEO of California-based Terra Tech, says American companies are being left in the dust.
"The problem that we're under as US operators is these Canadian companies are using the healthy capital market up there to fund and raise a ton of capital, putting us at serious risk," the former investment banker, who has helmed Terra Tech for nearly seven years, said in an interview. "We'll end up being take out candidates for probably great premiums for our shareholders, but the concern is about longevity."
It's a problem that's sending major investments— like Constellation Brands' $4 billion stake in Canopy Growth Corporation — outside of the US. Elsewhere, companies like Green Growth Brands, are pursuing unusual methods like reverse takeovers in order to list on Canadian exchanges and cash in on the trend.
"It'd be foolish to sit on the sidelines and use our own cash to grow our business," Green Growth Brands CEO Peter Horvath, a veteran of American Eagle, DSW, and Victoria's Secret, told Business Insider. "You've got to skate to where the puck is going, not where it is."
Terra Tech and Peterson refuse to stay idle and let American companies get left behind.
In an effort to speed up the modernization laws in the US, Terra Tech plans to take out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, aimed directly at President Donald Trump, as soon as next week. Peterson also plans to buy advertising slots during Fox and Friends, the morning talk show that's known to be a favorite of the president.
"If we don't change our laws here and the banks don't have a chance to come in and fund companies and have access to out capital markets, we're going to end up having our industry owned by Canadian conglomerates," Peterson said.
"We would prefer to create our own destiny and have access to the Morgan Stanley's, Bank of Americas, and Goldman Sachs's of the world to be able to raise real capital and compete in the global marketplace."
Until then, most major Wall Street banks will likely stay on the margins. No major sell-side research department except for Cowen has launched coverage of marijuana stocks, despite the largest ones being worth more than many of the other equities they cover.
Canopy Growth, for example, is easily the most valuable publicly traded cannabis company with a market cap of $14 billion, more than double that of the sports-apparel maker Under Armour — and is only covered by two US research shops: Cowen and William O'Neil.
"We're working to at least get a public conversation going around this because I don't think a lot of our political leaders understand what's happening here from a capital markets perspective," Peterson said.
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