By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
Aurora Cannabis Inc. led a rally in the weed sector Tuesday, that was fueled by hopes President-elect Joe Biden, finally cleared to move ahead with his administration’s transition, will push for reforms that will let companies access banks and capital markets.
There was further excitement about the news that Mexico’s Senate has approved a cannabis bill that would create the world’s biggest single market if it also passes the lower House of Congress.
Aurora /zigman2/quotes/210559470/composite ACB +20.21% , /zigman2/quotes/203734337/delayed CA:ACB +17.94% the most widely held stock on trading app Robinhood, soared 21% after Biden was cleared by the General Services Administration to begin the formal transition process, the first move by the Trump administration acknowledging Biden’s election victory. The Cannabis ETF /zigman2/quotes/213173823/composite THCX +6.94% rose 6%.
Media called the election for Biden on Nov. 7, but incumbent President Donald Trump has refused to concede, has made unsubstantiated claims that there was election fraud and attempted to sue state electoral officials and others. The GSA move now clears the way for Biden to start to coordinate his pandemic response with current administration officials and to receive security briefings.
See also: Aurora Cannabis plans to sell more stock
Biden and his Vice President Kamala Harris are widely held to be more in favor of reforming the U.S.’s strict cannabis laws which continue to classify the substance as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin. That classification has hampered the development of the sector which is confined to those states that have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use and kept companies locked out of the federally insured banking system.
“What we really need is a loosening of regulations,” said Rob DiPisa, co-chair of the Cannabis Law Group at law firm Cole Schotz. “We need legislation similar to the SAFE banking act to permit cannabis companies to have access to banking and insurance.”
Hopes for reform were also boosted by the success in November ballots of cannabis measures in New Jersey, Arizona and South Dakota, where voters approved adult-use cannabis, and Mississippi, where they voted for medical cannabis. Those measures mean about a third of Americans now live in states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use.
Stocks were also boosted by the news of Mexico’s legalization bill, which comes after months of delays. Mexico is taking a new approach to its drug problem, which has seen about 250,000 of its citizens murdered by drug cartels ever since a government crackdown started under former President Felipe Calderón.
“The pending law still faces some hurdles before doors are fully open to business opportunities in Latin America’s second-largest consumer market,” Benchmark analyst Mike Hickey wrote in a note.
Mexico will be the third country in the world to fully legalize cannabis after Canada in 2018 and Uruguay in 2013.
Elsewhere in the sector, Canopy Growth Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200603886/composite CGC +7.93% , /zigman2/quotes/202205609/delayed CA:WEED +7.36% the biggest cannabis company by market cap, was up 9%, and Cronos Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206842762/composite CRON +6.27% /zigman2/quotes/202715342/delayed CA:CRON +7.01% was up 9.1%. Tilray Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209129655/composite TLRY +13.79% was up 16% and Aphria Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207425803/composite APHA +10.27% /zigman2/quotes/205566616/delayed CA:APHA +7.76% was up 7%.
GrowGeneration Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207254713/composite GRWG +6.14% shares rose 6%, after a bullish note from Stifel analysts led by Andrew Carter. Stifel came away from a meeting with Grow Generation’s management with an improved view of the company’s “differentiated growth profile and real scarcity value for directly investing behind the growth of the cannabis category.”
The company is well positioned to achieve $1 billion sales in the next three to five years, while building a network of 250 stores.
“GrowGeneration’s positioning in the hydroponics category, and the opportunities/risks of U.S. federal cannabis reform,” they wrote. “We continue with our Buy rating and $32 target price.”
Cannabis software provider Akerna Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202667634/composite KERN +13.04% was up 5%, GW Pharma PLC /zigman2/quotes/209686240/composite GWPH +1.65% was up 3% and Aleafia Health Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203485112/composite ALEAF +4.97% was up 7%.