By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
Aurora Cannabis led a strong rally in the cannabis sector Thursday, fueled by Democrat Joe Biden’s lead in the presidential election race and the expectation an administration led by him would achieve banking reform sooner rather than later.
The sector is also celebrating election night’s green wave when four states — Arizona, New Jersey, Montana and South Dakota — voted to legalize adult-use cannabis, and a fifth, Mississippi, approved medical marijuana. More than 111 million Americans, or 33.8% of the population, now live in states where pot has been approved for legal purchase by all adults.
“I would say this was one of the best case scenarios for cannabis investors,” said Korey Bauer, chief investment officer and portfolio manager of the Cannabis Growth Fund from Foothill Capital Management. “A pure blue wave would be the ‘best case’ scenario but I guess we will find out soon enough when looking at the Senate.”
Pablo Zuanic, cannabis research analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, said a panel he hosted on Wednesday with senior government affairs executives from Curaleaf Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205334348/composite CURLF +2.21% /zigman2/quotes/203485866/delayed CA:CURA +2.50% and Green Thumb Industries Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200716694/composite GTBIF -1.99% was very positive on the votes and believe it will gain the industry more supporters in the U.S. Senate, and increase pressure on the federal government to advance reforms.
“Both speakers believe that under a Biden White House and Republican-controlled Senate, banking reform would pass in early 2021 and would be included in a COVID relief package (Sen. Toomey from PA will chair the Senate Banking Committee, and this is seen as a positive change vs. Sen. Crapo from Idaho),” Zuanic wrote in a note to clients.
“In general, both speakers believe measured progression in legislation is the best path at the federal level, and expect a version of the STATES act (making cannabis federally permissible) to pass the Senate post the next midterms (this could take place sooner in the event of a 50-50 Senate split and a Biden WH).”
A full descheduling of weed at the federal level — cannabis is still a Class I drug, the same category as heroin — is expected to take longer, however.
The panelists agreed that New Jersey’s vote is likely to encourage neighboring states, New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania, to follow with adult-use legalization, and avoid losing potential tax dollars to the Garden State. States are all currently running huge budget deficits as the coronavirus pandemic has decimated revenue.
In case you missed it: Cannabis experts are hoping 2020 will be the year that New York finally legalizes weed
“While it shifts by the minute, the U.S. was looking more available for federal changes Thursday AM than it was Wednesday AM,” MKM Partners analyst Bill Kirk wrote in a note.
Aurora Cannabis Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210559470/composite ACB -2.77% , /zigman2/quotes/203734337/delayed CA:ACB -1.39% the most widely held stock on the Robinhood trading app, led the gains with a 34% rise in early afternoon trade. Tilray Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209129655/composite TLRY -0.57% was up 29% and Cronos Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206842762/composite CRON -3.15% /zigman2/quotes/202715342/delayed CA:CRON -2.06% gained 16% after posting better-than-expected earnings.
Canopy Growth Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200603886/composite CGC -1.39% , /zigman2/quotes/202205609/delayed CA:WEED +0.19% the biggest of the Canadian licensed producers by market cap, was up 12.2%, ahead of quarterly earnings expected next Monday.
“We still have difficulty envisioning Canopy gross margin in Canada expanding back to 40%: beverages contribution not enough and flower growth coming from the low-end,” Kirk wrote in a preview of earnings. “Canopy is still growing far more product than it can sell,” he wrote.
MKM estimates that Canopy produced 22,990 kilograms in its latest quarter and sold 13,500 kgs. “Large peers are similarly growing more weed than current demand justifies,” he said. Kirk rates Canopy as neutral.
Aphria Inc. shares /zigman2/quotes/207425803/composite APHA -2.09% /zigman2/quotes/205566616/delayed CA:APHA -1.00% were up 13%, a day after announcing plans to acquire Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Co. for at least $300 million, marrying a long-serving craft brewer known for its “420”-labeled beer with the pot industry.
While Sweetwater does not make drinks with a cannabis buzz yet, the companies seemed to suggest that could be in the offing as the two sides seek to leverage Sweetwater’s contacts in the U.S. and Aphria’s cannabis ties to find potential benefits to the coupling.
Alliance Global Partners analyst Aaron Grey said the deal gives Aphria a foothold in the U.S. that it can exploit once legalization happens.
“Given Sweetwater competes in the growing craft beer segment & is already profitable, we do not expect the business to be a drag on APHA a it awaits legalization, with opportunity to introduce health & wellness as well as CBD products,” Grey wrote in a note. Alliance rates Aphria a buy with a C$9.00 stock price target.
Elsewhere in the sector, Akerna Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202667634/composite KERN -5.79% , a provider of software to cannabis companies, rallied 25%, while Curaleaf was up 4%. Cresco Labs Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205276242/delayed CA:CL -1.10% rose 2.4%, OrganiGram Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209289540/composite OGI -1.62% was up 13% and Hexo Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206508254/composite HEXO -2.37% /zigman2/quotes/200008967/delayed CA:HEXO -1.45% was up 17%.
The Cannabis ETF /zigman2/quotes/213173823/composite THCX -1.98% was up 13% but is down 17% in the year to date, while the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.48% has gained 8.8% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -1.50% has fallen 0.6%.