Pot has been big business for decades, but never bigger than it is now. Since recreational weed has been legalized in 4 states and D.C., medical marijuana in 19 others, ganja is—if you’ll pardon the pun—a rapidly growing concern. So much so that it even has its own stock index. A recent Viridian Capital Advisor report details a 23.6% first-quarter rise in the Cannabis Stock index for 2015, so it will probably come as no surprise to hear the following 8 publicly traded businesses have shifted some or even a lot of focus to Ms. Mary Jane.
- Novus Acquisition and Development—a health-care company operating out of Miami, Novus offers insurance, health-care plans, and quality products at decreased cost, through company providers, for folks seeking alternative treatment involving medical marijuana.
- Abattis Bioceuticals Corporation—a biotechnology company with “wholly owned” subsidiaries that cultivate, license, and market ingredients, compounds, patented equipment and consulting services to North American pot retailers (recreational and medical).
- United Cannabis Corporation—also offers consulting services to both the recreational and medical sides—on everything from legalized growth to marketing and distribution—along with its patent-pending Prana Bio Nutrient Medicinal line of medicinal therapy protocols.
- Cannabis Sativa, Inc.—not only offers to help retailers “brand and market the highest-quality cannabis products available today,” but the company also aims to influence and broaden future markets for “products of higher consciousness.”
- Greengro Technologies—recently opened its first store in what is slated to be a franchise chain, thus tapping into ganja retail—currently the biggest sector in the cannabis stock index.
- TerraTech Corporation—getting heavily into cultivation and working on a cannabis extraction plant geared toward the medical marijuana market. The company is collaborating on marijuana vending machines for that same market.
- mCig, Inc.—established manufacturer of herbal cigarettes and vaporizing devices, the company is currently adapting those technologies for marijuana use, so users can inhale weed vapor instead of the smoke that can damage lungs.
- Mentor Capital, Inc.—an investment firm that recently shifted its focus from cancer cures to cannabis, investing millions in companies like The Cannabis Advocacy Machine and Nevada Cannabis Ventures.
At least for the moment, weed appears to be an up-and-comer. Can Ms. MJ continue her social climb? Despite the predicted “marijuana gold rush,” this lady’s market prospects aren’t completely rosy. As a matter of fact, she’s got issues all over the place: considerable health concerns, financial and social ramifications (liabilities), and potentially problematic business operations.
Let’s look at the health concerns first. These companies are trading on a product that can cause physical and mental health problems. Reliable studies have linked marijuana use to increased risks of psychosis, depression, and anxiety, not to mention breathing problems, increased heart rate, and problems with child development post-pregnancy. Wait. Didn’t we already run this loop with the tobacco industry?
Now let’s talk social ramifications and liability issues. We’ll start with a couple reality checks.
- In states where pot has been legalized DUI deaths involving weed have already increased to three times what they were in 2010.
- Medically prescribed or no, legalized or no, employers still have the right to drug test employees and either refuse to hire or dismiss anyone found using marijuana. And testing for marijuana is still required under DOT drug testing regulations.
Just ask legal teams hired by the aforementioned tobacco industry about potential liability. What happens when quality control is off, even just a smidge, opening the company to medical malpractice suits? To what extent will companies—and indirectly, stockholders—suffer damages due to lawsuits brought because kids got hold of the product, resulting in injury or death?
Finally, let’s look at the business operating concerns. Business practice is complicated for companies trading in pot. They have to tap dance around the feds because, hey, weed’s still illegal on the federal level. That means the Treasury Department won’t let companies trading in the product bank their profits. Worse yet, Uncle Sam can—and has—stepped in suddenly to force companies to cease trading - a move like that can kill most businesses overnight. Sound like a safe investment to you? The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says, “Not so much,” and actively advises investors to look elsewhere.