Marijuana is going global in a big way.
While Americans tend to focus more on what's happening at home with states legalizing medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, or both, quite a few other countries are moving forward with their own efforts. How can investors profit from this trend?
For the most part, marijuana stocks tend to be very small companies with a presence in only one country. That's not the case for all of them, though. Which marijuana stock is the best international play on the market right now? I think the clear winner is Canopy Growth Corporation (NYSE:CGC).
The list of countries where Canopy Growth either already has established a presence or is in the process of doing so is pretty impressive. At the top of the list (other than its home market of Canada) is Germany. Earlier this year, Germany legalized use of medical marijuana. However, the country must import marijuana while it sets up regulatory processes for internal production.
Canopy Growth was already eyeing the German market. In July 2016, its Tweed subsidiary became the first North American company to obtain approval to export medical cannabis to Germany. Four months later, Canopy Growth announced that it was acquiring MedCann GmbH Pharma and Nutraceuticals, a German distributor of medical cannabis. MedCann was subsequently renamed Spektrum Cannabis Germany.
That was just the beginning of Canopy Growth's expansion in Europe. The company announced a supply license agreement with Alcaliber, S.A in September 2017. Alcaliber is licensed to grow and market cannabis for medical and scientific purposes in Spain. Soon afterward, Canopy Growth announced another strategic deal with Danish Cannabis ApS to enter the market in Denmark, which will allow legalized medical marijuana use beginning in January 2018.
Moving to the other side of the world, Canopy Growth forged an agreement with AusCann Group Holdings Ltd. to supply medical cannabis for the Australian market. Canopy Growth also bought a minority stake in AusCann.
The company is also looking to profit from the Latin American market. Canopy Growth established Spectrum Chile SpA earlier this year to sell medical cannabis in Chile. In 2016, it launched a joint venture with Entourage Phytolab S.A. to market medical cannabis in Brazil.
Then there's Jamaica. The Caribbean island nation has been working on developing a framework for the production and commercialization of medical cannabis since its legislature voted to change existing marijuana laws in 2015. Canopy Growth teamed up with Jamaican partners in October of this year to form Tweed Limited JA to supply medical cannabis in the country.
Where Canopy Growth won't go
One of Canopy Growth's major rivals in Canada, Aphria (NASDAQOTH: APHQF), has looked to the U.S. as a key new market. Aphria invested in DFMMJ Investment Ltd. earlier this year as part of a deal to provide medical marijuana in Florida. Currently, Florida represents around 14% of the total medical marijuana market in the U.S. Aphria is also interested in expanding to other U.S. states that have legalized medical marijuana.
So might Canopy Growth consider establishing a foothold in the U.S. also? Nope. The company has ruled out any activities in the U.S. market for now. Canopy Growth has been consistent in its policy of only conducting business "in jurisdictions where it is federally legal to do so." That rules out the U.S., where marijuana remains illegal at the federal level even though many states have legalized use of the drug.
Canopy Growth's executive team thinks there's just too much risk going into countries like the U.S. The obvious risk, of course, is the threat of prosecution by federal authorities. However, Canopy Growth has another reason why it won't enter the U.S. market: Such a move could jeopardize its listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).
In October, the TSX issued a notice that companies listed on the exchange that conduct business that violate U.S. federal laws regarding marijuana aren't in compliance with listing requirements. Canopy Growth praised this action by the TSX.
Don't forget home sweet home
While Canopy Growth expands across the globe, its most significant near-term opportunity continues to be right at home. The medical marijuana market in Canada continues to grow by leaps and bounds. And the country appears to be on track to legalize recreational use of marijuana in 2018.
Initial projections for the recreational marijuana annual sales in Canada were between $4.2 billion and $6.2 billion. Those projections were made by Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer, which performs a similar function as the U.S. Congressional Budget Office. However, a more recent estimate by a Canadian analyst projects the market could actually be as much as twice the original projections.
Canopy Growth appears to be in great shape to benefit from domestic and international growth. Investors should note, though, that huge expectations for this growth are already baked into the stock price. But for those not worried about sky-high valuations, Canopy Growth certainly appears to be the best marijuana stock with an increasing international presence on the market right now.