Marijuana grows quickly, and it can be planted over and over in the same place without depleting the soil's nutrients. That makes it an intriguing cash crop for companies. But it's not just growing and distributing dried flower that could be rewarding for investors. There's also a big market opportunity for marijuana's use as medicine, and as an ingredient in food and beverages.
Can cannabis companies cash in on these opportunities? In this clip from The Motley Fool's Industry Focus: Healthcare, analyst Shannon Jones is joined by Todd Campbell, Sean Williams, and Keith Speights to share what they think are the most exciting potential opportunities ahead for this emerging industry.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Oct. 10, 2018.
Shannon Jones: Let's actually talk about what excites you most about the marijuana industry. I'm really curious to hear your thoughts. Sean?
Sean Williams: Yeah, I'll kick this one off. There's a lot of marijuana stocks that have come out and given these huge pie-in-the-sky figures of how much they're going to grow -- 700,000, 500,000 kilograms. But there's a lot more to marijuana than just growing it. What I'm really interested in seeing, beyond just the sales figures, beyond just the expected profitability, I want to see these companies differentiate themselves. That, I think, is going to be the most exciting part.
Instead of seeing these companies grow traditional dried cannabis, what I'm looking forward to is the cannabis alternatives. By alternatives, I'm talking about vapes, I'm talking about cannabis oils, I'm talking about edibles, infused beverages -- which have been incredibly popular over the last couple of weeks. If you've watched any sort of market mover list, you've seen these companies at the top of the list regardless of their size, all the way from Tilray down to New Age Beverages Corporation.
I'm really excited to see what they're going to be able to do, how they're going to differentiate themselves, once these new forms of consumption are available.
What I will preface this with, and what I would remind investors at home, is that these new alternatives, you won't see most of these hitting the market come Oct. 17. Dried flower and cannabis oil have been given the thumbs up from the Canadian federal government. Every other form -- we're talking vapes, concentrates, edibles, infused beverages -- they're supposed to be discussed some time next year. But there's no timetable on that. It's simple promises and industry expectations at this point.
Todd Campbell: That's a great point, Sean! I think that not many people who are following the marijuana market recognize that you're talking about not having those things available until next year. We're really just talking about the dried flower at this point.
Keith Speights: And I've seen some studies, Sean, and you've probably seen the same ones, that showed it's the edibles and vapes and concentrates that are the most profitable segments of the industry.
Williams: Yeah, absolutely. I have seen those studies. I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do with it, but there's no guarantee that it's going to be a profitable venture right out the gate, or when it's even going to happen.
Campbell: It's a major market opportunity. If you think about your addressable market, your addressable market of people who are going to go out and buy dried cannabis are people who want to smoke it. Maybe you'll bake with it. But I think that when you have it in edibles, infused beverages, and you make it easier, a lot of consumers that maybe otherwise wouldn't have tried it will say, "Maybe I'll give this a shot, see what it's like." There's a lot of complexity, obviously, associated with that. But I agree. I think that's an exciting potential.
Speights: I'll take a different angle on this. The healthcare guy in me will come out here. I'm excited about the medical potential for marijuana. We just had the first plant-based marijuana drug, Epidiolex, get approved. I love some of these names. They really roll off the tongue. But I think there's more potential than maybe people realize for different cannabinoids. Obviously, the focus now is on CBD. But there are dozens and dozens of other cannabinoids that have not been researched.
Campbell: Over 100!
Speights: Yeah, it's over 100. It's a lot. Who knows? In a way, marijuana has been under a stigma for so long, but here could be some real medical potential here. We see it with the rare forms of epilepsy now, but who knows? Schizophrenia, there are quite a few indications that this plant could yield some ingredients that really help patients down the road. That's what excites me.
Jones: Absolutely. I'm with you there, Keith. I think the potential on the medical side is huge. When you talk about movement disorders, neurological disorders, in terms of growth opportunities for CBD, medical marijuana, to really dive into that sector even more, and to really see how that plays out, not just for Epidiolex -- for listeners who have been following that particular story, to see that happen, that was a monumental moment. That was in May or June of this year.
Jones: So, for Epidiolex to get the first FDA approval for CBD.
Williams: And even more than just the approval, the scheduling.
Jones: Yes, the scheduling, too.
Speights: Schedule 5.
Williams: They got as good as you can get. GW Pharmaceuticals, who is marketing Epidiolex, that's really going to help them get that drug out.
Campbell: There's a human element, too. The initial indications are incredibly treatment-resistant. These people are suffering, I want to say up to 70 drop seizures a month. And in trials, it reduced those drop seizures by about 40%, depending on the study you're looking at, 40-50%. It's really moving the needle.