Canada's highly anticipated recreational marijuana market opened on Wednesday. And after months of waiting, Canadian marijuana stocks pretty much fizzled.
The three biggest Canadian marijuana producers by market cap -- Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY), Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC), and Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) -- saw their share prices fall by several percentage points. Each of the stocks soared in the weeks leading up to the opening day of the recreational marijuana market. But now that the big day has arrived, the excitement seems to have worn off.
What should investors' response be after the blah performance for marijuana stocks on Wednesday? The one thing you should do is...nothing.
Why nothing is better than much ado
First, let's put the declines of Tilray, Canopy, Aurora, and their peers into perspective. Single-digit percentage drops after weeks of huge gains are practically irrelevant. It's not that there's been much ado about nothing -- there hasn't even been much ado.
Even if marijuana stocks had fallen further, doing nothing would be better than making a knee-jerk reaction. It's tempting to read too much into short-term movements. At this point there's no reason to think the Canadian recreational marijuana market will underperform expectations, or that the major cannabis producers' sales won't skyrocket.
Warren Buffett's mentor, Ben Graham, had it right when he said that "in the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine." Temporary stock price fluctuations reflect only snapshot popularity votes. Yesterday, Canadian marijuana stocks simply weren't as popular as they've been in recent weeks.
But over the long run, the substance of the businesses behind each of these stocks will be weighed. Tilray's CEO Brendan Kennedy has said that he expects there will be several cannabis businesses with market caps of $100 billion or more. Canopy founder and co-CEO Bruce Linton thinks that cannabis will potentially disrupt markets exceeding $500 billion in annual sales. If they're right, the "weights" of several of these marijuana stocks will be very attractive.
The big picture
Doing nothing is nearly always the best approach for long-term investors. That's because long-term investors look at the big picture, focusing on the forest and not the trees.
What if provinces don't have their act together in the early days of Canada's recreational marijuana market? Or if that means sales for cannabis producers don't ramp up as quickly as expected? These things could very well happen. Actually, Aphria CEO Vic Neufeld has predicted a bumpy start for the recreational marijuana market. But even if Neufeld's predictions come true, they'd be the trees and not the forest.
Process kinks can and will be ironed out. Supply chains will stabilize. Both provinces and producers will learn from what works and what doesn't.
Remember also that Canada isn't the big picture that Tilray, Canopy, and Aurora are really looking at. Each of these companies is definitely taking the Canadian recreational market seriously -- but they're also aggressively moving into international markets. In the future, it's quite possible that sales of recreational cannabis products to adults in Canada will make up a relatively small portion of these companies' total revenue.
What to watch
For now, the best thing for investors to do is sit back and watch. But what should you watch for?
Probably the biggest upcoming event for Tilray is the expiration of its initial public offering (IPO) lockup period on Jan. 15, 2019. That's when insiders can sell their shares. With Tilray's stock float so low, the lockup-period expiration day could be a much bigger deal for the company than the opening day of Canada's recreational marijuana market.
Perhaps the most significant thing to watch with Canopy Growth is what it will do with its huge cash stockpile resulting from Constellation Brands' $4 billion investment. Canopy has hinted at making plenty of acquisitions.
Aurora Cannabis's next major move is its listing on the New York Stock Exchange. This should significantly increase Aurora's visibility among U.S. investors, certainly a plus for the company.
And, yes, watch how things unfold with Canada's recreational marijuana market. But keep in mind what matters most with all of these events: the long-term prospects for the cannabis industry, and how well each company is positioned to take advantage of the opportunities. Those are things to make much ado about.