The cannabis industry is all about breaking down barriers and making history in 2018. This year, we've witnessed GW Pharmaceuticals gain approval in the U.S. for the first cannabis-derived drug, and we watched as Vermont legalized recreational marijuana use entirely through the legislative process. And we can't overlook what might be the biggest news event in the history of the weed industry: Canada's legalization of recreational marijuana last week.
Pot stocks are making the move to reputable U.S. exchanges in 2018
Yet one of the more intriguing and under-the-radar developments during the year has been the push of marijuana stocks to move from the over-the-counter (OTC) exchange to more reputable U.S. exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Nasdaq.
This began with Cronos Group at the end of February, when it chose to list its shares on the Nasdaq. It was followed just a few months later by Canopy Growth Corp., which became the first marijuana stock to list on the NYSE. Since then, bottle rocket Tilray has joined the party, with an initial public offering on the Nasdaq in July.
Why the exodus from the OTC exchange? To begin with, institutional investors aren't always allowed by their firms to invest in OTC-listed companies. By moving to a more reputable exchange, pot stocks aim to lure in institutional investors.
Additionally, the NYSE and Nasdaq have stricter reporting and listing standards than the OTC exchange. Even though pot stocks have been following reporting standards on the OTC exchange, this move to more reputable exchanges should further enhance investor confidence in the figures that are being reported. Not to mention, it boosts the legitimacy of marijuana stocks if they're listed side by side with large, established businesses on the NYSE and Nasdaq.
Now two more marijuana stocks are making the move.
These two pot producers will soon list their stock on the NYSE
The first mover, Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB), is expected to begin trading on the NYSE today, Oct. 23. Aurora, which will be trading under the ticker symbol ACB, will join Canopy Growth Corp. as only the second pot stock to list on the 122-year-old NYSE.
The move to a more reputable exchange makes perfect sense for Aurora given that it's on pace to be the largest marijuana producer in Canada. The company forecast more than 570,000 kilograms in annual yield at full capacity during its most recent earnings report, but this doesn't include the ongoing acquisition of ICC Labs, which could yield in the neighborhood of 100,000 kilograms of added annual production by my best estimate.
It's no secret that Aurora Cannabis is also looking to find itself a brand-name partner, even if the company hasn't come out and said those exact words. There was buzz last month that Coca-Cola was in talks to partner with or make an investment in Aurora Cannabis, although no deal has yet been reached. For its part, Coca-Cola has announced interest in developing cannabidiol-based beverages, but it isn't yet ready to jump into the pond.
The other big-name marijuana stock filing paperwork to list its shares on the NYSE is Aphria (OTC:APHQF). Once Aphria receives its expected approval from the NYSE for listing, it'll provide Wall Street and investors with its expected first trading date on the NYSE and with its ticker symbol.
Like Aurora, the move makes sense for Aphria, as it's expected to slot in as the third-largest grower in Canada by annual yield (255,000 kilograms at peak production). Aphria's two primary grow facilities (Aphria One and Aphria Diamond) are expected to be complete by this coming January, leading to a rapid increase in production and revenue.
Aphria is also expected to be active on the partnership front. It's currently constructing an extraction center that'll allow it to produce up to 25,000 kilogram-equivalents of concentrate once concentrates get the green light in Canada, which is expected next year. This focus on alternative cannabis products, including oils, should make Aphria an attractive partner.
What marijuana stock could be next to uplist?
The big question now is what company might be next to make the move to a more reputable exchange. While nothing is set in stone, my best guess – and trust me, this is nothing more than a dart throw -- would be HEXO Corp. (NYSE:HEXO).
HEXO would make sense for two reasons. First, as with all of the growers listed above that have made the move to reputable exchanges or are in the process of doing so, HEXO is expected to be a top-tier producer. With peak production potential of 108,000 kilograms, along with a notable long-term supply deal with Quebec to provide up to 200,000 cumulative kilograms over five years, HEXO would probably benefit from the added validity of being listed on the NYSE or Nasdaq.
The second reason is that HEXO formed a meaningful joint venture with Molson Coors Brewing Co. at the beginning of August. This joint venture, which is expected to focus on cannabidiol-infused beverages, is probably going to attract or intrigue institutional investors. By moving to the NYSE or Nasdaq, HEXO would give them the opportunity to invest in this long-term growth driver.
Clearly, uplisting is a trend for pot stocks that doesn't look to slow anytime soon.