Just as earnings season never officially ends, election season seems to be trending that way in the United States. Having just completed midterm elections two months ago, and seeing the new Congress take shape this past Thursday, Jan. 3, attention is now being turned to the 2020 presidential election campaign.
In one corner, presumably, is President Trump from the Republican Party who'll be seeking a second term. On the other side of the aisle are a number of possible Democrats that have been discussed as contenders for the presidency. This past week, the very first of those rumored Democrats, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, announced her intention, via video and email to supporters, to form an exploratory committee ahead of a likely 2020 presidential run.
Warren's announcement now gives the longtime senator the ability to raise money, as well as transfer the $12.5 million in corporate political action committee money left over from her Senate campaign into a fund for her likely presidential run. Warren has been a regular voice of opposition to a number of President Trump's fiscal and social initiatives, but will probably be one of what could be more than a dozen Democrat contenders.
Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren is a state-level pot supporter
However, Warren does bring one very big difference to the table: a largely unwavering support for the U.S. cannabis industry at the state level.
Mind you, Warren hasn't always been a big supporter of cannabis. Online publication Marijuana Moment notes that Warren failed to support her own state's recreational pot initiative when it passed in November 2016, but changed her tune when it was clear that the public supported the measure.
Although the Massachusetts senator hasn't supported recreational legalization nationwide, and has expressed uncertainties about cannabis in tweets, she's been a co-sponsor for numerous bills that would have provided a spark for the legal weed industry at the state level.
For example, Warren was a partner of the States Act, which Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced in June. The STATES Act was a broad-based law designed to allow legalized weed states to operate without fear of federal intervention. Additionally, it would have removed restrictions that are currently in place that keep banks from offering basic financial services to marijuana-based businesses. Sen. Gardner attempted to attach the STATES Act as an amendment to the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill, last month, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) disallowed it.
Warren was also a co-sponsor for the CARERS Act, which would have allowed patients, doctors, and businesses in states that have passed medical cannabis laws to operate without fear of federal prosecution. It would have, in effect, been a legalization of medical marijuana, as determined by individual states. Introduced in 2015, the CARERS Act, like other cannabis legislation before it, failed to become law.
The point being that if Warren were a primary contender for the presidency, or if she were to become the first female U.S. president, the future for the U.S. cannabis industry would be looking up.
Americans widely support legalization, but there's a catch
What's clear from polling is that the American public supports the legalization of marijuana, and overwhelmingly is in favor of giving the green light to medical cannabis.
In October, Gallup released its now-annual survey on the perception of marijuana in the United States. It found that an all-time record 66% of respondents favored legalizing the drug. Just as interesting, this was also the first Gallup survey where seniors aged 55 and up and self-identified Republicans also showed a majority of support for recreational legalization.
In a national survey last April from the independent Quinnipiac University, 93% of respondents favored the idea of allowing doctors the ability to prescribe medical cannabis. Comparatively, just 5% were opposed.
But there's a bit of a catch to this data. While it's pretty evident that support for cannabis in the U.S. remains strong, marijuana itself isn't a polarizing enough issue to be an election game changer as of yet. Here's a question Quinnipiac asked respondents last April:
"If you agreed with a political candidate on other issues, but not on the issue of legalizing marijuana, do you think you could still vote for that candidate or not?"
A whopping 82% of respondents said they could still vote for that candidate, which compares to only 13% who answered they could not. This suggests that while pot is a popular issue, it may not have much of an electoral impact, even if the candidate has a neutral-to-negative view on marijuana.
Politics aside, the U.S. cannabis industry is booming
What is certain is that if the federal government maintains a hands-off approach and allows states to develop and implement their own cannabis policies, the U.S. marijuana industry will soon leave the legal Canadian industry in its dust.
To date, 32 states have legalized medical weed in some capacity, 10 of which also allow recreational pot use. A number of these states, such as California, Colorado, Washington, Florida, and Massachusetts, offer billion-dollar-plus sales potential. Whether someone with Warren's views on cannabis were to make it into the Oval Office or not, this sales momentum is becoming almost impossible to stop. That's what makes U.S. marijuana stocks so exciting for investors.
But what may be overlooked is the fact that there's an entire world of ancillary pot stocks that allow investors the opportunity to gain exposure to this growth without an extraordinary amount of risk.
For instance, Scotts Miracle-Gro (NYSE:SMG) is a company you probably know best for its lawn and garden products designed to improve crop yields for enterprises, and make landscaping look appealing for residential customers. However, this is also a company with a burgeoning subsidiary, Hawthorne Gardening.
Hawthorne provides hydroponic solutions -- i.e., growing plants in a nutrient-rich water solvent as opposed to soil -- as well as lighting, soil, and nutrient options to the medical cannabis industry. In fiscal 2018, Hawthorne comprised 13% of Scotts Miracle-Gro's total sales. Following the acquisition of Ohio-based Sunlight Supply for $450 million, and the ongoing expansion of the U.S. pot market, Scotts' cannabis-focused subsidiary could soon be generating in excess of 20% of the company's sales. Scotts Miracle-Gro is one of a number of ancillary companies that could be the perfect way to take advantage of U.S. marijuana growth and improving sentiment toward the previously taboo drug.
Needless to say, the time leading up to the November 2020 elections could be interesting for pot stock investors.
Check out the latest Scotts Miracle-Gro earnings call transcript.