Nearly Half of All Major Canadian Pot Growers Have Entered the U.S. Hemp Market

CBD-rich hemp could be a high-growth stepping stone into the U.S. for these half-dozen Canadian cannabis stocks.

Sean Williams
Sean Williams
Jun 23, 2019 at 11:41AM
Health Care

It's probably not much of an exaggeration to state that most investors' eyes are "on the green." Marijuana is arguably the hottest investment idea of this generation, with global legal sales potentially growing to between $50 billion and $75 billion by 2029/2030, up from around $12 billion in 2018. Given that most cannabis sales are still tied up in the black market, there's ample opportunity for legalizations in the U.S. and around the world to push a steady stream of these illicit transactions into legal channels.

But within the cannabis industry lies perhaps the most exciting trend of all: the rise of cannabidiol (CBD).

A gloved individual holding a full vial and dropper of cannabinoid oil in front of a hemp plant.

Image source: Getty Images.

U.S. CBD sales could hit $22 billion annually within four years

CBD is the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid best known for its perceived medical benefits -- and I say "perceived" because the only recognized benefit of CBD, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is its treatment of two rare forms of childhood-onset epilepsy via approved drug Epidiolex. It can be extracted from the cannabis plant or hemp plant, the latter of which tends to be the most cost-effective means of obtaining large quantities of CBD, since hemp is much easier to grow than cannabis.

Despite having few official conditions that it can treat, according to the FDA, this hasn't stopped CBD sales projections from going through the roof. The Brightfield Group projects that CBD sales in the U.S. could catapult from $591 million in 2018 to $22 billion by 2022, representing a compound annual growth rate of 147%. With CBD possibly comprising half or more of the total cannabinoid market in the U.S. in the years to come, it's become a hot target for cannabis stocks.

But what you might find interesting to learn is that it's not just U.S. companies engaged in this fast-paced CBD industry. Major Canadian growers (i.e., those with at least 100,000 kilos or more of peak production capacity, either individually or via a partnership or royalty interests) have begun piling into the U.S. hemp market.

Why, you ask? Well, for starters, CBD-rich derivative products, such as oils, edibles, sprays, infused beverages, and topicals, offer considerably higher margins than traditional dried cannabis. These derivative products are also the clear consumption choice of a new generation of cannabis users.

More important, entering the U.S. hemp market allows Canadian producers the opportunity to put processing infrastructure in place that could become critical if and when the U.S. federal government legalizes recreational marijuana. Since a legal U.S. pot market would absolutely dwarf Canada's in sales, the entrance into the U.S. is a means for growers to get a leg up on their competition.

Hemp plants growing outdoors with the sun partially blocked by a tall hemp plant.

Image source: Getty Images.

These six Canadian cannabis stocks aim to make their mark on the U.S.

In recent months, nearly half (6) of Canada's 14 major growers have announced their entrance into the U.S. hemp market. Here's a brief rundown of their respective game plans.


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1. Canopy Growth

Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC) was the first high-profile Canadian company to really make its mark on the U.S. hemp market. First, it acquired Colorado-based intellectual property (IP) company ebbu in November. Ebbu has IP pertinent to growing cannabis and hemp that can be used in the development of high-margin derivative products, such as CBD-infused beverages. Canopy also earned a hemp processing license in New York State in January that'll see it spend up to $150 million on constructing a processing facility in the Empire State.

2. Village Farms International

Although a relative small fry in the market cap department, Village Farms International (NASDAQ:VFF) has major hemp-growing-and-processing ambitions. It already has two hemp joint ventures under its belt that'll lead to 920 acres of hemp being planted in 2019. And it looks to benefit greatly from Texas officially signing HB 1325 into law, thereby legalizing hemp production containing less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid that gets users high. Village Farms has up to 5.7 million square feet of existing vegetable-growing greenhouse space in West Texas that can be retrofit for growing hemp should it choose to do so.

3. Tilray

Rather than growing hemp, Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY) made a splash earlier this year with the nearly $310 million acquisition of hemp food manufacturer Manitoba Harvest, a company that sells its products to more than 16,000 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. Aside from rolling out a host of CBD-infused extracts into the U.S. market, Tilray stands to benefit from Manitoba Harvest's well-established distribution network.

Four vials of cannabidiol oil lined up on a counter.

Image source: Getty Images.

4. HEXO

Just weeks ago, Quebec-based HEXO (NYSEMKT:HEXO) announced that it had established a U.S. subsidiary that would focus on entering the hemp market but offered few details at the time. Following its third-quarter operating results, we now know that HEXO plans to enter eight U.S. states with CBD products sometime in 2020. HEXO has actively been securing hemp supply deals in the U.S. and Canada to bolster its derivatives lineup. 

5. The Green Organic Dutchman

in May, The Green Organic Dutchman (NASDAQOTH:TGODF), also known as TGOD, announced that it had partnered with privately held Califormulations to aid in the development, production, and coordination of TGOD-branded organic hemp-based beverages in the United States. This builds on The Green Organic Dutchman's announcement in 2018 that it would be devoting 40,000 kilogram-equivalents of its annual output in Canada to high-margin edibles and infused beverages. 

6. CannTrust Holdings

Finally, CannTrust Holdings (NYSE:CTST) announced just this past week that it would be entering the U.S. hemp market via a 50-50 joint venture with Elk Grove Farming Company in California. The nonbinding letter of intent it signed is expected to provide access to more than 3,000 acres of farmland, with an initial hemp crop of 300 acres in 2020. CannTrust will be responsible for the offtake of the biomass produced by the joint venture and will play a key role in processing CBD and formulating products for sale. 

A hemp farmer examining an outdoor-grown plant from his crop.

Image source: Getty Images.

But wait -- there's more

Although almost half of the major Canadian cannabis growers have entered the U.S. hemp market, this figure is expected to increase in the months to come.

Back in January, Aurora Cannabis' chief corporate officer, Cam Battley, told Business Insider in an interview that his company would unveil its CBD strategy to enter the U.S. market "over the next few months." As Canada's largest projected pot producer, it looks to be only a matter of time before Aurora makes the leap into the U.S. market via hemp. 

Cronos Group, the third-largest marijuana stock by market cap, also has plans to dive headfirst into the U.S. hemp market. Already focused on derivative products, Cronos announced in early June that it plans to expand into the U.S. CBD market within the next year. 

And then there's OrganiGram Holdings, which also has plans to enter the U.S. CBD industry. OrganiGram's CEO Greg Engel confirmed to online media platform Cheddar in May that his company's uplisting to the Nasdaq should help boost brand awareness, which the company will use to make its move into the U.S. markets in due time. 

The U.S. CBD market is budding before our eyes, and investors shouldn't be surprised if more Canadian cannabis producers pile into the space in an attempt to bolster their margins and front-run a possible shift in marijuana policy at the federal level in the United States.