This week was another relatively quiet one on the marijuana front. There were a few minor developments here and there with the industry, but for the most part it mellowed in a haze of low activity.
That is, at least, on the corporate level. There were a few rumblings in the political sphere that marijuana stock investors should be aware of, plus a bit of news on the funding aspect of the business.
Tilray floating new stock issue
Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY) is launching a new round of funding. This week, in a regulatory filing, the company said it would issue fresh stock to shore up its capital base.
In the filing, Tilray said it is seeking up to $400 million in a secondary issue of its Class 2 common stock. The share flotation will be done in combination with Cowen's (NASDAQ:COWN) Cowen & Company investment bank unit. Tilray has not specified the timing of the issue.
It said only vaguely that its share of the funds raised by it and Cowen are to be used for "general corporate purposes." We can surmise, given the company's track record, that at least some will be plowed into acquisitions. This is the favored way for big cannabis companies to ramp up scale quickly.
Tilray certainly hasn't been shy to whip out its checkbook -- this year alone it bought hemp food producer Manitoba Harvest, and recently it scooped up a good Canadian retail asset, Four20.
Investors are generally satisfied with these sensible and complimentary investments, even if they haven't necessarily come cheap. However, it's an open question as to when -- and perhaps if -- Tilray can operate them efficiently enough to reliably begin turning a profit, while continuing to build scale.
Differing fates of cannabis banking bills
On the legislative front for cannabis companies with U.S. interests, this week saw one possible step forward, and another backward.
In California, a bill in the state's senate aimed at providing access for cannabis suppliers to banking services has effectively been delayed. Senate majority leader Bob Hertzberg, the sponsor of SB 51, said early in the week he wouldn't be advancing it through the legislative body.
In a press release, Hertzberg said this was being done "to iron out necessary clarifications and implementation details."
"If we're going to do this, we have to do it right," Hertzberg added. "We owe it to the dozens of cities, counties, and cannabis industry officials who have been supporting this effort to see it through."
If passed into law, the bill would allow for banks and other financial institutions to receive limited-purpose licenses to provide basic banking services for the state's cannabis businesses. Hertzberg said he plans to move the bill when the Senate is in session during the latter half of the 2019-2020 session.
The passage of such a proposal would have a profound effect on the wider U.S. cannabis industry, given that California is the largest state where marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use.
However, Hertzberg's bill might be redundant when it's next moved forward.
That's because there continues to be movement at a more influential legislative body. In an interview this week with Politico, U.S. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo said he would like to hold a vote on similar legislation on the federal level before the end of the year, and that he and colleagues are "working to try to get a bill ready."
It would not be the first such proposal in congress. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, said he intends to bring that body's Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to a vote before the end of the month.
A companion bill is being considered in the senate. Crapo said that "[w]e may craft our own bill or we may work with [other proposals] to craft any amended legislation."
Whether the California bill eventually slides into law, or a federal one becomes the legal framework for the industry, is almost academic. What matters is that there's plenty of desire and momentum on the political side to solve what's been a thorny problem for cannabis companies -- because of their association with a substance that's still illegal at the federal level, they're unable to access even basic financial services.