After all the hype and anticipation, the U.S. election is finally over -- sort of. As of Wednesday afternoon, some votes still hadn't been counted in a few states. It's going to take a little longer to know exactly what the outcome of all the balloting will be.
But we do know some things already. In particular, there are three major stories that are important for marijuana stocks after this week's election. Understanding their implications could enable investors to profit.
1. A growing U.S. recreational pot market will grow even larger
Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in their states. This brings the total number of states where recreational pot is legal to 15.
Montana and South Dakota have relatively small populations. But the recreational marijuana markets in Arizona and New Jersey are likely to attract a lot of attention from top U.S. cannabis operators.
The medical cannabis market in Arizona is already substantial, with the Marijuana Business Factbook projecting 2020 sales will be between $770 million and $910 million. The recreational market should be even bigger.
New Jersey's recreational marijuana market is expected to approach $1 billion. The legalization of recreational pot in the Garden State could also increase the chances that neighboring states Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania legalize recreational marijuana in the future.
2. Momentum for medical cannabis continues to pick up
Recreational marijuana wasn't the only big winner on Tuesday. Medical cannabis also continues to pick up momentum. Mississippi and South Dakota residents voted to approve initiatives that would legalize medical cannabis. That brings the total of U.S. states that have legalized medical cannabis to 35.
While the constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana passed only narrowly in South Dakota, 69% of voters in the state decided in favor of medical cannabis legalization. The winning margin for medical marijuana in Mississippi was even greater, with 74% of voters in support of a citizen-led initiative.
3. Chances for federal marijuana reform are probably lower
All the chips didn't fall into place for the cannabis industry on Election Day, though. Most polls going into Tuesday appeared to point toward the likelihood that the Democrats would hold on to a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and regain control of the Senate. The conventional wisdom was that this would significantly improve the prospects of changes to federal marijuana laws that would help U.S. cannabis companies, including financial services reform.
But the GOP appears to be on track to retain a slim majority in the Senate. With Sen. Mitch McConnell likely to keep his position as Senate majority leader, the chances for any substantial marijuana legislation being brought to a vote in the Senate are probably lower than they might have been had the Democrats won.
Investors' best bets
What should investors make of these three major stories emerging from the U.S. election? There will be several winners and losers.
The big Canadian cannabis producers are clear losers from the apparent failure of Democrats to retake the Senate. Shares of Canopy Growth (NASDAQ:CGC) and several of its Canadian peers sank on Wednesday following the election outcome. Canopy has an option to acquire U.S.-based cannabis operator Acreage Holdings if federal marijuana laws are changed. It doesn't seem likely the company will be exercising that option anytime soon.
Several U.S. multistate cannabis operators could now have greater opportunities after the votes in Arizona and New Jersey to legalize recreational pot, though. Curaleaf Holdings (OTC:CURLF) and Cresco Labs (OTC:CRLBF) stand out as two in this group that could expand into one or both of these new markets.
The expansion of medical cannabis also could increase the already-sizable growth prospects for Innovative Industrial Properties (NYSE:IIPR). The real estate investment trust (REIT) focuses on buying properties, then leasing them to medical cannabis operators. With a lower probability of changes to federal banking laws for the cannabis industry, the REIT should continue to be attractive to U.S. medical cannabis operators.