What happened

Stocks in the cannabis sector both large and small are taking a hit today. As of 1:30 p.m. EST, these four stocks are moving in tandem:

  • Green Thumb Industries (GTBIF -0.64%) is down 4%.
  • Aurora Cannabis (ACB -6.05%) is down 5%.
  • HEXO (HEXO) is down 5%.
  • OrganiGram Holdings (OGI) is down 4%.

Those stocks have a large range in market capitalization of $5 billion, $1.5 billion, $465 million, and $310 million, respectively.

So what 

There's no apparent company-specific news today, but something is likely driving market sentiment.

marijuana flower buds in glass jars

Image source: Getty Images.

One thing that should be noted is that these stocks have been on a roll since before the U.S. election on Nov. 3.

ACB Chart

ACB data by YCharts

And U.S. politics continue to be watched closely by cannabis investors as the Georgia Senate runoff election next week could have implications for the path toward federal marijuana legalization

Some investors may be locking in some profits before the end of the calendar year, fearing the outcome to that election race could hit the sector next week. 

Now what 

Other investors may feel like the potential in these names is taking too long to play out. But investors in the sector should have these stocks squarely in the speculation portion of a portfolio. Those types of investments may take years to blossom, if they ever do. 

Each business needs to be looked at individually, too. While progress toward more widespread legalization should lift all cannabis stocks, not all are performing the same today. Aurora, for example, provided a business update earlier this month. The stock is down more than 20% in December, and the update didn't offer great news on the operations side. The company is closing one facility and scaling back production by 75% in another. 

While Aurora's strategy is to work toward profitability, Green Thumb reported in November that it did turn a profit in its third quarter after a 31% increase in revenue versus the prior-year quarter. Management said it expects growth to continue in 2021.

Although OrganiGram and HEXO also reported growing revenue in the most recently reported quarter, neither is profitable. The big picture on cannabis stocks may be more important than the average sector. Federal legalization in the U.S. would likely bring a windfall and lift the whole industry. But investors still need to focus on the underlying business, and of these four, Green Thumb is doing the best. But it also has the highest valuation with a price-to-sales ratio more than double the others. 

That's a good reminder that one has to dig deeper than just how much the share prices are moving in a day to decide if it makes for a buying opportunity.