Canadian cannabis operators such as Canopy Growth (NASDAQ:CGC) anxiously await the opportunity to jump into the U.S. cannabis market. U.S. cannabis operators such as Curaleaf (OTC:CURLF) want to be able to list their shares on major U.S. stock exchanges. Neither group will have its wish fulfilled until major cannabis reform passes at the federal level in the U.S.
In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on June 11, healthcare and cannabis bureau editor Olivia Zitkus and Motley Fool contributor Keith Speights discuss why investors can be cautiously optimistic about the prospects that such reform could be on the way.
Olivia Zitkus: Let's start with broader industry news. I'm curious if there's anything that caught your attention over the past couple of weeks. I know on May 28, House Democrat Jerry Nadler introduced the MORE act, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, which would eliminate criminal penalties, clear criminal records, and create programs focused on repairing communities, while also federally legalizing marijuana.
Is anything sticking out to you here? Do you have thoughts on the MORE Act and what's moving ahead or might not move ahead in congress?
Keith Speights: Well, first of all, Olivia, anytime we're talking about the United States Congress, there's a lot of uncertainty. [laughs] I think a lot of investors are probably deservedly more optimistic these days about the potential for major cannabis reform than they've been in the past. I think that optimism is somewhat warranted because the odds are better than they've been in the past.
But anything can still happen and there's just no guarantee that this MORE Act or any other major cannabis reform legislation is going to actually get passed. The issue, of course, it's easy to get through the House, relatively easy. In fact, we've seen that already happened, some major cannabis legislation has passed in the House.
It's the Senate where it gets rocky because the Senate is still 50-50, it's split right down the middle between Democrats and Republicans, and so the tie-breaker vote goes to Vice-President Harris. The Democrats have a very slim control. Democrats are typically more favorably disposed toward cannabis reform. The real question is going to be what happens if any of these bills make it to the Senate.
There's always a possibility that Republicans filibuster and keep anything from even coming up for a vote. That's a real possibility.
I think there's at least a chance that the GOP won't try to filibuster cannabis reform. The reason why I say that is, if you look, a majority of U.S. states now have legalized cannabis in some form, and those senators represent those states, and so I think there's at least an outside chance that we won't see a filibuster. If any legislation gets to the Senate floor that's reasonable, and I think the MORE Act is reasonable, I think the votes could be there for it to pass. We'll see.
Zitkus: I think that's a great way to look at it. I think this is something you just have to wait. You can't predict anything that's going to happen. With this act in particular, I think it made it to the Senate last year, failed there. Companion bill died there.
But a second bill is expected to come later this year. That's already been backed by Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, names that lots of people know, and they might not think that this MORE Act now is doing enough.
You've even got other Democrats saying it's doing enough, and then you've got Republicans asking, is it doing too much. But yeah, you're totally right, there are lots of red states, might call them red states, out there with representatives now who think that they could benefit too from something like the MORE Act.
Speights: Right. Especially medical cannabis, it's actually quite popular with the American people, even more so than recreational marijuana.
Speights: I don't know that you're going to see enough opposition mount even with GOP senators to something that is too controversial. I don't think some of the cannabis reform efforts that are making their way through the House are too controversial, so we'll see. I think there's reason to be guardedly, cautiously optimistic, but don't necessarily count on anything happening this year.
Zitkus: Totally. All right, noted. Yeah, it's pretty cool, you see Alabama just legalized medical marijuana, I think this is, right?
Speights: That's right.
Zitkus: It's looking pretty good in North Carolina as well. There's some rumblings, at least, from what I can tell.
Speights: Olivia, I've always compared what's happening in the cannabis market to what happened over the last several decades with state lotteries. It started off with just a state or two having a state lottery, and then some of the states realized, "Our neighboring states are making some money here," and so they started to think, well, maybe we could do it, and so another state or two did it.
Then it's just like dominoes falling. More and more states did it. I think we're seeing the exact same thing, especially with medical cannabis, with so many states legalizing medical cannabis, but also with recreational.
Zitkus: Totally. I'm in Pennsylvania currently where we're sandwiched between -- right in a way -- New York and New Jersey, both of whom are rolling out recreational cannabis now. Losing out on the tax income from cannabis is maybe a top, if not the No. 1 consideration, especially post-coronavirus pandemic, in terms of whether it's a good choice to legalize or not for the recreational level.
Speights: If there's anything that states really are after, it's more money.
Zitkus: Yeah, 100%. Love that. Those are our industry takeaways. Follow the money, that's your industry takeaway for today, Fools.