What happened

Shares of U.S. cannabis multi-state operator (MSO) Green Thumb Industries (GTBIF -4.33%) were soaring on Wednesday, up 9.7% as of noon ET, even as the broader indices posted declines.

Today's outperformance can likely be attributed to two things. Yesterday, Senator Cory Booker reiterated prior optimism that some form of cannabis legislation -- though not full legalization -- would get passed in the lame duck Congress following the midterm elections.

More specifically to Green Thumb, it announced an exciting new partnership with Circle K (part of Alimentation Couche-Tard) convenience stores and gas stations across Florida today. Given the ubiquity of Circle K in Florida, it's no wonder the stock is soaring on the new partnership -- especially if this medical-only state eventually becomes adult use.

So what

As part of the initial test phase of the new partnership, Green Thumb will lease space from 10 of the 600 Circle K locations across Florida and install its Rise Express Dispensaries adjacent to these well-known convenience stores.

Green Thumb founder and CEO Ben Kovler said in the press release: "The opening of RISE Express stores at Circle K locations is a game-changer. Convenience is a strong channel in retail, and people want more access to cannabis... The new RISE Express model is a huge step forward in making it easier and more efficient for patients to purchase high-quality cannabis as part of their everyday routine when stopping by their local convenience store."

Interestingly, Florida is still a medical-only cannabis state, so patients will still need to show their cards at these stores. Recent numbers put the number of cardholders at over 700,000 across Florida.

However, there are several pushes for adult-use legalization in Florida by 2024. Multiple adult-use bills are going through the state legislature, but those may be difficult to pass.

The best shot may be a direct ballot initiative, which has been written and backed by Green Thumb competitor Trulieve. That proposal would get legalization on the ballot in 2024; however, the ballot proposal has to be approved by the state Supreme Court before it can go to the voters, and the Supreme Court has rejected the last two proposals.

If adult-use sales do eventually get approved, these medical dispensaries attached to Circle K stores would be well positioned to drive sales for Green Thumb. 

In other cannabis news this week, Senator Cory Booker, who had been pushing for full cannabis legalization this past summer, said the Congress had a "good shot" of passing some measures, including fair cannabis banking practices, in the lame-duck session of Congress. Yesterday, Booker told reporters: "I think it has a good chance because our Republican allies also understand that if one of the houses of Congress shifts to Republican, it will be very hard to do anything on marijuana... We've got a good shot. I wouldn't say it's a great shot, but it's on a good path."

Now what

Cannabis stocks have been decimated this year as the hoped-for reforms from the current Congress, which took office in 2021, never materialized. However, the sector got a big bounce after President Biden recently announced he would be directing the Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services to initiate a process for reviewing cannabis' status as a Schedule I drug.

Green Thumb's new partnership with Circle K shows how cannabis is only becoming more  mainstreamed. Shares of leading U.S. MSOs could be interesting speculative picks, as their low stock prices combined with the new executive order could be catalysts in the months and years ahead. They remain high-risk stocks, but have significant upside as well if descheduling of marijuana does actually happen.