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Is The U.S. Set To Threaten Canada’s Global Cannabis Dominance?

Written by Peter McCusker

The cannabis markets in Canada and the U.S. are diverging as the latter’s multi-state operators begin to post healthy profits while the former’s continue to disappoint. 

Last quarter earnings saw some American companies such as Trulieve, Curaleaf and Green Thumb smash through analysts’ expectations. However, results from the Canadian operators have been pretty dreadful with poster child Canopy Growth posting a huge loss, and others consistently missing analysts’ revenue projections.

Despite its relatively small population of 36 million Canada is home to most of the world’s largest cannabis companies including the likes of Aurora, Canopy Growth and Tilray.

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First-Mover Advantage

Canada’s first mover advantage means its companies have developed an enviable global footprint. Earlier this year Cam Battley, Chief Corporate Officer of Aurora told CBD Testers it had a presence in over two dozen countries and expands ‘unhindered by US competition’.

However, analysts’ fear that patchy sales growth and regulatory obstacles mean many Canadian Licensed Producers are overstretched, overseas, while still not delivering in their own back-yard.

After the Government sub-contracted regulation to the States uptake has been variable with a shortage of retail outlets, particularly in populous states such as Ontario. Health Canada has been slow to approve growing licenses while slack demand has led to an oversupply, and the black market still accounts for over half of sales.

Stage two legislation, permitting the sales of edibles and other products – known as  Cannabis 2.0 – will be a boost, but a major drawback is the bland packaging which hinders the emergence of leading brands.

Stock Price Plummet

And, a previously verdant investor appetite has turned arid as stock prices have fallen by, on average, of over 50%. While the stock prices of the US MSOs (multi-state operators) have also taken a hit, analysts are predicting much brighter futures.

One such business is Trulieve which was not alone in posting record third-quarter revenues. It saw sales of $64.6 million, 150% up on the previous year’s quarter, while profits improved by 17% from the previous quarter to $31.6 million.

Trulieve has a 52% share of the Florida medical cannabis market – and with  adult-use legalization imminent things look good. Michigan and Illinois – with a combined population of over 20 million – join the recreational market in 2020 and more states including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida are also tipped to soon join them.

Some 11 states and over 80 million people have access to recreational cannabis and 33 states have now legalized cannabis for medical reasons. While federal legalization is unlikely, soon, it is expected to feature as an issue the forthcoming Presidential race.

Changes Coming Soon

Two pieces of legislation are all likely to boost the U.S. market with the SAFE Banking Act set to be enacted. It allows banks to overcome strict federal rules on cannabis transactions and, likewise the STATES Act, which limits Government corporate interference in legal states, is under discussion.

A key landmark for the industry will be the entry of the Consumer Packaged Good firms into the market along with brand development, as we’ve reported earlier. At this stage in the game Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol, Big Cosmetics are all playing a waiting game but they’ll be priming for the premium options.

One venture capitalist has no doubt who will emerge as North America’s leading player. Peter McCullagh, Founder and Managing Partner at Vancouver-based TenX Ventures, told CBD Testers that there will a ‘big crash’ in Canadian cannabis stocks and that once cannabis legislation is eased further, south of its border, ‘all the money will go to the U.S.’

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About the author

Peter McCusker

Peter McCusker is an experienced news and business editor, who believes it’s time to fully embrace the multiple, proven, medical benefits of the cannabis plant.