Cannabis in the news April 3, 2019

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News on cannabis stocks and on developments in the industry haven’t let up in today’s volatile markets. Here are this week’s stories that we believe will mean most to you as a Canadian investor.

1. Lineups circling the block greeted the opening of Toronto’s first legal cannabis store Monday, with Ontario’s nine other retailers also reporting brisk sales.

In the province’s biggest city, The Hunny Pot did 800 transactions in its first three hours after opening, a store manager told BNN Bloomberg.

It was in fact the only pot store in Toronto that met the Ontario government’s April 1 deadline.  Only 10 pot shops are legally operating in the province, far short of the 25 that the province aimed to see open April 1.

Many of those would-be retailers are blaming bureaucratic red tape and resulting delays for their failure to meet the deadline.

They now face the possibility of a $12,500 penalty. A prolonged delay past the end of the month could see that penalty rise to $50,000.


2. North America’s two largest cannabis ETFs have made millions of dollars by lending out their holdings to short sellers.

Those short-term investors are betting on a significant drop in cannabis stock prices later this year as producers fail to meet market expectations on revenue growth. To do that, short sellers have turned to the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF and the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF to borrow their holdings. Their plan is to then sell those cannabis shares to other investors at today’s market prices. If the short sellers’ bet pays off and cannabis stock prices drop significantly, they’ll buy back the shares they’ve sold—this time at much lower prices. Short sellers then return the shares they’ve borrowed to the ETFs and pocket the profit.

While many ETFs engage in securities lending, it’s been a particularly lucrative practice for pot funds, reports BNN Bloomberg. It points to the relatively small cash holdings of those funds and the challenges they face in borrowing money through other channels.

At the same time, borrowing costs for short sellers of pot stocks are generally higher than those for stocks in more mainstream industries. That in part reflects the volatility of the cannabis market and short seller concerns about continuing sales growth.

Canadian ETFs can lend out as much as 50% of their holdings, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. U.S. funds are limited to 33%.


3. A major cannabis producer is now moving ahead with plans to dramatically expand its outdoor cultivation in Western Canada as a way of bringing down its production costs and boosting its supply.

Toronto-area CannTrust Holdings announced this week that it has now bought just over 80 acres of B.C. farmland. It plans to add as much as 120 more acres through another transaction.

Those deals, according to the company, should let it add between 100,000 and 200,000 kilograms of annualized production capacity by late 2020.

The industry increasingly seeing outdoor cultivation as a way of helping address supply shortages across Canada. Some producers have already made acquisitions in South America and other regions that have longer growing seasons as a way of lowering their cultivation costs and increasing their overall competitiveness.


4. The University of Toronto is now spearheading the formation of a consortium of cannabis researchers focused on better understanding how the plant interacts with the human body and impacts disease.

The Toronto Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Consortium has already attracted dozens of members ahead of its officially launch Thursday.

That membership is expected to number more than 100 scientists, with principal investigators leading teams of researchers looking into multiple facets of marijuana’s use.

The goal is to deepen understanding of how cannabis and cannabinoids interact with different systems in the body. That involves examining how human cells, such as neurons and cancer cells, are affected by exposure to both the psychoactive THC and non-psychoactive CBD compounds of marijuana.

The consortium will also focus on clinical research into cannabis as a treatment for pain, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, among others. In addition, the group will study public health issues springing from the legalization of cannabis, including second-hand smoke and driving while intoxicated.


5. A new study suggests that the market’s appetite for cannabis investment has eaten away at longstanding demand for junior mining stocks.

According to authors of the BDO study, investments in Canadian cannabis companies soared from $43 million for the first half of 2016 to $770 million for the same period in 2017.

That rise is in stark contrast to the declines suffered by the mining segment: it saw the total number of company listings on the Toronto exchange as well as its Venture exchange drop 25% over that same time, reports Mining.com.

“Industry investors traditionally attracted to the junior mining space now have a secondary option,” the report reads. “Valuations (for marijuana producers) are higher and forecast demand for the product is being touted in the billions.”

Financing for juniors had also fallen 58% for those companies listed on the TSX and 23% for those on the Venture exchange.

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