Cannabis in the news June 5, 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. Does cannabis cause psychosis? Evidence is lacking, scientists say.

Six scientists have disputed a study published in March that argued that daily use of high-potency cannabis is “strongly linked to the risk of developing psychosis.”

The original study used data from sites treating people with psychosis in Europe and Brazil. They asserted that daily cannabis users were three times more likely to be diagnosed with their first episode of psychosis compared to people who had never used. Daily users of high-strength cannabis were five times more likely to have this diagnosis, according to the study.

The study authors concluded that if high-strength cannabis wasn’t available, the incidence of psychosis would drop significantly, by specific amounts, in London and Amsterdam.

From the beginning, this conclusion was controversial. Attached to the original article was an opinion from a British doctor questioning the idea that if people with psychosis use cannabis at higher rates, the cannabis must have caused the psychosis.

“That’s probably the biggest issue, that correlation doesn’t equal causation,” says Kira London-Nadeau, a graduate student at the University of Montreal who heads Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

2. Cannabis stocks fall after FDA hearing on CBD finds conflicting views of substance.

Hearing ‘highlighted messy state of the industry, with widespread use of CBD products with minimal standardization,’ says analyst.

Cannabis stocks were mostly lower Monday, as investors digested the first reports from Friday’s regulatory hearing on cannabis and its ingredients and the news that Illinois is legalizing weed for adult recreational use.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted its first-ever hearing on cannabis and its nonintoxicating ingredient CBD all day Friday with more than 100 speakers offering views, including researchers, health professionals, advocates, manufacturers and opponents.

The hearing came after hemp was legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill, leading to a crop of hemp-based products being sold online and in stores, including at mom-and-pop stores. But CBD, which is widely held to have wellness properties, particularly in treating pain, inflammation and anxiety, was not included in the lifting of the federal ban and was instead placed under the regulatory purview of the FDA. That’s because it’s the key ingredient in the only cannabis-based drug to win FDA approval, GW Pharmaceuctical’s PLC’s GWPH, +3.40%  Epidiolex, a treatment for severe forms of childhood epilepsy.

3. Canadian pot edibles, topicals market worth $2.7B: Deloitte.

TORONTO — The Canadian market for next-generation cannabis products is worth an estimated $2.7 billion annually, with edibles contributing more than half, according to a new report from Deloitte.

This spending once the final edible pot regulations roll out in the coming months is expected to be on top of the roughly $6-billion estimated domestic market for recreational and medical cannabis, the consultancy said Monday.

Consumers are looking to snap up these new pot products in addition to the dried flower, oils, plants and seeds they have been buying from legal retailers since legalization last fall, a recent survey of 2,000 Canadians conducted by Deloitte suggests.

The first wave of legalization last October was quite limited in terms of product range and the type of consumer, said Jennifer Lee, Deloitte Canada’s cannabis national leader.

“When we legalize in October again for edibles, we are in a world where the formats and the assortment is much broader,” she said. “The use cases are much broader.”

Canada is gearing up to legalize cannabis-infused foods, beverages, topicals and other next-generation products in the coming months, once Ottawa rolls out the final regulations.

4. Asia emerging as new frontier for Canadian cannabis players.

As cannabis companies eye expansion in European and South American markets, Asia is poised to be a new frontier for some major Canadian pot players.

Despite being the world’s most populous continent, it is estimated that Asia’s cannabis usage is about two per cent, or 85.5 million people, according to London-based cannabis data provider Prohibition Partners. However, several Asian countries are on the cusp of embracing medical cannabis and the continent could see its marijuana market grow to as much as US$5.8 billion by 2024, Prohibition Partners said in a recent report.

That’s caught the attention of some Canadian cannabis players including Canopy Growth Corp. (), which is slowly building out a team to address a growing interest in establishing medical marijuana programs in several Asian countries including Thailand and Malaysia. Meanwhile, Aurora Cannabis Inc. () is also looking into entering the region after setting up operations in Australia. Similarly, Aphria Inc. () chose Australia as its pan-Asian hub and said in a recent statement the company is currently looking at opportunities in New Zealand and Thailand.

“Selfishly speaking, I think I’m in the greatest location in the world at the moment because I think people’s mindsets are changing, said Ben Quirin, regional managing director of Canopy Growth’s Australia and Asia-Pacific team, in an interview with BNN Bloomberg.

5. Legal hemp opens the door for U.S. cannabis companies to jump ship and list on big stock exchanges.

Expect an exodus of hemp companies from the CSE, which has been the main beneficiary of TMX’s policy of not listing U.S. pot companies

TMX Group Ltd., operator of the Toronto Stock Exchange, scored a coup of sorts last week when Boulder, Colorado-based Charlotte’s Web Holdings Inc. said it will delist from the Canadian Securities Exchange and list on the TSX.

This marks the first U.S.-based cannabis company to trade on the main Canadian bourse, which has prohibited listings from companies that are breaking the law where they operate. Cannabis remains federally illegal in the U.S. but Charlotte’s Web makes hemp-derived CBD products, which were legalized with the passage of the farm bill in December.

The Charlotte’s Web listing is likely to be the first of several, said Loui Anastasopoulos, TMX’s president of capital formation for equity markets.

“We have a healthy pipeline of CBD and hemp companies,” Anastasopoulos said in a phone interview. “We’ve been speaking to them for quite a long time, even before the passage of the bill, in anticipation that things were going to change.”


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