For the last few years at NORML, not a single day has passed without someone calling us to ask how they can open a medical-cannabis dispensary or get involved in some facet of the ever-growing cannabis industry: sales, cultivation, testing, quality control, financial services, insurance, security and so on.
Another similar inquiry comes from individuals – including hedge-fund reps – who simply want to invest in cannabusinesses. NORML’s staff and chapters often refer these inquiries to another fast-growing segment of the industry: commercial-cannabis vocational institutions like Oaksterdam University. At these facilities, individuals interested in learning the best of current legal and business practices associated with medical cannabis can sign up for a two-day course and become certified to work as a budtender, master cultivator or wholesale buyer in a dispensary setting. The faculties at these cannabis colleges are usually noted and successful local ganja-preneurs, lawyers, and experts in cannabis-related tax matters, zoning, accounting, cultivation, marketing, security and political lobbying.
This era of the “Green Gold Rush” has already been featured on the covers of Fortune, Time and the Washington Post Magazine. Traditional financial-information companies like DealFlow Media are convening business conferences a few blocks from Wall Street, putting capitalists together with existing cannabusinesses, as well as launching a cannabusiness-only publication with a decidedly corporate price tag of $1,500 for an annual subscription. Not to be outdone in exploiting this emerging market, a group of former Students for Sensible Drug Policy activists published a book in March with a cover price of over $1,000!
Another prime example of cannabusinesses going mainstream is the profusion of companies involved with cannabis that are now publicly traded. To be sure, most of these are “spec” plays – wherein investors dream of oversized returns – but some of them, like General Cannabis (CANA:US), the owner of commercially successful Web pages like WeedMaps.com, are trying to move from the over-the-counter exchange (OTCBB) to far larger and more trusted big boards such as the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ.
Other cannabis-related companies that investors can research and possibly invest in are Cannabis Science (CBIS), Medical Marijuana Inc. (MJNA), Rapid Fire Marketing (RFMK) and Cannabis Medical Solutions Inc. (CMSI). In fact, most publicly traded cannabusinesses can be tracked via marijuanastocks.com.
Want to invest in a whole-plant solution called Sativex, a medical product made entirely from the cannabis plant that is sprayed under the tongue? Check out GW Pharmaceuticals (GWP: LN). Sativex has been approved for sale in Canada and most of Europe.
For investors who prefer mainstream companies, you can still have POT, JAH, or BUD in your financial portfolio. Unfortunately, “POT” is the Potash Corporation, “JAH” is the Jarden Corporation, and “BUD” is Anheuser-Busch. Obviously, the stock exchange is in need of a serious update.
[Editor’s note: The author does not own any of the aforementioned stocks])
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML