Most investors are aware of the rapidly-evolving regulatory environment for marijuana, with Colorado having recently implemented legal adult use and Washington well on the way towards doing so later this year.
It is likely that several additional states will legalize cannabis by 2016, and the federal government could legalize it by 2020.
United States vs. Canada: The Current Status
Medical marijuana is being adopted state-by-state at a rapid pace, with Florida voters recently winning the right to vote on it in November. The state of Massachusetts will award 35 dispensary licenses on January 31, while Connecticut approved four dispensaries on January 27 and is set to approve growers soon for the new program.
What many investors may fail to appreciate is that there is a radical change in the way that our neighbor to the north approaches medical marijuana. Canada's approach is quite different from the United States, and the differences go well beyond the strange way that they spell it (marihuana).
Health Canada, the federal regulatory body that oversees healthcare in Canada, has put into place a new system that kicks in on April 1. The country is going from a single provider of medical marijuana to a system that will have multiple providers, but also eliminate the ability for patients to grow their own. Canadians who are prescribed MMJ will be served by mail-order only. Health Canada estimates that there are currently approximately 30K patients, but this number could increase to 300K over the next decade.
CanniMed, which held the original sole license, remains on the approved list of producers, and four other privately-held companies (Bedrocan Canada, Mettrum, The Peace Naturals Project and, most recently, Tweed) have been approved, but many more are likely to be approved by the 4/1 transition date. Tweed is in the process of achieving a listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Here are seven other companies making headway across the Great White North:
Creative Edge Nutrition (OTC: FITX), in less than a year, has rapidly become the most visible publicly-traded company in the Canadian MMJ market, with its 58K s.f. Ontario-based facility capable of producing up to 1.3mm pounds per year. FITX, a pink-sheet stock, disseminates substantial information through its Facebook page. The company has close to 3.5 billion shares outstanding.
GrowLife (OTC: PHOT) announced one of the most exciting deals in the industry to date, a transaction that creates a partnership with FITX subsidiary CEN Biotech. With the help of its partner and through a joint venture known as Organic Growth Initiative, which will take a 25 percent equity position in CEN Biotech and receive 7.7 percent of sales (and a potential $100mm payment contingent on sales milestones), PHOT also landed a sole-source supply agreement to provide growing equipment. PHOT will award approximately 235mm shares to FITX upon the receipt of license approval from Health Canada.
Endexx (OTC: EDXC), which has fewer than 200m shares outstanding, is the technology provider to FITX as detailed in a press release that described its M3Hub "Seed to Sale" tracking software that FITX is employing. EDXC will receive proceeds directly tied to the units sold.
Easton Pharmaceuticals (OTC: EAPH) is a tiny pink-sheet company based in Toronto with just 225mm shares and an authorized share-count of 250mm as of September 30, 2013. The company has announced that it is in negotiations with a private Canadian company and is also independently pursuing licensing.
Enertopia (OTC: ENRT), which trades in Canada under an additional listing, recently signed a joint venture, paying $100K and issuing 5mm shares to its partner, World of Marihuana Productions. The company has provided the JV agreement, as well as additional information on its corporate website.
FusionPharm (OTC: FSPM) has a very large order for its PharmPods in Canada and disclosed its expectations for a strong 2014 due to increased business in Canada recently. The company's portable self-contained units have appeal to start-up growers.
On FSPM, investors should be especially careful regarding market capitalization. While there are just 8mm common shares outstanding, the CEO and his brother own 1.47mm preferred shares that are each convertible into 100 shares. The enterprise value of the company, then, is about $600mm.
Medbox (OTC: MDBX) entered into a consulting agreement with a laboratory in Canada that intends to become a distributor under these new rules. The company disclosed the deal in December, calling it the "most exciting deal to date."
Disclosure: 420 Investor offers an alert service that is currently long EDXC