[Editor’s note: This story was previously published in March 2019. It has since been updated and republished.]
Cannabidiol (CBD) is emerging as a red-hot category of the marijuana industry. CBD consists of compounds in the cannabis sativa plant that do not produce a high. In fact, over the years, CBDs have been shown to have powerful therapeutic effects.
Now it looks like the U.S. market could open up in a big way for this type of cannabis and several CBD stocks are gaining traction. The reason: In December, Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which declared that CBD would no longer be treated as an illegal substance.
So how big could this opportunity be? Well, according to research from the Brightfield Group, the market in the U.S. could hit $22 billion by 2022.
No doubt, this could move the needle for marijuana stocks — and here’s a look at seven that stand out:
Marijuana Stocks Poised to Benefit From CBD Legalization: Cronos Group (CRON)
Cronos Group (NYSE:CRON) operates a vertically integrated cannabis platform, with a presence across five continents. In terms of the CBD opportunity, the company recently struck a strategic partnership with Gingko Bioworks, which has raised $430 million. The company’s founder, Tom Knight, is known as the “father of synthetic biology” and his innovations — such as with software to print DNA — should allow for the creation of cannabinoids at a massive scale. This is critical because it can be difficult to produce pure forms that are cost-effective and precise.
CRON also has the advantage of substantial financial resources to commercialize its cannabinoids. Last December, Altria (NYSE:MO) invested $1.8 billion into the company for a 45% stake. The deal is certainly a validation of CRON but it will also allow for much broader distribution and improved product development.
Of course, a company like MO does engage in substantial due diligence before making an investment. In the company’s Q4 earnings call, CEO Howard Willard said: “We believe the growth opportunities are significant and will extend across the globe as cannabis markets open. Selecting the right partner in this category was critical and we’ve done just that. Cronos strong management team has built unique capabilities to compete globally across the medicinal, recreational and nutraceutical categories.”
Marijuana Stocks Poised to Benefit From CBD Legalization: Aurora Cannabis (ACB)
Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB), a Canadian based cannabis producer, has been building up its CBD business. Part of this has been with its investments in industrial hemp production, such as with the Radient facility in Edmonton. It is expected to get as much as 10,000 kilos per day.
Next, ACB has been focused on revving up its product offerings. On its Q2 earnings call, Chief Corporate Officer Cam Battley said the company is poised “to launch a broad line of CBD based wellness product in the near future.”
What’s more, ACB has been aggressive with its dealmaking. For example, it has increased its equity position in Hempco and purchased Agropro, which is Europe’s largest hemp producer.
Something else to keep in mind: Legendary billionaire investor Nelson Peltz has joined the company as an advisor. This is certainly a major vote of confidence. He not only has deep access to investment capital but a strong network of potential partners, especially in the consumer goods industry. Some of his investments include stakes in PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and Mondelez (NASDAQ:MDLZ).
Marijuana Stocks Poised to Benefit From CBD Legalization: Charlotte’s Web (CWBHF)
The inspiration for the founding of Charlotte’s Web (OTCMKTS:CWBHF) was a CNN documentary — in 2013 — about Charlotte Figi, whose health was significantly improved because of a hemp extract.
Fast forward to today: The company is the No. 1 brand for the hemp-derived CBD market in the U.S. It definitely helps that it has distribution across more than 3,000 retail locations.
And yes, growth has been strong. In Q3, revenues jumped by 57% to $17.7 million and adjusted EBITDA came to $5.4 million, up 31%.
To better capitalize on the CBD opportunity, CWBHF issued $71.5 million in stock. This will be for cultivation and production to meet surging demand. Here’s what the company’s CEO, Hess Moallem, had to say: “In general, broader consumer awareness of the benefits of cannabinoids, namely cannabidiol (CBD), and whole plant hemp extract is driving increased uptake in both our retail channels and within our e-commerce platform.”
In other words, it seems like a pretty good bet that the growth will continue for some time.
Marijuana Stocks Poised to Benefit From CBD Legalization: Zynerba Pharmaceuticals (ZYNE)
Zynerba Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ZYNE) is a clinical-stage biotech company that develops cannabinoid therapies for a variety of rare diseases. They include:
- Fragile X Syndrome (FXS): This is a developmental disability that has been known to cause autism spectrum disorder. FXS impacts 71,000 people in the U.S. and there are no drug indications for it.
- Developmental and Epileptic Encephalopathies (DEE): This is an epilepsy syndrome that involves severe cognitive impairment. About 45,000 children and adolescents have this in the U.S.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): This includes autism and Asperger’s syndrome. ASD affects less than 1 million pediatric and adolescent patients.
ZYNE’s main candidate is Zygel, which is a CBD formulation gel for transdermal delivery. As for the FXS treatment, there is expected to be a pivotal data release in the second half of this year. And if the trial is positive, then the company will file a New Drug Application (NDA) for Zygel in the first half of 2020.
Marijuana Stocks Poised to Benefit From CBD Legalization: Canopy Growth (CGC)
Since 2016, Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC) has been building its CBD business, with a focus on consumer packaged goods. The company has since created a vertically integrated platform for that includes a set of technologies that have pending patents. What’s more, the hemp division is expected to yield 7,000 kilos of hemp-derived CBD on an annual basis. Granted, this cannot be used in the U.S. market. Yet CGC is likely to be a solid partner. For example, the company struck a deal with Martha Stewart’s Sequential Brands Group, so as to develop CBD remedies for pets.
It helps that CGC has substantial resources, which came from a mega $4 billion investment from Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ). STZ has a strong global footprint — with operations in the U.S., Mexico, New Zealand, Italy and Canada — as well as a set of well-known consumer brands, such as Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Modelo Negra and Pacifico. All in all, there is quite a bit of synergy for CGC.
In the meantime, the company is growing at a staggering pace. In Q3, its revenues soared by 282% to $83 million.
Marijuana Stocks Poised to Benefit From CBD Legalization:GW Pharmaceuticals (GWPH)
The origins of GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH) go back to 1998. It was then that Dr. Geoffrey Guy and Dr. Brian Whittle co-founded the company to focus on developing therapies using cannabinoid formulations to target areas like epilepsy, glioma and schizophrenia.
As of today, the lead product is a liquid formulation of a CBD, called Epidiolex, which received FDA approval in 2018 (the expectation is that there will be an approval in Europe in the second quarter). The drug targets the rare conditions of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) or Dravet syndrome, which are variations of epilepsy. Furthermore, there are other indications for Epidiolex, such as Tuberous Sclerosis Complex and Rett Syndrome.
But of course, the company has other treatments. Note that GWPH is looking to get approval in the U.S. for Sativex, which is an oromucosal spray for multiple sclerosis. It is currently available in 25 countries.
Marijuana Stocks Poised to Benefit From CBD Legalization: Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF (HMLSF)
If you do not want to buy individual CBD stocks, then you can consider an exchange-traded fund, such as the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF (OTCMKTS:HMLSF). With this, you’ll get exposure to companies like Canopy Growth, Aurora, GW Pharamceuticals, HEXO and Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY).
In all, there are 59 stocks in the portfolio and the net assets are about $890 million (in Canadian currency).
Tom Taulli is the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.