For investors who like exchange traded funds (ETFs) and marijuana stocks, these are wonderful days. Just in July, three new marijuana ETFs have come to market in the U.S., including two during the week of July 22.There are now five cannabis ETFs listed in New York after there was just one at the start of this year. But beyond that, an increasing number of these funds are actively managed. In fact, three of the four marijuana ETFs that have come to market in 2019 are actively managed, including both of the funds that launched last week.
The most recent addition to the marijuana ETF fray is the Cambria Cannabis ETF (CBOE:TOKE). TOKE is certainly a candidate for “ticker of the year” among the crop of 2019 rookie cannabis ETFs.
TOKE “seeks capital appreciation from investments in the global equity markets that have exposure to the broad cannabis industry,” according to Cambria. “The Fund will target investing in approximately 20 to 50 of the top companies with exposure to the broad cannabis industry based on Cambria’s determination as to their exposure to the industry,” it added.
TOKE debuted with 34 holdings, including familiar names such as Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) and Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC). While it is accurate to say that many of the largest cannabis companies aren’t really large-cap stocks or barely qualify for that designation, TOKE tilts toward “micro-, small-, and mid-capitalization stocks,” according to the issuer.
A Tradition of Upstarts
Another interesting element of the rising competition among cannabis ETFs is that all of the issuers in the space can be considered “upstarts.” Indeed, smaller issuers can potentially launch successful marijuana ETFs because it is unlikely that more traditional firms, such as iShares, Vanguard or Schwab, will ever enter this space. For its part, Cambria fits the bill as an upstart ETF issuer and a successful one at that.
“The fund management industry is dominated by a handful of firms with massive sales and distribution, but we believe investors are looking for original, authentic investment solutions,” said Cambria founder Meb Faber in a statement. “Our firm’s growth to date is a testament to the trust of our over 30,000 investors who support us, our ideas, and our research. We’ve approached asset management a bit differently and we’re excited to continue launching innovative solutions investors care about.”
As for TOKE, its lineup is somewhat concentrated, with its top ten holdings representing nearly half the fund’s weight.
Time will tell if active management works for marijuana ETFs, but actively managed marijuana ETFs got off to a bumpy start. The AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF (NYSEARCA:YOLO) dropped by 19% since coming to market, but some of that may be a symptom of bad timing. Marijuana stocks have been sliding since YOLO’s debut and the passively managed ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSEARCA:MJ), the largest pot ETF, has dropped 18.5% over the past three months.
The Bottom Line: TOKE Has a Big Advantage
New ETFs, particularly those entering niches occupied by established competitors, often face difficulties in terms of attracting investors. One way the new funds can thrive, though, is by charging lower fees than their older rivals.
That strategy has paid off for at least one cannabis ETF. Cannabis ETF (NYSEARCA:THCX) debuted earlier this month with a 0.70% annual fee, making it, for a moment at least, the cheapest marijuana ETF on the market. THCX has amassed nearly $13 million of assets under management in less than a month of trading. That’s pretty good, and it’s good news for TOKE.
TOKE charges just 0.42% per year, or $42 on a $10,000 investment. That is inexpensive relative to standard actively managed equity funds and really, really cheap compared with the current universe of competing cannabis ETFs. That low fee has the potential to be a significant asset driver for TOKE.
As of this writing, Todd Shriber does not own any of the aforementioned securities.