Pot Stocks Gain With U.S. House To Vote On Decriminalization

Pot stocks jumped after an updated U.S. House schedule showed a vote will be held on marijuana decriminalization next week. Pot Stocks Gain With U.S. House To Vote On Decriminalization

The BI Global Cannabis Competitive Peers index, which had been trading lower before the announcement, quickly gained 3% to the highest since Feb. 10. Aurora Cannabis Inc. rose 16%, Tilray Inc. jumped 14%, Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. added 11% and Cronos Group Inc. gained 8.6%.

A vote will be held on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which seeks to remove cannabis from the list of scheduled substances, according to a schedule update from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. The House delayed a vote earlier this year. The Senate is not set to consider similar legislation at this time.

Updated: 9-3-2020

Don’t Buy Pot Stocks Just Because the U.S. House Will Vote on Legalizing Marijuana This Month

This marijuana milestone will probably be an exercise in futility.

A historic vote by the U.S. House of Representatives is on the way this month. House Majority Whip James Clyburn recently said in an email that the full House will vote in September on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, also referred to as the MORE Act.

This vote will be a major milestone for the cannabis industry because it will be the first time either chamber of the U.S. Congress will consider removing marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances. The MORE Act also would expunge all nonviolent federal convictions related to marijuana.

With such a pivotal legislative moment right around the corner, you might think that marijuana stocks are on the verge of taking off. That could be the case, but don’t buy pot stocks just because of the upcoming vote on decriminalizing marijuana. Here’s why.

Much Ado About Nothing

Will the House pass the MORE Act? It seems highly likely.

The legislation sailed through the House Judiciary Committee in November 2019 with a 24-10 vote. It even had solid bipartisan support with more than 50 cosponsors from both parties. The chances of winning in a full House vote appear to be very good.

But regardless of how the House vote goes, it will almost certainly be a futile effort. For any bill to become law, it must pass both the House and the Senate and then be signed by the president. Don’t hold your breath that those second and third steps will happen.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is no fan of marijuana legalization. That might partly be due to his desire to protect the hemp market in his home state of Kentucky. With Sen. McConnell calling the shots, the odds that the MORE Act would be brought before the full Senate for a vote are slim to none.

Even if, by some miracle, the Senate did vote to pass the MORE Act, it could still hit a brick wall at the White House. President Trump warned Republicans in August that they shouldn’t put marijuana legalization on the ballot when they’re running for office.

Temporary Moves

The expected vote on the MORE Act by the House later this month will be important from a symbolic standpoint, at least. It could also cause some stocks to jump.

For example, investors have waited for a long time to see the day when Canopy Growth (NASDAQ:CGC) could expand into the U.S. marijuana market. I wouldn’t be surprised if Canopy’s shares move higher on the House vote.

The company is in the best position among the leading Canadian cannabis producers to profit from U.S. marijuana decriminalization (and perhaps eventual legalization) thanks to its deal to acquire Acreage Holdings (OTC:ACRGF) and its close relationship with Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ).

U.S.-based cannabis stocks could also enjoy a nice bump. Green Thumb Industries’ (OTC:GTBIF) shares have soared so far this year thanks to rising sales. Even the hint that the progress is being made toward legalizing pot at the federal level would likely provide an additional catalyst for the stock.

Conversely, there’s at least one cannabis stock that could potentially decline somewhat with the U.S. House vote on the MORE Act. Innovative Industrial Properties (NYSE:IIPR) is practically printing money as the leader in the cannabis real estate capital market.

It’s possible that investors could become a little concerned that a move toward legalization could pave the way for more competitors to edge in on IIP’s turf. My view is that IIP would still win over the long run, but its stock could slip if such worries arise.

Again, though, any moves either up or down by marijuana stocks in response to the House vote on the MORE Act will be temporary. The bill will almost certainly be dead on arrival in the Senate.

Setting The Stage?

There is one reason, however, for investors in marijuana stocks to be optimistic: The coming House vote could set the stage for passage of the MORE Act (or something similar to it) in the next Congress.

Democrats appear to be in a great position to retain control of the House. Based on current polls, they also have a decent shot at winning a majority in the Senate and recapturing the White House. If that happens, the path to decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level and allowing states to make their own decisions on legalization will become a whole lot easier.

If you have an itch to buy marijuana stocks, a possible blue shift in November is a much better reason to do so than the symbolic House vote this month.

Here’s The Marijuana Stock You’ve Been Waiting For

A little-known Canadian company just unlocked what some experts think could be the key to profiting off the coming marijuana boom.

And make no mistake – it is coming.

Cannabis legalization is sweeping over North America – 15 states plus Washington, D.C., have all legalized recreational marijuana over the last few years, and full legalization came to Canada in October 2018.

And one under-the-radar Canadian company is poised to explode from this coming marijuana revolution.

Because a game-changing deal just went down between the Ontario government and this powerhouse company…and you need to hear this story today if you have even considered investing in pot stocks.

Updated: 12-02-2020

Pot Stocks Get A Lift After A Symbolic Win From The UN

Marijuana stocks popped on Wednesday after the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Schedule IV includes drugs the U.N. believes are liable to abuse and to produce ill effects, with the liability not offset by therapeutic advantages, such as heroin and fentanyl.

Following a recommendation from the World Health Organization, the commission voted 27 to 25, with one abstention, to cut pot from that list.vThe commission didn’t remove cannabis from Schedule I, which includes drugs that could lead to significant abuse and produce ill effects, but may have therapeutic uses, like morphine and cocaine.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Pablo Zuanic noted that the move, while symbolic, “may spur the development of medical cannabis programs in various countries (even though the Commission rejected other cannabis related recommendations made by the WHO, including those related to CBD).”

Also on Wednesday, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, moved one step closer to a vote in the House of Representatives. The bill would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances, and eliminate criminal penalties for those manufacturing, distributing, or possessing it in the U.S.

Though it is expected to pass in the House, it’s unlikely to gain traction in the near-term with Republicans still controlling the Senate. President-elect Joe Biden has said he supports decriminalizing the drug.

Zuanic wrote that Democrats winning both Georgia runoff elections and control of the Senate “remains a longshot scenario,” though he doesn’t rule it out. If Republicans hold on to a Senate majority, he doesn’t expect bills like the MORE Act to pass.

He does think, however, there could be a chance of bipartisan support for banking reform, so as to allow growers in states where pot is legal to operate with national banks, access banking services, and take loans. That would lower funding costs for such firms, he notes.

Updated: 12-03-2020

The Shortest Road To Legal Weed Runs Through Georgia

A Democratic Senate would be good for the cannabis industry, but it’s hopeful for reform regardless.

Marijuana isn’t technically on the ballot in Georgia’s Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections. But it might as well be: Cannabis advocates and trade groups are zeroing in on the state in hopes of ousting—or converting to their cause—its two Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who’ll face Democratic opponents Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.

How the races go will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, and that could be pivotal for the future of the $17 billion U.S. cannabis industry.

Sam D’Arcangelo, the project manager for the Cannabis Voter Project, has immersed himself in voter registration data in Georgia and says he hopes his group’s corporate partners will convey to customers and suppliers how critical the contests there are.

The national Drug Policy Alliance is looking to support Warnock and Ossoff with donations from its political action committee.

Just a month ago the industry got a boost when five states passed ballot measures approving cannabis use. Arizona and New Jersey joined deep-red Montana and South Dakota in allowing the sale of recreational pot; Mississippi approved it for medical use.

Altogether, 15 states—making up more than one-third of the U.S. population—now have legal recreational weed, and 35 allow it for medical purposes.

At the federal level, it’s a different story. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Republicans don’t favor legalization. As long as the chamber remains in their grip, they can block measures the Democratic-led House of Representatives has approved to ease restrictions on pot.

But if Georgia elects two Democrats, that would flip Senate control, making possible the end (or at least a significant de-escalation) of the almost 50-year war on cannabis. The industry says it’s about time, with 68% of Americans registering support in opinion polls for making it legal nationally.

The federal prohibition on weed is handicapping the young industry, which research group Euromonitor International estimates will reach $53 billion in sales by 2025. Growers and sellers can’t legally ship products or raw materials across state lines. Companies are mostly shut off from the capital markets.

Banks risk prosecution and the loss of charters if they accept cash, process credit card payments, clear checks, make loans, or underwrite stocks and bonds for marijuana businesses.

The House was set to approve a measure in early December that would remove pot from the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. Doing so would end criminal prosecutions for possession, permit banks to do business with the industry, and establish a 5% federal excise tax on sales. The bill’s sponsor on the Senate side is Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

But it will go nowhere if the Republicans win the Senate seats in Georgia and McConnell remains majority leader. Even if the Democrats prevail, the bill—known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act—would still face a 60-vote hurdle to passage. But Democratic control of the Senate would mean it could come to the floor, and serious negotiations on decriminalization and regulation could begin.

The MORE Act is not the only pot reform with prospects. Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, is set to take over the banking committee and has said he’s receptive to a measure called the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would allow banks to serve the industry even if marijuana remains illegal federally.

The American Bankers Association “has made this a priority,” says Melissa Kuipers Blake, who co-chairs the cannabis practice at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and who lobbies for the Cannabis Trade Federation. An ABA spokesperson says the group is “optimistic that this Congress or the next will give this commonsense measure final approval.”

“We’re going to get SAFE Banking,” Boris Jordan, executive chairman of cannabis giant Curaleaf, told investors in a recent call, adding that it was the first time he’s been this optimistic.

However, Jodi Avergun, a former Drug Enforcement Administration chief of staff and federal prosecutor who now leads Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft’s white-collar defense and investigations group, is less sanguine. A lot of conservative senators “don’t want to deal with a cannabis issue at all,” she says. “It would have to be significantly narrowed to get passed.”

The House in May and October added the banking measure to coronavirus relief packages, but they languished in the Senate. Other liberalization measures have been offered in both chambers. “Any of these passing becomes the Berlin Wall moment, where everything starts to tumble,” says Erik Huey, president of Platinum Advisors, a lobbying firm that counts Canopy Growth Corp., a Canadian industry heavyweight, as a client.

The incoming Biden administration could use its executive authority to help the industry. The president-elect, who had a long career as a tough-on-crime legislator, has embraced moderate steps, including expunging federal records of those convicted of marijuana offenses and removing pot from Schedule I—the category used for the most dangerous substances. But he hasn’t indicated how or how fast he’d move. “We just don’t know which way Biden will go,” says Curaleaf’s Jordan.

John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says Biden is likely to make good on his campaign’s commitment to criminal justice reform. This could include moving Justice Department priorities away from enforcing federal laws that conflict with state marijuana laws, which would be a return to the Obama administration’s position.

“I don’t think we’re going to see Joe Biden six months from now come out for full national legalization, but I do think you’re going to see him thinking more critically and more carefully” about the intersection of race and law enforcement, Hudak says.

The Black Lives Matter movement has promoted the idea of decriminalizing cannabis as a way to reduce the number of incarcerated Black Americans. Black people face arrest for possession at almost four times the rate as White people, despite similar levels of use.

Amber Littlejohn, executive director of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, says civil rights groups already are urging Biden to address the inequitable legacy of the war on drugs. “We are hoping that an administration that owes its existence at this point to many of the communities” that were hurt the most by federal marijuana policies will listen to their concerns, she says.

BOTTOM LINE – The Biden administration will have several options to liberalize federal pot policy, which would boost an industry that has one hand tied behind its back.

Updated: 12-16-2020

Fractional Stocks Go To Pot As FTX Lists Tokenized Cannabis Shares

FTX is “weeding out the competition” with its new selection of tokenized stocks.

Cryptocurrency derivatives exchange FTX has announced it is growing its line of tokenized stock offerings, with the addition of five cannabis-related businesses.

The Wednesday announcement, tweeted by FTX and Alameda Research CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, came in a haze of ex-hemp-lary (sorry) marijuana puns.

“To be blunt, this is one of the dopest joint listings we’ve done. FTX: blazing a path forward and weeding out the competition.”

The newly listed tokenized stocks are some of the biggest names in the cannabis market: Tilray, Canopy Growth Corporation, Aurora, Chronos Group and Aphria.

Tokenized and fractionalized stocks allow individual shares to be broken down into smaller pieces, allowing retail traders to speculate on high-value stocks with less capital.

As Cointelegraph reported, FTX originally launched the fractional stock offerings at the end of October. At launch, it had over a dozen initial equity and crypto pairings featuring tokenized derivatives of Tesla (TSLA), Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) stock.

Today’s addition of these five cannabis stocks brings the total number of corporate stocks and funds that have been listed to 30. All of these are available in both spot and futures variants.

Updated: 2-3-2021

Jazz Pharma To Buy Cannabinoid-Drug Maker For $7.2 Billion

Jazz Pharmaceuticals Plc has agreed to acquire GW Pharmaceuticals Plc, maker of the first drug derived from the cannabis plant to win approval in the U.S., for $7.2 billion in cash and stock.

The price amounts to a premium of about 50% over Cambridge, England-based GW’s closing price on Tuesday. GW’s U.S.-traded shares gained as much as 49% in Wednesday trading, and Jazz shares declined 3.7%.

Under the terms of the proposed transaction, Jazz will pay $220 per GW American depositary receipt, in the form of $200 in cash and $20 in Jazz common stock, according to a statement from the companies.

GW sells a medication called Epidiolex for children with severe epilepsy that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June 2018. The drug’s active compound, cannabidiol, produces an anticonvulsant effect through its interaction with prominent components of the nervous system. The plants from which the compound is drawn are bred to be low in THC, the chemical associated with getting high.

GW is also in late-stage trials for another cannabis-based product to treat multiple sclerosis, and is working on candidates for autism and schizophrenia.

Jazz has an array of medications for cancer and other conditions and diseases, but is best known for its high-priced narcolepsy treatment Xyrem, which had sales of $1.64 billion in 2019. However, with the drug due to lose exclusivity soon, revenue from it was expected to peak at $1.75 billion in 2020, according to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The deal may lend further legitimacy to a growing segment of cannabis companies that focus on pharmaceutical-grade products. Such approaches are much safer in terms of regulatory risk, and allow the companies access to Europe’s markets. There, cannabis has so far been permitted mostly for medical, rather than recreational use.

Acquiring GW “is an interesting strategic fit with Jazz’s neuroscience focus and adds a platform of innovative cannabinoid product candidates along with a highly specialized manufacturing expertise,” SVB Leerink analysts Ami Fadia and Eason Lee wrote in a note to clients Wednesday. They have an outperform rating on Jazz shares.

GW’s rigorous approach to developing and producing its products has made the company a much-touted example of the potential for cannabis — which many say is in the early stages of research and development for medical purposes despite its long history of recreational use.

Growing Industry

The deal also underlines a growing rift between companies that specialize in naturally versus synthetically derived cannabinoids.

GW competes with a growing list of companies that expect that synthesizing derivatives from cannabis plants will be more useful to create predictable, pharmaceutical-grade ingredients, and bears less regulatory risk since there are no marijuana plants involved.

Dealmaking is also picking up more broadly overall among cannabis companies that focus on medical and recreational use, as the industry anticipates regulatory headway in the U.S. under the new Democratic administration, and is widely expected to consolidate.

Two of the biggest names in cannabis, Tilray Inc. and Aphria Inc., agreed in December to combine in a deal valued at about $3.8 billion.

Industry experts have predicted that pharmaceutical giants and consumer goods companies might be more interested in making acquisitions in the sector if marijuana becomes legalized nationally in the U.S.

The cash portion of the GW deal is expected to be funded with a combination of cash on hand and debt. Jazz, which has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, had a market value of $8.7 billion as of the close of trading Tuesday. The proposed deal has been unanimously approved by the boards of both companies and is expected to close in the second quarter.

Updated: 5-5-2021

After Aphria Deal, The New Tilray Eyes Global Cannabis Brands

CEO Simon, a former tea company founder, wants to introduce consumer marijuana products around the world.

Tilray Inc. shareholders approved the merger with Aphria Inc., creating a cannabis powerhouse that’s both the largest medical marijuana company in Europe and a major player in Canada’s recreational market.

The company’s ambitions don’t end there, though.

Irwin Simon, the former head of Aphria who is now chairman and chief executive officer of the combined company, has ambitions to transform it from an edgy Canadian marijuana company into a global consumer products giant, potentially selling cannabis in everything from drinks to skin creams to snack bars.

The company, which completed the deal on Monday, will have a market value in excess of $8 billion, making it a giant in the fast-growing cannabis industry. While Aphria shareholders acquired 62% of Tilray shares under the original terms, the company is keeping the Tilray name and will trade under the ticker TLRY.

Simon, the founder and former CEO of tea and packaged-food company Hain Celestial, has the background to lead Tilray’s charge deeper into the consumer world. Bloomberg spoke with him about his plans to compete in the growing arena of big consumer-oriented cannabis brands.

You already have diverse assets — a marijuana cultivation facility in Portugal, the Sweetwater Brewing beer brand in Atlanta, the Manitoba Harvest hemp food company in Canada and CC Pharma, the pharmaceutical distributor based in Germany. What comes next?

It’s a three-part strategy. In Canada, where we already have a 17% to 18% market share, my objective is to get to a 30% share of the overall adult use market, and that’s going to be by selling adult use, medical products and cannabis 2.0 products, which are drinks and edibles. That will involve coming out with new products and expanding our brands.

Secondly, in Europe, which is known for medical cannabis today, we already have a distribution system in place today to sell more medical cannabis at 13,000 active pharmacies, sourcing it from our Portuguese facility and selling it throughout Europe.

What about the U.S.? I imagine that’s the third part of that strategy.

We will have consumer products standing ready for recreational use in the U.S. once legalization occurs. We’ll look to do an acquisition in consumer packaged goods world that will help us parlay into recreational cannabis. We may also do something in the medical world in the U.S., for example, a topical cream.

Like Bengay, But With CBD?

You got it. Products like that, or other topicals or skin care. We think there are some big areas with CBD and CPG, like drinks. Also today, Manitoba Harvest is in food, with granola-type products and snack bars. Today we already do hemp oils. And plant-based milks that are a derivative of hemp. And I do like the tea business.

That makes sense, given your history in that market. What about something a bit stronger than tea?

The only thing I wouldn’t mix cannabis with is alcohol or tobacco. There are already hemp chips and CBD bars out there. The sky’s the limit — but what’s the purpose, how does the product taste, and what does it do for you?

Do you still need to see regulatory changes from the FDA to go into this consumer-goods space, which involves so many things like food and topicals that that agency oversees?

Yes. I’m going to get out there and lobby for change. With federal legalization over the next three to four years, $150 billion in tax revenue could be contributed to the U.S. economy. Instead of raising our taxes, we should be looking at legalization. I think cannabis should be regulated similarly to alcohol on the recreational side, and with regards to the medical side, it should be a pharmaceutical product, with prescriptions from your doctor.

How fast is the regulatory pace in Europe moving in comparison? Several countries have started pilot programs for recreational cannabis recently.

I think there are markets that will legalize adult recreational use before the U.S. does — Germany, and I think Portugal and the Netherlands. We’re already expanding our medical cannabis into Spain, the U.K., France and are planning expansions into Israel and Poland. The combined company has already distributed cannabis to 20 countries worldwide and is positioned for further expansion across Europe.

Other consumer goods companies seem to have similar ambitions. Marlboro-maker Altria Group Inc., British American Tobacco, Molson Coors and Anheuser-Busch have all taken interests in cannabis companies. How do you see yourself competing against them?

There are actually big opportunities for partnerships. I think companies like that will want to partner with someone like us, with great quality assurance, and great understanding of branding and products. Tilray would be doing the growing, and using our expertise around different strains and different types of products. I don’t want to be just a grower. I want to be a builder of brands.

Updated: 5-14-2021

One Of The Pot Industry’s Best Highs Is Fading

A big listed U.S. cannabis grower recently raised debt at a sub-10% coupon for the first time. It isn’t a positive sign for everyone.

Top U.S. cannabis growers will be glad to see the back of one particular high: double-digit interest rates. Others in the pot industry may feel a bit deflated.

Green Thumb Industries, which this week reported 90% comparable sales growth in the first quarter, recently secured the first debt deal by a big listed U.S. marijuana cultivator at a sub-10% coupon.

The Illinois-based business got a three-year loan at a 7% interest rate, or 9.1% factoring in warrants, based on calculations by Viridian Capital Advisors. Rival Curaleaf got a credit facility at 10.25% without an equity sweetener earlier this year.

U.S. growers will be treated as pariahs by mainstream banks so long as the drug remains federally outlawed. Yet their cost of capital is coming down anyway, as business booms and competition among yield-hungry alternative lenders heats up.

In 2020, sales of legal U.S. pot reached $20 billion, a jump from $13 billion in 2019. Rapid growth continued in the first quarter, with sales in Illinois and Massachusetts up 100% and 71% respectively, according to the cannabis-focused SOJE Fund.

The prospect of regulatory reform is also shifting how capital markets view the industry. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is trying to introduce a bill that, if approved, would finally give pot companies access to regular banking services like mortgages.

For now, the hedge funds and family offices willing to lend to pot businesses still need to be compensated for the risks of bankrolling a federally illegal industry and holding illiquid securities. Most institutional investors stay away, so secondary trading is thin.

That explains interest rates of around 10% even for the most financially robust borrowers.

Curaleaf this week reported a $17 million loss for the first quarter, but sales increased 170% compared with the same period of 2020. GTI has had three consecutive quarters in the black.

Federal reform would be a game-changer for the biggest names. Frank Colombo, Viridian’s director of data analytics, said “cream of the crop” companies might get a rate of around 5% if the industry were fully legal, based on where single-B U.S. high-yield corporate debt trades.

Lenders will still be able to find fat deals, but only by compromising on credit quality.

Small pot businesses that operate in one state or have less real estate to borrow against will probably pay upward of 15% for the foreseeable future. Even if big banks do get the green light to work with the industry, some may hold off lending to immature growers until they can show similar progress on profits as the likes of Curaleaf or GTI.

Cheaper debt could take some shine off one stock-market star. New York-listed real-estate investment trust Innovative Industrial Properties buys property from cannabis companies and leases it back at a hefty 11% to 15% rental yield.

Selling the real estate on their balance sheet has been a lifeline for U.S. pot companies, helping to increase the value of IIP’s shares almost ninefold since its 2016 initial public offering. As the best tenants get better rates, they are less likely to lock themselves into expensive leases for 20 years.

The stocks of big U.S. growers have fallen since February in a reminder that reform in the industry rarely happens as smoothly or as soon as hoped. For lenders, though, the most potent deals with the best pot companies are already on the way out.

Updated: 7-15-2021

Schumer Vows Action On Cannabis, But Major Hurdles In Way

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the marijuana legalization bill he’s introducing would be a major step toward an overhaul of U.S. drug laws, but the proposal has a long and uncertain path to passage.

The proposal from Schumer, Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker was presented as a long-awaited compromise to making cannabis legal, taxable and regulated at the federal level. Because it would take marijuana off the list of controlled substances, it would open up banking and stock exchanges to cannabis companies.

“America is on our side,” Schumer said at a news conference Wednesday, where he vowed to make passage of the legislation a priority. “Seventy percent of Americans support legalizing adult use of marijuana.”

Wyden called it “cannabis reform done right.”

Even so, cannabis stocks fell on Wednesday due to skepticism over the bill’s prospects. Experts are questioning whether there’s enough political support for such a sweeping proposal, which includes so-called social equity programs that would help communities harmed by disproportionate drug arrests in the past.

It goes beyond mere decriminalization, which President Joe Biden said he supported during the campaign, and that may be a difficult vote for Democrats from more conservative states — as well as for many Republicans.

“The reality is there just aren’t the votes for comprehensive reform. This will get whittled and beaten down,” said Todd Harrison, the chief investment officer of CB1 Capital, a New York-based fund focused on global cannabis.

Harrison said that the provisions allowing cannabis firms access to the banking system and listing on U.S. stock exchanges likely will survive. “It’s the only thing that has buy-in from all sides,” he said.

One exchange-traded fund of U.S. cannabis stocks fell more than 3% on Wednesday after the draft bill was released. A similar index that includes a mix of international and Canada stocks fell almost 4%.

‘No Patience’

Booker said he is open to compromise, but won’t stand for a narrow banking-only legislation that would ignore issues of “restorative justice.”

“I have no patience for people who just want to get some ease in the banking regulations so that their profits could go up, who don’t give a damn about people in communities that really struggled with this,” Booker said.

Taking marijuana off the list of controlled substances, rather than simply re-listing it as a less dangerous drug or decriminalizing possession, would remove the most difficult regulatory burdens from U.S. marijuana companies. It would allow them to take tax deductions, hold bank accounts, get loans and list on U.S. stock exchanges.

Schumer acknowledged the bill’s supporters don’t have the necessary votes yet, but that the group will lobby colleagues in Congress and ask the White House for support.

‘Comprehensive And Thoughtful’

Andrew Kline, a Denver-based lawyer with Perkin Coie LLP who advises both U.S. and Canadian cannabis companies, said there’s a lot to like about the “comprehensive and thoughtful” 163-page bill, which has “robust criminal justice and social equity reforms.”

But he said there’s a lack of clarity about how state and federal authorities will interact on key areas like the licensing of cannabis producers, and there’s no mention of how interstate commerce will work.

“That’s the big kahuna,” Kline said in a phone interview. “From my position, we can’t just flip a switch, there needs to be harmonization between state and federal law.”

The tax rate it calls for — 25%, which would be layered on top of state taxes that are already 25% in some jurisdictions — is simply too high, he said.

“I understand why the federal government wants the revenue to pay for social justice initiatives and regulatory costs, but if we could get that tax rate down to a more manageable number, that would encourage people to buy from the regulated market,” he said.

The bill’s most salient challenge may be that it’s not the political compromise that many had hoped for, Cowen analyst Jaret Seiberg said in a Tuesday research note. He said it’s not clear whether the bill would get the backing of every Democrat, much less the needed Republican votes. It needs 60 votes in the Senate.

“We believe this legislation is designed to fail. It is close to everything that progressives want, while providing little reason for Republican senators to back the measure,” he wrote. Seiberg predicts that once Schumer is ready to move beyond this broad bill, an expanded version of a prior bill that focused solely on banking — the SAFE Act — could pass in the second half of 2022.

Until then, he said, the bill looks merely like “a political effort designed to boost Schumer and other Democratic senators in the 2022 primary and general election fights.”

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