Since 2015, publicly listed medical pot firms were trading for pennies; now they’re trading for than $10 a share, even though some publicly traded companies won’t make a sale until recreational cannabis becomes legal later this year.
Terry Booth didn’t expect his life would come full circle, thanks to marijuana.
He sold pot in high school, peddling quarter ounces for $25 to help out his dad. He spent the next two decades working as an electrician and entrepreneur, and planned to semi-retire to the golf course after taking a step back from his construction permit firm. That idea went to pot, literally, when his business partner Steve Dobler said his brother-in-law was looking for investors on a marijuana play.
“Steve’s a pretty conservative guy; I thought he was kidding,” said Booth, 53, sitting in a hotel conference room in Edmonton, not far from where Aurora Cannabis Inc. is building a greenhouse the size of almost 14 football fields. “But he wasn’t.”
Booth and Dobler are the largest individual holders of Aurora, Canada’s second-largest marijuana firm. Their combined stakes are now approaching $200 million, making them among the wealthiest shareholders in Canada’s growing crop of newly-minted marijuana millionaires.
As Canada moves to legalize recreational cannabis, the value of the nascent market has ballooned to more than $25 billion, swelling the ranks of affluent pot investors who have significant holdings in companies such as Canopy Growth Corp. and Aphria Inc. The U.S. legal market is expected to reach $75 billion (U.S.) in sales by 2030, almost as large as North America’s soft drink market, according to research firm Cowen & Co. Canadian sales could soon be worth between $7 billion and $12 billion a year, Beacon Securities estimates.
Even after a recent sell-off, many marijuana-related stocks have more than doubled in the last year. Never mind that recreational marijuana won’t be legal until later this year and some publicly traded companies have yet to make a sale.
“Insiders have created a huge amount of wealth for themselves and even early investors,” PI Financial analyst Jason Zandberg said in a telephone interview. “It reminds me of back in the dot-com days. You always heard of a friend of a friend who got in early and got their company bought out.”
Companies initially began piling into the sector in 2013 after Canada changed the rules governing medical use to allow access through licensed producers. Still, before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wooed voters in the 2015 election with a promise to legalize recreational marijuana, publicly listed medical pot firms were trading for pennies. In mid-2015, Aphria traded for less than $1 (Canadian), while PharmaCan, which later renamed itself Cronos Group Inc. and listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market, hovered around 30 cents.