Will Donald Trump send the marijuana industry up in smoke?
Pot may have been a big winner in the 2016 elections, but what will the budding marijuana industry look like under a Trump presidency?
“[The election] was a giant deal for the industry as a whole and a surprise to a lot of people,” said Kelly Barbieri, editor-in-chief of the online cannabis magazine, The Fresh Toast. “We had the red states passing medical marijuana, which means we’re going across party lines and across economic lines,” Barbieri tells me in the video above.
In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 41% of Republicans support use of medical marijuana. By the time Donald Trump is inaugurated January 20, 2017, one in five adults will be living in a state where medicinal marijuana is legal.
On November 8, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada joined Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Oregon and Washington in legalizing recreational marijuana, while Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota joined the 25 other states that already allow marijuana use for medical purposes. Click on the map here.
The cannabis industry is expected to generate $22 billion in annual sales nationwide within the next 4 years, but industry leaders wonder if a Trump White House will create a barrier to growth.
Trump has said the legitimization of marijuana is a matter for the states to decide, though he has called marijuana use for anything other than medicinal purposes a “bad experiment.” And Vice President-elect Mike Pence has been vocal about his opposition to legal weed.
Some speculate that a Trump administration may not back the banking reform necessary for recreational marijuana sales to flourish. Marijuana businesses can’t deposit money in banks because of current federal banking laws. Limited banking access has put cash-only pot businesses at risk of robbery and money-laundering. The industry would like Congress to pass an amendment to the financial services spending bill that would prevent the federal government from penalizing financial institutions that do business with legal marijuana clients.
Pot proponents are holding out hope. Venture capitalist and Paypal founder Peter Thiel has joined Trump’s transition team. The controversial tech leader, who will reportedly help Trump connect with Silicon Valley companies, has made a big bet on weed. In late 2014, Thiel’s Founder Fund invested undisclosed millions in Privateer Holdings, a holding company for cannabis-related businesses.
But investing in pot is not for the faint of heart. Trading in marijuana-related stocks is marked with volatility. There are currently more than 200 publicly-traded marijuana companies, but Alan Valdes, chairman of the marijuana retailer Diego Pellicer, warns that the majority of them are not well managed or well financed.
The Marijuana Index, which tracks the leading marijuana stocks, was on fire in the run-up to the election. Since then, the index has lost some ground as investors try to determine what a Trump presidency will mean for the industry.
Even companies indirectly associated with cannabis are getting a lift. Shares of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. are up nearly 36% in 2016. The company is best known for lawn care, but its products are also used by weed growers.
If nationwide legalization happens, analysts say don’t be surprised if big pharma and big tobacco companies have a change of heart and decide, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Those industries, which have historically opposed legal-weed, may be looking for opportunities to capitalize on the growing market for marijuana.