Interest around cannabis stocks continues to rise as legal adult use sales pick up steam in Canada and California, and other U.S. states move to legalize either recreational or medical use of the plant.
Investors have directed much of their attention on production and distribution of dried flower used for smoking.
At the same time, an emerging sub-sector around oils for vaping and edibles offers more rapid growth. Some names to consider in this camp include oil extractor Valens GroWorks Corp. (VGWCF) , as well as edibles maker Nutritional High International Inc. (SPLIF) and drink specialist Tinley Beverage Company Inc. (TNYBF) .
Whether it's dried flower, oils, edibles, or beverages, enthusiasm around cannabis remains high.
Macro deals fueling bets on cannabis include Constellation Brands (STZ - Get Report) investing $4 billion for a stake in Canopy Growth (CGC - Get Report) last year, as well as tobacco giant Altria Group Inc. (MO - Get Report) buying about $1.8 billion of Cronos Group. (CRON - Get Report) shares as part of an alliance with the company. In a third wave-making deal in recent months, Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) inked a partnership with Tilray Inc. (TLRY) .
For U.S. investors, much of the focus has been on these names, all of which have added billions in stock market value in recent months.
Choices for investors among the Nasdaq, NYSE and even the Toronto Stock Exchange remain relatively limited.
A small universe of cannabis companies continue to trade on the Canadian Securities Exchange. The CSE is the main alternative stock marketplace to Canada's Toronto Stock Exchange and its sibling for small but growing companies, the TSX Venture Exchange, home to Canada-based The Green Organic Dutchman (TGODF) and cannabis listings.
Most of the largest U.S.-based cannabis companies trade on the CSE, since any plant-touching company with marijuana operations in this country remains banned from the NYSE or the Nasdaq.
An influx of domestic marijuana producers and other cannabis businesses have debuted on the CSE, starting with Golden Leaf Holdings (GLDFF) in 2015. Some of them have started to bulk up to market values of $1 billion or more.
All told, the CSE is now home to more than 140 cannabis stocks, including 80 based in the U.S. and 60 from Canada. Twenty of the largest CSE listings now have market values exceeding $200 million.
And they're all accessible to U.S. investors through listings on the OTC. Their financial filings are accessible to the public at the website, Sedar.com.
The class is led by Curaleaf Holdings Inc. (CURLF) the U.S.-based integrated cannabis company with a roughly $2.3 billion market cap in early February. Green Growth Brands Inc. (GGBXF) , a U.S. producer based in Ohio, occupies the No. 2 slot with a market value of $748 million, followed by TerrAscend Corp. (TRSSF) , a Canadian company with a market cap of $697 million.
Other listings around the $500 million range include U.S.-based Green Thumb Industries Inc. (GTBIF) , along with Arizona-based Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. (HTHHF) and New York-based Acreage Holdings Inc. (ACRGF) .
Canada's securities laws do not require legalization status under U.S. federal law for cannabis companies to do reverse merger transactions for existing public companies in Canada. This is how all of the U.S. cannabis firms went public north of the border -- the same way most other stocks debut on the CSE.
As interest in cannabis picked up last year, the CSE saw an increase in the number of reverse takeover IPOs.
"We started having a boom of larger transactions from U.S. companies starting with MedMen Enterprises Inc. (MMNFF) ," Carleton said. "That listing blazed a trail for Acreage, Harvest Health & Recreation, MJardin (MJARF) , Dixie Brands (DXBRF) , and Curaleaf."
Underwriters of these stock offerings include Canaccord Genuity, GMP Securities, Beacon Securities Ltd., Eight Capital, Echelon, Coremark, Leede Jones Gable, PI Financial, Clarus Securities, and Haywood Securities. For now, most bigger investment banks will not underwrite stock listings because of U.S. federal laws against cannabis.
These companies remain in growth mode, which means most of them have yet to show a profit. To be sure, cannabis remains a nascent industry. Like any rapidly changing and expanding marketplace, cannabis offer big risks and big rewards for market players and investors.
Look for many headlines in 2019 on merger and acquisitions, as well as capital raising through debt and stock offerings.
For investors looking to discover lesser-known integrated cannabis companies that grow, and sell cannabis, along with emerging businesses in the oil and edibles space, here is a sample of 10 potential candidates:
Curaleaf (CURLF) holds cannabis licenses in 10 U.S. states and is in the process of getting access to California and Pennsylvania as well as a seed-to-sale company. In its most recent quarter, it rang up $21.4 million in revenue up from $5.5 million in the year-ago period, while its adjusted Ebitda loss widened to $5.5 million from $200,000.
Green Growth Brands
Ohio-based Green Growth Brands (GGBXF) is an integrated cannabis company is led by CEO Peter Horvath, a retail industry executive who's worked in senior roles at Victoria's Secret, American Eagle Outfitters, DSW and Limited Brands. The company is attempting a hostile takeover of Aphria Inc. (APHQF) .
IAnthus Capital Holdings
IAnthus Capital Holdings' (ITHUF) market value has grown to above $1 billion range after the
integrated cannabis company's all-stock acquisition of MPX Biopharmaecueticals this month. It's planning a quick expansion of dispensaries in several U.S. states.
LA-based Medmen Enterprises Inc. (MMNFF) operates a dispensary on New York City's Fifth Avenue often compared to the Apple store of cannabis as a brand-focused marijuana company. It's building up assets and operations in California, Nevada and New York.
A recent entry on the CSE, Acreage (ACRGF) has gotten headlines for high profile politicians that have joined its board including former House speaker John Boehner and ex-Massachusetts governor Bill Weld as a seed-to-sale cannabis company.
Charlotte's Web Holdings
A medical cannabis company focused on production and distribution of hemp-based, CBD wellness products, Charlotte's Web (CWBHF) is based in Boulder, Colo.
Valens GroWorks Corp.
British Columbia-based cannabis company Valens GroWorks (VGWCF) is expanding its business as an oil extraction specialist for clients like Canopy Growth by leading with a co-lab approach, providing not only toll processing but product development and exclusive value adds to champion their clients and provide them with proven, top quality products for their consumer markets. They recently released their capacity increase officially making them the largest extraction company in Canada. Already with a market cap of about $200 million, it ranks as the 20th largest CSE cannabis stock.
Nutritional High International
Nutritional High International Inc. (SPLIF) , which also trades on the Frankfurt Exchange in Germany, is developing, acquiring and designing products and brands in marijuana-infused edible products and oil extracts for medical and adult recreational use. The Company works exclusively in U.S. states where cannabis is legal.
Tinley Beverage Co.
Tinley Beverage Company Inc. (QRSRF) is focused on hemp-infused beverages and supplements. It has the only patent-produced liquid supplement containing certifiable phytoconstituent-rich hemp oil. The company is producing its products in Los Angeles with distribution on the West Coast.
Harvest Health & Recreation Inc.
One of the first consistently profitable vertically-integrated cannabis companies, Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. (HRVSF) ranks as one of the largest cap companies on the CSE. The U.S. operator with 425 employees handles cultivation, manufacturing, and retail facilities, with a track record of writing and winning state-based applications.