Viridian Capital & Research Release Cannabis Industry Update: Legal Cannabis Sector Gets Boost from 2014 Midterm

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More Capital Likely to Flow, Plus CA Legalization Vote & Role in 2016 Presidential Election

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The successful legislation in Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia, along with the close result in Florida, will make 2015 a critical year for the cannabis industry.

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia will propel the cannabis sector in several key ways, from increasing the flow of capital into legal marijuana companies to setting up a 2016 legalization push in California, Viridian Capital & Research believes.

Even the losing vote for medical marijuana in Florida supports the secular growth of this market, Viridian believes, since the measure nearly passed despite mistakes by its backers, who unnecessarily associated the measure with partisan Democratic politics during a Republican landslide election.

Oregon and Alaska now join Colorado and Washington State, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012. State officials in Oregon and Alaska will move to create the administrative system for marijuana sales, which are expected to begin in both states by 2016. Voters in the District of Columbia passed what has been called “soft legalization,” which allows citizens to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana, but does not create cannabis stores (the DC initiative must also be approved by Congress, where opposition is already brewing.)

The successful legislation in Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia, along with the close result in Florida, will make 2015 a critical year for the cannabis industry. These midterm results will offer law makers in other states the confidence to introduce new initiatives for action in 2015 and placement on 2016 ballots. This trend will be accelerated if the sale of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington State appears to be a success, which appears likely.

Conclusion

Viridian expects the following actions resulting from yesterday’s elections:

  •     More Bills to Legalize Recreation Cannabis: Viridian believes several states will see bills in 2015 to legalize recreational marijuana and that legalization could be on the ballot in 7-13 states –most notably California -- during the 2016 elections.
  •     Emergence of Marijuana as a 2016 Presidential Election Issue: Viridian's sources suggest that both Republican and Democratic parties may adopt pro legal-cannabis positions and talking points during the 2016 Presidential elections.
  •     Marijuana Tax Battles, Starting with Oregon and Washington State: Oregon’s imposed tax of $35 per ounces, is less than Colorado and more importantly less its neighbor to the north, Washington State. Due to high taxes in Washington, consumers can expect an ounce of cannabis in Seattle to cost over $500. Compared to it costing consumers anywhere from $145 - $200 an ounce when Oregon goes live. As a result, Viridian believes that this could negatively impact the Washington market, since many consumers will just travel across the border to purchase recreational cannabis at a much lower cost.
  •     Continued Increase in Cannabis Sales, Profits and Tax Revenues: The continued efforts of states beginning to roll out their respective legal cannabis markets will result in additional states having recreational cannabis markets online, an increased number of total licenses in the US being granted to qualified entrepreneurs, and numerous dispensaries opening up in these markets. Viridian believes these factors support its estimate of the cannabis industry growing to over $10 billion dollars by 2018.
  •     Growth of the Capital Markets for Cannabis Companies: Viridian expects continued growth in the number of cannabis companies looking to access the capital markets to raise growth capital and/or execute M&A strategies. As valuations in the public cannabis companies continue to rationalize, we may see increasing interest on the part of investment funds to take equity stakes in cannabis enterprises, versus the straight debt and convertible debt financing that has made up the bulk of financing in public cannabis companies to date.
  •     Movement in Public Cannabis Market Stock Index: Viridian expects continued volatility in the public markets for the cannabis industry, which have seen lofty valuations, rampant speculation, and increased regulatory oversight. The “whipsaw” nature of these companies’ stock price and volume has created a “Wild West” environment that attracts retail traders, momentum investors and shorts. Volatility was especially pronounced leading up to the 2012 elections, when Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational marijuana, as well as the months following. This continued around the launch of Colorado’s recreational cannabis market in January 2014. Following these events, the cannabis sector experienced significant contractions after momentum from the hype and promotion died down and valuations began to rationalize. For more on the cannabis stocks sector see the charts below and the Viridian Cannabis Stock Index report at: http://viridiancr.com/industry-report

Snapshots of Measures Voted on Yesterday:

Oregon

Oregon passed the “Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act,” which will implement a system similar to that in Washington State, but with lower taxes. The measure allows residents 21 and older to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana -- a considerable increase from the single ounce permitted by Colorado and Washington. It grants the Oregon Liquor Control Commission primary oversight and regulatory authority over the sector, with input from the state’s Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Health Authority. Four types of cannabis businesses will be permitted: Cannabis producers, who cultivate marijuana for wholesale; cannabis processors, who produce cannabis extracts and products; cannabis wholesalers, who purchase cannabis and cannabis products to sell to retailers and other non-consumers; and cannabis retailers, who sell cannabis and cannabis products to individuals 21 and older. One of the most important features of the act is its level of state tax on marijuana, assessed by weight. Oregon’s tax of $35 per ounces is less than Colorado and more importantly, far lower than its neighbor to the north, Washington State. Due to high taxes in Washington, consumers can expect an ounce of cannabis in Seattle to cost over $500. In contrast, in Oregon recreational cannabis will cost anywhere from $145 - $200 an ounce. Many believe this will hit Washington cannabis companies hard, as users need only jump across the border to get a dramatic discount on their marijuana.

Alaska

Alaska’s successful Ballot Measure 2 has many similarities to Oregon’s Measure 91. An important difference is that Alaska’s law allows the state legislature to create a new Marijuana Control Board – failing that, Alaska’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board will be tasked with creating regulations and licensing requirements. There will be much work to do, since the state has limited administrative frameworks around its medical marijuana system. For example, the Alaska lacks a regulated wholesale system, but rather relies on “home grows” and caregivers for production and supply of cannabis to the medical market. As a result, Alaska will need to work with experts from other recreational and medical cannabis states to design and implement regulations for the recreational market.

Washington, D.C.

Voters in the District of Columbia passed Initiative 71 Tuesday night. Earlier this year D.C. implemented a marijuana decriminalization bill, which removed all criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of cannabis and replaced them with a civil fine of $25. Initiative 71 takes decriminalization a step further, allowing adults 21 years and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants (with no more than three being mature) in their private residences. Adults could give away up to an ounce of marijuana, but sales would still be criminal. The initiative also removes penalties for use and sale of marijuana paraphernalia. However, Congress has to approve the new law. That risk, plus the lack of a commercial framework in the current measure and the District’s existing medical marijuana system, indicate recreational marijuana sales are not likely to reach DC in the near future.

Florida

Florida’s medical marijuana amendment earned a majority of the votes but failed to reach the 60% needed to pass. Many observers attribute the failure to errors by the measure’s key backers, which gave the measure a democratic partisan hue on a Republican day, plus the generally older and more conservative makeup of the midterm electorate.
Supporters pledge to take the fight to the 2015 Florida legislative session and, if that fails, have it back on the ballot in 2016. Given how close the measure came to passing this year, it appears likely medical marijuana is in the future of Floridians.

Viridian Capital & Research

Viridian Capital & Research (VCR) http://www.viridiancr.com @ViridianCap was formed by experienced investment bankers to bring capital markets expertise, institutional research coverage and strategic direction to the emerging Cannabis Sector. VCR is a boutique banking and strategic advisory firm that helps clients improve the value of their enterprises by providing research, investment banking, investor relations and corporate development services. Our banking practice, through affiliate Pickwick Capital Partners, provides capital and M&A services to fund the growth of our clients, while our advisory practice helps position and build their cannabis businesses. VCR research and market intelligence are recognized for their unique value and cited by leading market observers, including Institutional Investor.

Broker dealer services provided through Pickwick Capital Partners, LLC Member FINRA SIPC.

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Michael Swartz
@ViridianCap
since: 08/2014
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