One sector of the business world that has seen a much-needed spike during the coronavirus pandemic is cannabis sales, which are hitting new highs as people stockpile pot while electing or being ordered to stay home.
Sales for the week of March 16-22 show cannabis markets in California, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska — all legal recreational markets — were up 50%, while medicinal sales rose 41% for the week year over year.
Nonessential businesses across the U.S. and Canada have been ordered temporarily shut down or had their operations restricted to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has now killed more than 800 people in the two countries (though, less than 30 are in Canada).
While many of those businesses have been shuttered, cannabis shops have been listed largely as essential, due in part to the medicinal aspect. The shops — and their online services — have thrived, also sending pot stocks soaring as people hoard what they can.
Fears of supply disruptions are boosting Canadian sales, according to Medical Marijuana Inc. CEO Stuart Titus.
“We have seen stockpiling in Canada by consumers who have snapped up products from (licensed producers),” Titus, whose company is based in California, told Reuters.
Fear of shortages is offering a welcome respite to producers after investors sold off cannabis stocks through most of last year, causing their valuations to crater as profits were hard to come by.
Canopy Growth Corporation (NYSE: CGC) is up more than 45% so far this week to almost $14 a share after cratering from its 52-week high of $52.74, along with the greater cannabis market’s massive 2019 sell-off.
Tilray Inc. (NASDAQ: TLRY), whose 52-week high was just under $70, is now trading around $5 a share after jumping more than 98% the past week.
Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE: ACB) was at one time the most held post stock on popular trading platform Robinhood, but it has since fallen under $1 a share. ACB is up more than 50% this week, even as a potential delisting looms due to its share price falling under $1.
Another thing likely to give cannabis sales and stocks a boost is the introduction of marijuana-infused beverages, gummies, brownies and chocolates.
But is this just a short-term bump or could a long-term reversal be in store for the battered sector?
Banyan Hill Publishing’s Anthony Planas, host of Marijuana Markets: A POTcast, said what is happening now with cannabis stocks doesn’t align with what is currently going on with stocks from other sectors, which have in large part rallied big the past couple of days.
“Sales shot up in anticipation of quarantines. We’ve seen this kind of stockpiling before natural disasters, like hurricanes. People don’t know how long shops could close for, so they want to get supplies now,” he explained. “The rally in stocks is a bit different. They hit a bottom along with the market after a steep sell-off. It’s normal to see a pretty dramatic rally after that.
“But (cannabis stock) prices are still well below six-month averages. And it’s too soon to say whether the recent bottom is also the ‘true’ bottom.”
Planas thinks the cannabis market is now primed for top companies that know how to properly allocate resources to take charge.
“The industry is in growth mode. The only thing that can slow that down is a recession, but even that would be temporary,” he said. “For the best companies, I think we are going to see prices head upward. But for poorly run companies that are strapped for cash, they may not be able to recover.”
One thing also of note regarding the federal stimulus package that is working its way through congress is that cannabis companies are not eligible for federal aid because the plant is still illegal on a federal level. Planas said this will end up being a good thing for the aforementioned top companies as we can separate the winners from the losers more quickly.
“I don’t think the Federal government should be bailing out cannabis companies,” he said. “The sector drew a lot of attention and there is a natural selection process that needs to take place. We’ll see the survival of the fittest companies. Offering easy money would only delay that.”
Reuters contributed to this report.