Pot Stocks Pay Off: A Review of the Cannabis Sector

NOTE:  This is satire

What a year it was for the marijuana sector, bouncing back from a challenging 2014. While the sector ended the year well below the 2014 highs despite more than tripling in price, investors are optimistic that the election cycle in 2016 could allow the market to test those levels, especially as it looks almost certain that California voters, with a reinvigorated MMJ program, will approve adult-use later this year. Here are the highlights of the year:


After a rough round-trip that had left the "Benzinga 420 Marijuana Index" down about 16% (to 133) in 2014, 2015 began with a bang as traders positioned in front of the debut of CNBC special "Marijuana Country: The Cannabis Boom" and also looked to take advantage of tax-loss selling that continued into the very last moments of 2014. As the month progressed, one-year legalization anniversary retrospectives seemed to lift investor spirits. One of the most surprising developments of the month was with CEN Biotech (CENB), which announced after the close on the 23rd that Creative Edge Nutrition (FITX) would spin out the unit with a NASDAQ listing. While the bashers and shorts scoffed at the announcement, CEO Chaaban agreed to sit down with Matt Finston and Chris Parry (along with Dr. Sam Alawieh) for a fireside chat moderated by Mainstreet reporter Juliette Fairley and webcast live. The CEN Bio team was unable to get Parry on board, but Finston admitted after the meeting that he was impressed with the company's success in its appeal against Lakeshore to the Ontario Municipal Board, which had forced the town to issue final zoning permits to CEN Bio, which Health Canada had then added to its list of approved producers in mid-January. FITX ended up rallying to $0.20 by month-end. No one was happier than Matt Finston, who had published a timely bullish article on Seeking Alpha immediately after the chat. Not only did it set a record for page-views (107K, which earned him over $1000), but he also disclosed a long position that he had purchased at $0.04. As wild as the FITX/CENB story proved to be, the most shocking story of the month was the rematch between Seattle and Denver in the Super Bowl, with Denver winning this time. Marijuana enthusiasts found this especially ironic after Oregon, which was set to go legal just months later, had managed to win the NCAA Championship against Ohio State. Not a bad start to the year, with the index rallying to 190, a gain of 43%.


Cannabis investors were very happy to see Bloomberg TV's coverage of mCig (MCIG) early in the month. The live interview of CEO Paul Rosenberg, who was discussing the commencement of trading of VitaCig (VCIG) and its hiring of Leonardo DiCaprio as a spokesperson, put to rest rumors that he didn't exist, sending the stock up more than 100% to $0.25. VCIG opened at $0.10 and ended the day at $0.15. A highlight of the month was the announcement during its earnings call that GW Pharma (GWPH) had allowed global pharmaceutical giant Novartis (NVS) to acquire a 5% stake in the company with an option to acquire an additional 5% at $100 per share for $100mm. The stock, which had already begun the year with a strong rally, jumped from $83 to $105 and ended the month at an all-time high of $115. It wasn't all good news for the sector. The SEC suspended trading of Medical Marijuana, Inc. (MJNA) on the 28th, claiming that it had failed to properly disclose certain financial transactions. The market initially responded negatively, but, by the end of the day, the index had reversed to a new YTD high and ended the month at 240, up 26%


With weak earnings reports dominating the news, it wasn't surprising to see the torrid market cool off. While many of the stocks retraced some of their gains, Terra Tech (TRTC) was a notable exception. The company, which pre-announced strong Q4 sales from its extraction lab, disclosed that a hedge fund tied to George Soros had acquired a 10% stake in the company for $10mm (at $0.32), providing for the bulk of the capital needed to build out the facilities in Nevada. Another stock bucking the trend was Canadian licensed producer Bedrocan (BNRDF), which early in the month received approval from Health Canada to produce in its Canadian facility, boosting the stock to $1 (and $1.15 for BED in Canada). The stock was the only LP able to rally during the month, as the rest of the Canadians sold off following the court ruling in favor of MMAE. The index ended the month at 222, down 7.5%.


The sector soared in early April when California announced the details of a revamped MMJ program. Another driver was news that the Nevada legislature would be considering legalization (a move that later took place). TRTC, already trading above $0.40 following the capital infusion, announced in light of the move to a for-profit environment in California would move quickly to merge with Blum. Combined with investor enthusiasm over the likelihood of legal cannabis in Nevada, the stock jumped 50% over the balance of the month. Medbox (MDBX) founder Vincent Mehdizadeh moved to fire the entire Board of Directors, the CEO and the CFO, reinstating Dr. Bruce Bedrick as CEO, with the market responding enthusiastically. Perhaps the most exciting news of the month was President Obama's message on 4/20 that he supported the DOJ's move in conjunction with FinCen to streamline reforms that would make banking more accessible. The move to end 280E (taxation for illegal profits) treatment was seen as a major step forward as well. The index fell just short of 300, ending the month at 297 (up 34%)


The MDBX rally continued, with the stock reaching $20 on news that it would be listing on the NASDAQ SmallCap Market. Another catalyst for the continued rally was the surprise announcement by Advanced Cannabis Solutions (CANN) that it had emerged from the Grey Market and had regained its OTCQB listing. Investors in American Green (ERBB) were stunned by the strong quarter it reported and bid the shares back above $0.02. The index ended up again, rising 8% to 324.


June started quietly, but the market jumped again when Nevada announced that its legislature had approved legal cannabis. The program will be implemented in 2016. TRTC moved to $0.80. As WeedStock 2 concluded, Jason Spatafora, CEO of Wolf Analyst Group, announced that the company was reverse-merging and would begin trading on July 1st as the first publicly-traded marijuana stock research company. Mainstreet reporter Juliette Fairley noted the irony in the symbol "WOWS" (Wolf of WeedStreet). The index recorded its 5th positive monthly close, ending at 333, up about 3%.


The market was already somewhat extended, but the second major SEC suspension of the year resulted in significant selling. While most investors weren't too surprised to see Hemp, Inc. (HEMP) get sent to the Grey Market, concerns began to escalate about further SEC action. While GWPH managed to end the month higher, all of the OTC stocks fell, with the overall market pulling back 12% to 293, still up 120% YTD.


The market bounced back sharply in August following several solid earnings reports. One stand-out was Vape Holdings (VAPE), which reported a record $1.1 mm in sales in its Q3 and suggested that it would likely exceed $1.5mm in the quarter ending 9/30 (it actually reported $1.65mm). Another catalyst was the acquisition of Abattis (ATTBF) by an investor group led by Nick Brusatore, with the deal getting done at $0.50 in Canada ($0.44 in the U.S.). The index didn't fully recover the losses from July, falling just short at 329 (up 12%).


The month began with very good news, as GWPH released preliminary data on Epidiolex, which showed significantly positive results. The stock soared to an all-time high of $207 on the news before ending the month at $193. As the quarter drew to an end, CENB announced that it would be opening its first U.S. cultivation facility in Oregon and had won a license in New York as well. The index managed to close at the high of the month, rallying 8% to 355.


The highlight of the month was the pre-announcement by MCIG that it would exceed $1mm in revenue for the quarter. Additionally, after a long hold-up in the inspection process, Supreme Marijuana (SPRWF) surpassed $0.80, an all-time high, as it began shipping from its Ontario greenhouse. The market ended up retreating by 2%, ending at 348, on late-in-the-month profit taking after the market peaked at 375.


What a Thanksgiving feast for investors in the cannabis sector! The index rallied to 400, up 15%, driven by another round of good earnings reports and the strong reception to the first NASDAQ listed IPO, BioTrackTHC (BTHC). A sell-out crowd of over 3000 people attended the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Las Vegas and enjoyed listening to the keynote presentation from Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


While many were expecting a quiet month, the DEA shocked the market and moved marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3, similar to codeine, on the first Friday, the 4th, after the market had closed (ironically, the news hit the wires at 4:20 EDT). The agency cited the Colorado experience as well as increasing evidence that cannabis does offer potential health benefits, citing the clinical trials for Sativex and the early results from the Epidiolex trials as well as other studies of cannabidiol. The markets exploded the following Monday, with the index increasing to 501, a 25% move. The rest of the month was fairly quiet, but, in what proved to be one of the most surprising announcements of the year, MDBX issued an 8-K on the 15th informing that Janice Shell (of www.pumpsanddumps.com and the infamous I-Hub DD & Fraud Board) had joined as Chairman of the Board. The accompanying press release indicated that Shell had been so impressed by the uplisting to the NASDAQ and the recovery in the business that she wanted to lead its Board going forward. The market retraced most of the post-DEA bounce over the balance of the month, ending the year at 420, up over 215%.

Posted to Benzinga PotProfits on Jan 02, 2015 — 2:01 AM
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