A major Canadian licensed weed producer has obtained approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission to begin trading on the NASDAQ — it will be the first marijuana company to be listed on a U.S. stock exchange.
Cronos Group, which is already listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange is expected to begin trading its shares on the NASDAQ under the symbol ‘CRON’ as early as Tuesday, February 27, according to a statement put out by the Toronto-based company.
Weed is still federally illegal in the United States but because Cronos is a licensed Canadian business producing weed for the soon-to-be legal recreational market in Canada, the company is technically not precluded from trading on U.S. stock exchanges.
It is in fact legal for American investors to invest in Canadian cannabis companies that trade on any Canadian exchange, although there still remains a significant degree of stigma attached to owning pot stocks in the U.S.
“I grew up in the U.S. and most of our investor base is in the U.S., but I still get calls from American investors who are unsure as to whether they can buy Canadian weed stocks,” Cronos Group CEO Mike Gorenstein told VICE Money.
Recreational pot is legal in just nine states and Washington D.C., but medical weed is legal in 29 states, making the American market for pot worth over $6 billion, according to investment bank Cowen & Co. That number is expected to rise to $50 billion by 2026.
Prior to the Cronos listing, the only way investors could own cannabis stocks on a U.S. exchange was through the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF which launched in late December 2017 on the NYSEArca (a smaller U.S. exchange that primarily trades ETFs) and enabled investors to put their money in a basket of Canadian weed stocks.
For Cronos however, a listing on the NASDAQ is less about gaining a piece of U.S. pot market, but more about introducing the Cronos name and brand to U.S. investors, who will now be able to easily buy shares in one specific Canadian company.
“This is about our shareholders. I will just stress that we do not plan on entering the U.S. market from a production or sales standpoint until cannabis is federally legal,” Gorenstein said.
The process to gain a listing however, was long and arduous, Gorenstein told VICE Money.
“It’s complicated and intense because of their securities rules. We started building a relationship with the NASDAQ sometime last year, and we had to go through many audits and reviews by different independent committees to make sure that our governance was up to snuff,” he said.
“It’s more than just getting on the exchange. We wanted to be the first company that went about this the right way.”
“The fact that Cronos was able to have its application approved speaks volumes regarding the company’s governance and the ability of its management team to think outside the box and execute,” said Beacon Securities’ analyst Vahan Ajamian in a morning note.
“We imagine the SEC would have gone through a very thorough review/vetting process before allowing a cannabis company to be list on a major U.S. exchange,” he wrote.
Cronos Group, with a market value of $1.4 billion, has been on a massive growth trajectory of late. Besides producing cannabis for the Canadian market, it also ships product to Germany, where medical weed is legal, but in fact in short supply.
Earlier this month, the company launched a subsidiary in Australia (Cronos Australia), which will focus on producing “pharmaceutical grade medicine” for the medical market. Cronos is also in a joint venture with a kibbutz in Israel which aims to produce, manufacture and distribute medical cannabis internationally.