Shares of major cannabis stocks are soaring once again following the news that Joe Biden’s transition has formally begun. The uptick is fueled by expectations that the incoming administration will loosen regulations, as well as more US states legalizing sales of recreational marijuana.
Canopy Growth (CGC) rose 6%, Aurora Cannabis (ACB) surged 25% and Tilray (TLRY) jumped 14% in early trading. Other cannabis stocks on the move include global cannabis leaders Curaleaf (CURLF), Aphria (APHA) and Cronos (CRON), which has a big investment from tobacco giant and Marlboro owner Altria (MO). The stock spikes are also following a broader market rally Tuesday.
Earlier this month, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota cleared cannabis for adult use, bringing the total number of states that have approved it for that purpose to 15.
Industry executives have publicly stated their happiness about the election outcome. The chief executive officer of Canopy, which has the financial backing of Corona owner Constellation Brands (STZ), was particularly upbeat about what the changes in the political landscape might mean for the industry.
“We believe the Biden win is an important step on the path to federal permissibility of cannabis in the US market through decriminalization and descheduling,” said Canopy CEO David Klein on a recent conference call with analysts.
“The results of the ballot initiatives clearly showcase that support for adult-use marijuana legalization extends across geographic and party lines and is supported by a majority of Americans. Legal marijuana is becoming the American norm,” he added. “This will likely increase pressure on Congress to pass major federal marijuana reform in the very near future.”
Despite the optimism,the industry faces roadblocks at the federal level, especially if Republicans maintain their Senate majority following the Georgia runoffs in January.
A Senate led by Republican Mitch McConnell will mean cannabis legislative measures will remain dead in the water, even under a Biden administration.
“Mitch McConnell is a one-man ‘no’ machine,” said John Hudak, a cannabis policy expert and deputy director at the Brookings Institution. “This is just something [he] doesn’t like. He doesn’t see the political benefits.”
That’s bad for the industry, as leaders say there is an urgency to address key regulatory gaps for businesses that operate within state-legal systems despite trading a federally illicit product.
Cannabis executives say they can’t easily bank or obtain traditional financing because they’re subject to a 1980s tax law drafted to punish drug dealers; they have difficulty insuring their businesses; and they don’t qualify for federal disaster aid.
–CNN Business’ Paul R. La Monica and Alicia Wallace contributed to this report.