Australia’s domestic medical cannabis market continues to gradually open, but is it big enough to sustain the country’s plethora of producers?

As the industry gets more crowded, some cannabis companies are beginning to eye international business as a way to increase their reach.

With ongoing questions surrounding the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes, Australia’s advantageous placement may allow these firms to benefit from plays further afield.


Numbers show Australian market becoming crowded

In 2020, FreshLeaf Analytics, an Australian cannabis research firm, expressed an optimistic outlook for the long-term growth of the country’s domestic medical market.

But in the immediate term, there’s a glaring glut of companies compared to the number of patients currently available in the regulated market.

“These data suggest the Australian cannabis market is saturated and the current growth trajectory is unsustainable,” FreshLeaf Analytics said, according to a report from Stockhead.

At the time there were close to 40 companies all vying to serve approximately 100,000 prescriptions.

“It would be reasonable to conclude that in the next 12-18 months we will begin to see a reversal in growth of prescription product numbers and consolidation in the number of players,” the researchers said.

Spending on medical cannabis in 2021 is projected to be somewhere around $150 million.

CBD changes show Australia’s willingness to adopt new rules

With Australia’s medical cannabis space getting crowded, and changes in the country’s recreational policy not expected for the foreseeable future, what options are available for companies that want to do more?

The country is working to open up other avenues that may allow more participation. Earlier this year, a critical change went into effect when the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) enacted a policy update originally confirmed in December 2020.

Low-dose cannabidiol (CBD) products have been permitted for over-the-counter sale since February.

However, while the policy change is now in place, it is still expected to take a significant amount of time until CBD products become available to the public. This is because of a very rigorous metric of quality that all CBD products will need to clear.

“The decision limits over-the-counter supply to only those products that are approved by the TGA and included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods,” the TGA indicated last December.

The changes reflect a growing understanding of the policies needed to tend the medicinal cannabis industry in Australia. And while the results will still not be seen for some time, companies have expressed their enthusiasm for the new CBD rules.

Australians have a unique advantage in international cannabis

Stephen Murphy, co-founder and managing director of Prohibition Partners, told the Investing News Network (INN) that Australian cannabis producers have a major advantage when it comes to exploring international efforts because of their standardized practices and their expertise working in a medical cannabis market.

While the recreational cannabis business is thriving in North America as companies look to establish a modern consumer packaged goods marketplace, in Australia producers are sharpening their medical skills.

Murphy is still encouraged by the maturity process he’s seeing in the Australian market and its players. He pointed to the new CBD rules as a major sign of progress that will help build trust with patients in the country.

When it comes to how profitable international expansion could be, Murphy cautioned against expecting a significant overturn in the immediate term since patient counts in advanced markets like Germany are still growing little by little.

Of course, Europe is not the only area where Australian companies might have international opportunities. When asked about the possibility of trade or business in Asia, a market notorious for an appreciation of CBD, Murphy said this is likely a winning partnership.

“Asian countries are going to welcome Australian companies because not only do they have a good reputation, but also they are bringing with them the best international practices,” Murphy said.

Investor takeaway

Australia’s cannabis market is on a steady runway of growth, with experts positive about its long-term future.

“Australia is a maturing market — not mature, but maturing — and I think the patients are seeing that, so they’re feeling more comfortable,” Brett Schwarz, CFO and corporate advisor with privately held firm Cannatrek, previously told INN.

When it comes to the near term, Australians may end up deciding that expanding their reach into international cannabis ventures is a priority.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

Multi-state cannabis leader highlights events, partnerships, and activities to coincide with Juneteenth holiday

Trulieve Cannabis Corp . (CSE: TRUL) (OTCQX: TCNNF), a leading and top-performing cannabis company in the United States and its dispensary group Solevo Wellness, today announced the sponsorship of expungement clinics in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as well as additional initiatives celebrating the Juneteenth holiday.

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A summertime series of expungement events, employee volunteerism, documentary filmmaking, fundraising and more demonstrate the importance of commitment to reform and restorative justice to build an equitable, inclusive cannabis industry

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Florida’s legal cannabis program has gained plenty of investor attention as the potential for this segment of the US cannabis market continues to expand.

The US cannabis industry is largely fragmented because the plant remains illegal at the federal level. Despite that obstacle, several states across the country have implemented medical and recreational cannabis legislation allowing for cultivation, processing, commercial sale and consumer use.

While this legislation differs greatly from state to state, one state’s medical cannabis industry has seen unprecedented growth: Florida.

 

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The coastal state’s journey to cannabis legalization has been a challenging one. In 2016, over 70 percent of Floridians voted for a constitutional amendment to allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

However, in the 2017 legislation that created the state’s legal medical cannabis framework, then-Governor Rick Scott banned smoking medical cannabis. It wasn’t until March 2019 that Ron DeSantis, the current governor of Florida, lifted the ban on smokable marijuana.

In the face of those challenges, the Sunshine State has developed one of the most attractive medical cannabis markets in the country. In fact, Florida’s medical marijuana space is one of the fastest growing in the country.

Read on to learn more about the investing opportunities in Florida’s legal cannabis space and the top marijuana stocks to look out for.

Florida medical cannabis: High-growth market

Florida’s large population — the third biggest in the US — is a factor in the attractiveness of its cannabis market. The state is also the fourth largest economy in the US with a gross domestic product of just over US$1 billion in 2020.

A 2020 report from Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics shows the US legal cannabis industry is expected to grow by 18.2 percent between 2019 and 2025 to reach US$33.9 billion. Florida ranks among the jurisdictions that will contribute the most to that growth.

“The Total Available Market, or TAM, is one of the most critical factors for any industry,” states Dustin Robinson, founding partner of Mr. Cannabis Law, in an article written for Green Entrepreneur. “Florida’s marijuana industry happens to have one of the strongest TAMs in the world.”

As of a June 2021 update from Florida Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU), the state had 569,450 qualified medical marijuana patients and 2,542 qualified physicians.

Florida’s patient count is a small percentage of its population of 21 million, but it has been steadily growing since the drug was legalized in the state in 2016. In fact, the patient figure has more than doubled in the past two years.

According to Robinson, there are almost 300 retail locations in Florida, with another 500 locations expected by the end of 2022.

Beacon Securities analyst Russell Stanley has said Florida boasts a healthy list of addressable medical conditions that can be treated with cannabis, unlike the medical marijuana programs in other states.

“Some other states have had trouble expanding their programs, in part because it’s been very difficult for patients to get access to product,” Stanley told the Investing News Network. “Other states have had restrictions on which healthcare practitioners can recommend it and what they can recommend it for.”

 

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Florida cannabis market: High barriers to entry

The 2017 Florida medical marijuana law established a cap on the number of medical marijuana dispensaries and required that each center be vertically integrated — they all had to manage their own operations, from cannabis cultivation and processing to distribution and sales.

The cap on the number of dispensaries expired in April 2020. While the vertical integration requirement portion of the law underwent a three year court battle, the Supreme Court of Florida recently upheld the legislation, meaning this requirement will continue to shape the Florida cannabis market for years to come.

During a panel discussion, Steve Hawkins, CEO of Horizons ETFs Management (Canada), said he views vertical integration as one of the key benefits for US companies compared to the Canadian cannabis market. Only players that have been able to develop cannabis production, manufacturing and distribution capabilities can compete in the marketplace.

As of March 2021, the state had 22 licensed medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) and five laboratories licensed for third party testing. The low number of licenses currently awarded creates high entry barriers, which is a big plus for the currently operating companies that have already established a strong foothold in the market.

Robinson believes that “the 22 Licensees are in a great position to build multi-billion-dollar companies in Florida’s growing marijuana industry.”

These 22 established licensees will also have an advantage if and when recreational cannabis becomes legal in the state. “In Florida, the medical marijuana license allows the current MMTCs to build out as big of a footprint as possible in preparation for adult use (recreational) legalization,” he said.

Florida cannabis market: Top Florida cannabis stocks

As the legal cannabis industry grows in Florida, some players have begun to stand out in the state.

Florida native Trulieve Cannabis (CSE:TRUL,OTC Pink:TCNNF) holds the lion’s share of the market and has continually been a top-performing stock in the state.

Trulieve opened Florida’s first medical marijuana dispensary back in 2016, and since then it’s grown into a force in the industry, with a current market capitalization of US$5.52 billion.

As of June 4, 2021, Trulieve had 82 dispensing locations in the state, according to data released by the OMMU. In one week’s time it sold more than 76.5 million milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products and 1.6 million milligrams of cannabidiol (CBD) products, in addition to 32,295 ounces of dried flower.

Shortly after smokable marijuana was legalized, Trulieve began selling flower and was the first in the state to do so. Trulieve has also benefited from a vertically integrated structure that includes cannabis cultivation, production and distribution, which is essential since cannabis cannot be moved across states lines just yet.

Surterra Wellness comes in at a distant second place with 39 dispensing locations and sales of over 22.2 million milligrams of THC products and 1.6 million milligrams of CBD products, in addition to 6,911 ounces of dried flower. Surterra is owned by Parallel, one of the largest privately held multi-state cannabis operators (MSOs) in the country.

 

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Parallel recently announced its intentions to go public through a definitive business combination agreement with Ceres Acquisition (NEO:CERE,OTCQX:CERAF), a special purpose acquisition company.

Another big player in the state is Massachusetts-based Curaleaf Holdings (CSE:CURA,OTCQX:CURLF). Though not native to Florida, Curaleaf’s presence in the state’s cannabis business is substantial. Of the MSO’s total 101 dispensaries, 37 are in Florida, putting it in third place behind Trulieve and Surterra.

The vertically integrated company also launched the state’s first medical cannabis tablets in September 2019, followed by the first sublingual tablets in July 2020.

Curaleaf put up impressive revenue numbers for 2020, reporting retail revenue of US$423.2 million compared to US$138.7 million in 2019. The company attributed the 205 percent increase to new store openings in its operating states, including five opened in Florida in 2020.

Liberty Health Sciences, which was acquired by Ayr Wellness (CSE:AYR.A,OTCQX:AYRWF) in February 2021 in all-stock transaction, also has a considerable stake in Florida. According to the OMMU, Liberty currently has 36 dispensing locations in the state.

Ayr Wellness plans to increase that footprint to 42 dispensaries by the end of 2021, and has a target of roughly US$4 million in annual retail revenues per store for 2022. In May 2021, the company announced the launch of its Origyn premium concentrate line in the state. The product line includes wax, crumble, Rick Simpson oil and shatter. Ayr has also begun construction of a 10 acre outdoor cultivation expected to be completed in Q3 2021.

Florida cannabis market: Investor takeaway

As its medical marijuana industry continues to grow, Florida has a lot to offer in terms of investment opportunities. BDS Analytics projects that Florida’s medical cannabis market will hit US$1.5 billion in sales in 2021, up 53 percent over 2020 sales.

The research firms predicts that recreational cannabis could be legal by 2023, which would set Florida on a path to become the third largest US legal cannabis market by 2026. Regardless of whether adult use gets the green light that soon, investors should still consider the Sunshine State as a premier cannabis jurisdiction.

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