Reefer Madness!

Posted by Bill Bonner - Diary of a Rogue Economist & Chris Hunter

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Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 12.22.33 PMAn old friend contacted us last week with a business opportunity. More and more US states – not to mention Canada – are making it legal for people to smoke weed. 

“Look, we all know that the use of medical marijuana is not limited to terminal cancer patients. You just go to the doctor. You tell him you have a pain here… or there. He prescribes you weed. If not, you get a different doctor. 

“People don’t like to see young people smoking pot because they think it stunts their growth. I mean intellectually. And their careers. Marijuana seems to slow them down. 

“But it’s not young people who are driving this trend. It’s older people. They tried it when they were young. And now they’ve got plenty of aches and pains. And they know marijuana can help them. And it won’t do them any harm. This market is huge. And it’s growing… well… like a weed.” 

Yes, dear reader, another new high. The Bubble Era is boiling them up everywhere. Record stock prices. Record debt. Record junk-bond issuance. Record household wealth increases. 

Heck, records were meant to be broken. When one high is registered, there is bound to be a new high coming down the pike sooner or later.

A New High

We checked into our hotel in Aiken: 

“You’re aware of our smoking policy?” asked the desk clerk. 

“No,” we replied. “Is smoking prohibited or obligatory?” 

“Huh? Oh… you’re not allowed to smoke anywhere in the hotel.” 

“Does that apply to medical marijuana as well as to tobacco?” 

“Uh… you’re joking, right?” 

“Right.” 

But it was a good question. Dope is coming. Hotels are required to have ramps, elevators and wheelbarrows to haul their gimpy-legged guests. An ad in the newspaper told us that landlords, too, are required to cater to those who can’t get through the door on two pins. 

Soon, hotels may be required to accommodate potheads too. 

Why? 

It could be a medical condition… a federally-protected disability. Those with a doctor’s prescription will be able to puff on weed even in non-smoking places. Roach clips will be provided in the lobby! 

Forbes reports that marijuana stocks are hitting record highs… and minting their first billionaires: 

You have probably never heard of Bart Mackay, a 57-year-old Las Vegas lawyer who works on various ventures like Dot Vegas, which operates the Vegas top-level domain. But on paper, Mackay is the first pot-stock billionaire. 

Mackay’s holdings in CannaVest, which bills itself as the world’s leading hemp-based investment company, are valued at $1.8 billion. That figure might seem like a drug-induced hallucination, but it’s technically true. CannaVest is the top-performing stock in America in 2014 with a market capitalization greater than $1 billion. 

Its thinly-traded shares, which change hands on the Over-The-Counter Bulletin Board, or “pink sheets,” have soared by 680 percent in the last year. They are already up more than 300 percent in 2014. The average daily volume of about 10,900 shares has been light this year, but someone is buying the stock and the $117 it closed at on Friday makes Mackay the world’s first pot stock billionaire thanks to his 15.7 million shares in CannaVest.

Hostile Takeover

“Let’s not delude ourselves,” continued our entrepreneurial friend, “this is a hostile takeover of a multibillion-dollar industry. 

“It’s all about control and money, not freedom. It will be heavily licensed, regulated and taxed. There will be a lot of money in it… it’s like the liquor business when they got rid of prohibition. 

“If you legalized pot, prices would collapse. Nobody wants that. What they’re really doing is shifting the margins from the smugglers and dope dealers to the government. 

“You’ll be able to get pot… without worrying about going to jail or associating with shady characters. The quality is much higher than the stuff we smoked in college. And the people in the business – licensed producers, wholesalers and retailers – will make a lot of money. So will the government. Everybody will be happy. 

“We heard an example recently: Dad (67-years-old) was plagued all his life by depression. Practically ruined his life. Then a woman at his church – at church! – introduced him to marijuana. 

“Now, he smokes dope… and he’s fine.” 

Regards,

 

Bill


Market Insight:
Should You Invest 
in Pot Companies? 

From the desk of Chris Hunter, Editor-in-Chief, Bonner & Partners

It may sound crazy, but one day marijuana may be as legally available in the US as alcohol. 

That means for anyone with a long-term time horizon… and able to stomach plenty of volatility along the way… investing in marijuana stocks could see big returns. 

Already, 20 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. And as the New York Times reports: 

A little over a year after Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana [for recreational use], more than half the states, including some in the conservative South, are considering decriminalizing the drug or legalizing it for medical or recreational use.

Proving this isn’t a partisan issue, the two states likeliest to legalize marijuana next are Democratic-controlled Oregon and Republican-controlled Alaska. 

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department and Justice Department have released guidelines that will make it easier for banks to do business with legitimate marijuana businesses without fear of criminal charges. 

There’s certainly a strong fiscal case for legalizing marijuana. According to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, taxes from legal marijuana sales will reach $134 million in the coming fiscal year – much higher than had been predicted when the measure was passed in 2012. 

None of this means the path to marijuana being as freely available as alcohol will be a smooth one. Pot is still illegal at the federal level. And there are plenty of vocal opponents of legalization. 

But today, 51% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll. That’s up from 27% in 1979, when the New York Times and CBS first asked the question. 

Until marijuana is legalized under federal law, though, view any investment in marijuana-related stocks as a speculation. And like any speculation, you need to adhere to strict position-sizing rules. 

That means keeping any investment in marijuana stocks as a small portion of your overall portfolio. An unforeseen change in the law could wipe out your stake.