The Cannabis Industry Just Hit a Huge Milestone. Here’s What That Could Mean for Investors

Cannabis is more prevalent today than it was even just a few years ago. People are using it more often, and attitudes are changing. Data from Pew Research indicates that close to 90% of U.S. adults are in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

And many people in favor of legalization are likely cannabis users, as the industry continues to get bigger. MJBiz Factbook projects that retail sales for the U.S. cannabis market could top nearly $57 billion by 2028, up from just $30 billion in 2022.

And recently, the industry reached a big milestone.

Marijuana use now surpasses alcohol use on a daily basis

According to a recent survey, there are now more Americans who use cannabis on a daily basis than those who drink alcohol daily. The self-reported data indicates a 20 times increase in the number of daily cannabis users from 1992 to 2022.

Part of the reason could be the growing acceptance of marijuana and people being more comfortable in admitting that they use the substance, but a large part is also likely due to the growing number of states where cannabis is available legally.

Not only has the growth in daily cannabis use taken off, but it has done so while daily alcohol use has been much more stable in recent years. Back in 1992, there were 10 times as many daily-alcohol users as there were daily-cannabis users. Not only has that gap shrunk, but cannabis on a daily basis now appears to be more popular.

Why this matters for investors

This data is important for investors for multiple reasons. First, it highlights the growing importance of cannabis in the U.S. economy. It identifies the growth opportunities in the cannabis industry, which may entice more businesses to focus on cannabis products and potentially invest in the industry.

While some beer makers, including Constellation Brands and Anheuser-Busch InBev, have shown interest in cannabis in the past, there generally hasn’t been a big movement from other industries to get exposure to marijuana, and that’s likely due to legalization, which brings me to my next point: It may only be a matter of time before there’s broad reform coming for the industry.

The data emphasizes the importance of cannabis voters. It’s another election year, and one issue which has the potential to win over voters is the prospect of marijuana legalization. While pot is legal in dozens of states, it’s still banned at the federal level, and thus, it’s still illegal to carry it across state lines.

While legalization doesn’t appear to be at the forefront of any presidential campaign right now, this survey data does suggest it could be a factor in the future, and many investors have been buying shares of cannabis stocks in the hope that legalization may be around the corner.

Legalization could attract more growth-oriented investors to the cannabis industry, and it may also lead to larger companies from other industries partnering with marijuana businesses.

Pot stocks are a high-risk, high-reward opportunity

For growth investors, there can be a lot of appeal in the cannabis industry. Canadian-based marijuana giant Canopy Growth (CGC -1.68%) often sees its valuation surge when there’s any hype or talk about marijuana reform. That’s because with the company launching Canopy USA, a special purpose vehicle for holding its U.S.-based assets (which it can’t incorporate into its current operations until legalization takes place), it’s positioning itself to be a top marijuana company in the U.S. in the future.

The risk, however, is that the business isn’t profitable, it’s burning through cash, and the big payoff is riding on hopes relating to legalization. If it happens in the near future, Canopy Growth could easily double or triple in value. But if it doesn’t happen, or it takes too long to the point where the company struggles to keep its business afloat, investors could end up losing everything.

Should you invest in cannabis stocks today?

Investing in an unprofitable business is risky. And investing in a stock based on hopes of government reform and factors outside of its control is even riskier. That’s why for the vast majority of investors, cannabis stocks aren’t likely to be suitable investments. While there’s a lot of potential there in the long run, there’s also plenty of risk.

If you have a high-risk tolerance and are OK with the prospect of potentially waiting several years, at least, for your investment to pay off, then the cannabis industry may be a suitable area for you to invest in. But if that’s not the case, you may be better off pursuing safer growth stocks instead.

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