A recent cannabis investment article paralleled the end of Alcohol Prohibition in the United States with the end of Cannabis Prohibition.
The intent of the article was laudable. The writer pointed out that while (legal) alcohol is nearly a $250 billion per year industry in the U.S. today, alcohol stocks initially went down – not up – immediately after Prohibition ended.
However, it’s a flawed comparison. Alcohol is a one-trick pony. It is a recreational drug (only).
Cannabis is also a recreational drug. A much safer recreational drug. But this is only one of the countless commercial applications associated with cannabis.
Alcohol Prohibition was ended because the U.S. government (and the U.S. population) could no longer tolerate the negative consequences of Prohibition.
Here there is no parallel with cannabis.
Our governments were forced (by the courts) to provide legal access to cannabis because of the plethora of potent medicinal properties associated with the cannabis plant. It is only now, as full cannabis legalization becomes inevitable, that the politicians are also admitting that cannabis Prohibition was a colossal mistake.
The global market for pharmaceutical products is roughly the same size as the global market for alcohol. Both are ~$1 trillion per year industries.
Immediately, we see the cannabis industry has double the commercial potential of alcohol, post-Prohibition. However, while these are the largest commercial applications for cannabis, they still represent just a starting point.
Cannabinoids, the active ingredients in the cannabis plant are good for us. The human body naturally produces its own cannabinoids. They are essential for human health.
Consequently, there is virtually unlimited potential for cannabis products as health supplements, nutrition supplements, and cosmeceuticals. More global markets, with twelve-figure ($100’s of billions) potential.
Even here, we are only looking at commercial applications associated with cannabis itself. When we expand our gaze to include the industrial potential of hemp, the commercial possibilities are virtually infinite.
Recent news about an all-hemp aircraft, powered by hemp biofuel puts an exclamation point on this.
We already knew that hemp produces superior fiber for cloth, paper, and related products – everything necessary for the construction of the interior of an aircraft.
However, hemp can also be fabricated into a construction material that is ten times stronger than steel. And this five-passenger aircraft constructed entirely from hemp is powered by a hemp biofuel.
Hempearth, the Canadian company pioneering this technology, believes that a hemp composite could eventually replace fiberglass (another multi-billion dollar market).
Hi-tech applications for hemp? How about a hemp-derived battery that (according to its designer) can generate performance “significantly better” than from lithium-ion technology?
Dr. David Mitlin is currently teaming up with Alternet (a Texas-based electric motorcycle company) to power its motorbikes with hemp batteries.
In short, there is no other organic (soft) commodity that demonstrates commercial potential that is even remotely comparable to the cannabis plant. Indeed, in the entire global economy, only one hard commodity offers a reasonable comparison to cannabis: crude oil.
Like cannabis, one of the applications of crude oil (obviously a very important one) is as fuel. But as technology advanced, we rapidly discovered that oil could be integrated into the global economy in a vast array of commercial/industrial applications.
In fact, oil has become so deeply integrated into the global economy that we continue to rapidly exhaust the supply of this non-renewable commodity. The production of oil is becoming increasingly expensive and (in many cases) is generating catastrophic environmental consequences.
In contrast, not only is cannabis a renewable commodity. It is much more eco-friendly than most commercial crops in that cultivation only causes minimal depletion of soil nutrients.
This means that cannabis can be consistently cultivated over the long term without the negative consequences associated with other major commercial crops (excessive use of fertilizers, toxic run-offs, etc). It’s nicknamed “weed” for a reason.
For investors contemplating the carnage of the horrific and irrational selloff in marijuana stocks, this needs to be kept in focus.
Accusations in the mainstream media that the legal cannabis industry is “a bubble” reflect laughable ignorance. It will take decades from the time that cannabis is fully legalized before it can begin to reach its true commercial potential.
It’s like calling the crude oil market “a bubble” – 100 years ago.
This is why cannabis companies are making such heavy capital investments. And it’s one reason why the diversified cannabis companies haven’t yet made the transition to profitability.
The overall opportunity in legal cannabis is so enormous and so broad that the companies on the inside of this massive growth opportunity feel compelled to advance operations on several fronts.
Medicinal cannabis. Recreational cannabis. Cannabis nutraceuticals. Cannabis cosmeceuticals. Emerging international markets to pursue. And then there are the million-and-one industrial applications associated with hemp.
It is a commercial opportunity unparalleled in the global economy today. The new “Crude Oil”.