The cannabis theme, currently up in smoke

Hue Frame

Frame Funds Management

Why we invested

The cannabis theme first caught our attention in December, when a United Nations (UN) commission voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The decision removed it from being in the company of more dangerous and addictive substances like heroin and cocaine. Many investors around the world looked at this move and saw it as a major step to normalising the substance. Immediately after this announcement, prices of cannabis-related stocks began to climb. 

While the change had no immediate material effect on the space, it was seen as a symbolic victory and a sign to nations that it was acceptable to reconsider punitive criminalision policies. Days later, the US House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE) which decriminalised cannabis on a federal level. 

In January 2021, some states in America began renewed efforts to legalise cannabis locally. Lawmakers in New Mexico, New York, and Connecticut all made overtures to either medicinal or recreational legalisation. A strong first day of legal sales in Illinois also spurred the belief the industry was profitable. 

In February, a group of German researchers published a study demonstrating the benefits of medicinal cannabis on patients with Parkinson’s disease. 

By this time, the continued stream of positive news flow had reached equity markets – from the start of November to the 10th February, AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF had appreciated approximately 183%. 

We began to initiate investments in the theme during the month of December and continued to build positions in companies such as Creso Pharma (ASX:CPH), ECS Botanics Holdings (ASX:ECS) and Elixinol Wellness (ASX:EXL) throughout January. 

Towards the end of January, it became clear Joe Biden would enter the White House with a Democratic House and Senate. In theory, this would make it easier to pass legislative priorities which strengthened thematic tailwinds and confirmed our view that immanent short-term volatility would present opportunities.

Why we exited

We have since exited our investments in the cannabis theme for multiple reasons. 

After significant runs into March, we saw most businesses in the sector become over valued without any real shift in company fundamentals. We also saw a slowing of progress from a governmental and legislation perspective. When it became apparent further legal developments in the industry would be delayed by Congress, prices began to return to more normalized levels, though still inflated. 

In February, companies issued their half-yearly reports and financial statements. The general market reaction was negative, as business fundamentals could not justify current trading levels across the board.

As companies within the sector saw their share price continue to decline in late February and early March, it became apparent the theme required further developments to be in play once again. We subsequently exited our investments.

What we want to see next

To begin reaccumulating investments in the cannabis sector, we would like to see several developments. 

The most important is legalisation, not just in the United States but around the world where there are significant markets for medicinal and recreational cannabis. 

In the United States, legalisation of cannabis would break the regulatory shackles that has been holding the industry back. It would open access to funding from federally registered banks and allow companies who sell cannabis to trade on national stock exchanges (thereby providing easier access to capital). 

Further developments in the medicinal space would also be beneficial for the theme. If positive research continues to be published around the globe, we expect to see renewed investor interest. 

Mergers or acquisitions in the sector would also be positive – this would allow larger companies to gain access to better distribution channels and expand market access. Ultimately the objective is to improve business profits and margins, which will make the companies more attractive investments.

This information is prepared by Frame Funds Management Pty Ltd (ACN 608 862 442) (Frame Funds, we or us) is a Corporate Authorised Representative (CAR No. 123 9068) of Primary Securities Limited (ACN 089 812 812 635) and is intended only for "wholesale clients" within the meaning of sections 761G and 761GA of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). This material is not intended to constitute advertising or advice (including legal, tax or investment advice) of any kind. These materials are not to be distributed to any person who does not qualify as a wholesale client and must not be copied, reproduced, published, disclosed or passed to any other person at any time without the prior written consent of Frame Funds. Primary Securities Ltd (ACN 089 812 635 635, AFSL 224 107) is the Trustee of, and issuer of units in, the Frame Futures Fund (Fund). In deciding whether to acquire, or to continue to hold, units in the Fund please read the current Information Memorandum available from Frame Funds. Past performance of the Fund is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The value of an investment in the Fund may rise or fall. Returns are not guaranteed by any person. Total returns are calculated before tax and after ongoing management costs. In preparing this information, we have not considered your investment objectives, financial situation or personal circumstances and therefore the Fund may not be suitable for you. Neither Frame Funds, Primary Securities Ltd, nor any of their respective related parties, directors or employees, make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy, completeness, reasonableness or reliability of the information contained in this publication or accept liability or responsibility for any losses, whether direct, indirect or consequential, relating to, or arising from, the use or reliance on any part of this material. Any rates of return, forecasts or estimates contained in this publication are not guaranteed. The content of this publication is current as at the date of its publication and is subject to change at any time. It does not reflect any events or changes in circumstances occurring after the date of publication.

3 stocks mentioned

Hue Frame
Founder & Portfolio Manager
Frame Funds Management

Hue Frame is the founder of Frame Funds Management and Portfolio Manager for the Frame Futures Fund and Co-Portfolio of the Frame Long Short Australian Equity Fund.

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