By Nina Zdinjak
“Crisis can be… a catalyst or can speed up changes that are on the way — it almost can serve as an accelerant,” said Arun Sundararajan, an NYU Stern School of Business professor and digital transformation researcher. And, it’s true.
We are all aware that the COVID pandemic has negatively affected the overall economy, though some industries have thrived because of it and not in spite of it. Which ones cross your mind? Pharma? E-Commerce? Online gaming? Ed-tech? Or, cannabis?
As you’re likely aware, the marijuana space experienced growth during the pandemic, albeit quite unexpectedly.
Industries And Stocks That Thrived Amid COVID
But, first things first. Numbers from Census revealed that in the second quarter of 2020, retail e-commerce sales improved 31.8% from the previous quarter, while total retail sales declined 3.9% over the same period.
Retail e-commerce, as the percentage of total retail sales grew from 11.4% to 15.7% during this time, and Q2 retail e-commerce jumped 43.8% compared to the same period of 2019 while total retail sales dropped 3.6%.
In terms of stocks, e-commerce giant Amazon grew 67.64% from January 2020 until today. The other large e-commerce brand Shopify Inc. gained 240.25% over the same period.
Then there’s pharma and online gaming in addition to other stocks that grew under COVID.
Fortune lays out some of them:
The NYSE-traded British-Portuguese online luxury retailer Farfetch managed to reach profitability after 12 years, thanks to the COVID outbreak. In one year, its shares rose 426% from $10.48 to $55.19.
The demand to work from home boosted freelance services platform Fiverr, with the stock gaining 703% from $27.87 to more than $224 (from March 2020 to March 2021).
Consumer electronics and gaming merchandise retailer GameStop experienced an eye-popping one-year return of 6.422% with its shares skyrocketing from $3.70 to $241.34.
What about COVID-19 vaccine developers Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax? From March 2020 till December 2021, Pfizer grew 83.22%, Moderna jumped 509.54%, and Novavax increased 1148.71%.
Marijuana And COVID
So, what about the cannabis industry? Why was the pandemic a breakout moment for the marijuana sector?
There are many factors involved, starting first with having been deemed an “essential” business, which in turn pushed 2020 weed sales to record numbers. When the New York Times noted that the essential service’s designation represented an “official recognition that for some Americans, cannabis is as necessary as milk and bread,” many agreed that in times of crisis we all turn to that which brings us comfort, peace and helps alleviate stress. Not to mention those who use cannabis for medical purposes and wisely purchased extra because who knows what might happen?
Thankfully, that we know of, there were no shortages among patients when the boom hit. “Cannabis sales exploded in many parts of North America in 2020, with the likes of Oregon seeing a 30% increase compared with the previous year. Meanwhile, in Canada, half of the cannabis users increased consumption during the first wave of COVID-19, according to the country’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health,” reported Investment Monitor.
According to Geoff Miller, director of Cannafi Group, a Guernsey-based cannabis finance business, “Because cannabis can be easily ordered online, it has ridden the COVID eCommerce wave. Then, in terms of investment, it has also been a booming time [thanks to] the vast amount that retail investors have been pumping into many different sectors — because they have got nothing else to do — and the fact that we have still got ultra-low interest rates so asset prices have been squeezed higher and driven up general investment activity.”
What’s more, the industry in general, and cannabis companies in particular, made innovative choices to help to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Hemp businesses manufactured cotton swabs for medical needs and marijuana companies donated protective equipment to front-line health workers.
The timely and efficient launch of curbside pickup and delivery services facilitated consumers in need while unintentionally serving to create a positive image of the industry as serious players in good times and bad. The cannabis industry stepped up.
What about publicly traded cannabis companies?
Large marijuana operator Curaleaf Holdings (CSNX: CURA) has seen its shares improve 73.22% from March 2020 to December 2021. Over the same period, Village Farms International gained 95.52%, GrowGeneraion Crop grew 168.15%, and Innovative Industrial Properties advanced 175.63%.
In addition, AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF gained 40.11%, which is notable even though below SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust that grew 67.28%.
It is important to note that most of the cannabis stocks have seen their shares spike in February this year or one year since the pandemic hit in March 2020. By the end of the year, most of those stocks declined.
Cannabis Industry Projections – Why You Should Consider Investing?
Why should the industry continue to grow and why should you consider investing in it?
Several things point to further industry development, the most important of which is the ongoing legalization trend both across the U.S. and globally. So far, 18 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis sales, while more than 30 states now permit some form of medical cannabis.
What’s more, both Democratic and GOP lawmakers have each introduced marijuana legalization proposals, indicating that federal reform just might be around the corner.
When it comes to Europe, this year, Malta became the first country in the EU to legalize marijuana, Germany recently announced plans to legally allow weed sales, which will establish the biggest EU market with $3.5 billion in expected annual tax revenue. Switzerland launched a legal adult-use cannabis market trial to study for future regulation.
In addition to the ongoing global marijuana legalization trend is the overall shift in people’s approach to general health. Over the years, the focus has started to shift from, well, literally everything around us to closer to home: ourselves. Now more than ever, people seem to be interested in healthy food, nature, finding time for themselves, ways to minimize stress, improving sleep and the importance of physical and mental health.
And this is exactly where the cannabis plant fits in perfectly.
Whether users are interested in a non-psychoactive application through a plethora of CBD products or are looking for a full-power THC experience, cannabis has the capacity to provide both. More and more scientific studies are uncovering the knowledge and views on the benefits of cannabis that were held by our ancestors.
On the medical side, advances are already moving at a clip, with medical cannabis serving as a viable option for children suffering from rare types of epilepsy for starters. A recent study on cannabis and breast cancer revealed that medical marijuana drives 6x improvement in killing cancer cells; another study on CBD provides hope for the most aggressive type of brain cancer.
And these studies are just the beginning. Once the legal status of cannabis is resolved on the federal level, even more research can be undertaken that will ultimately benefit the entire industry, including consumers, those in need of cannabinoid medicines and investors.