The Future of Hemp

by Barrett Wissman 

Over the last few weeks, the financial news has been reporting on the gloomy outlook for the hemp and cannabis industry. This includes not only hemp and cannabis, but derivative products such as CBD oils, seed, flower and biomass. The latest quarterly filing by the largest player in the game, Canopy Growth (NYSE: CGC) gives a sense of the financial hit the sector has taken.

In Canopy Growth’s latest quarterly earnings report announced on November 14th, the Company reported a whopping $374mm (CDN) operating loss for the quarter. This and previous bad news have caused a freefall for Canopy’s stock, which is down around 75% from its highs this year. Other major players like Cronus, Tilray and Aurora Cannabis have suffered similar fates.

Many factors are responsible for the sector’s poor performance: the vaping crisis, an unclear and sluggish regulatory environment and an overly optimistic and frothy outlook for the sector coming into this year are all partially to blame for the downturn. Med Men CEO Adam Bierman was quoted as saying that “the last industry chapter was defined by growth at all costs. Now we’re transitioning out of that chapter, and the transition is harsh and quick.”

Another factor plaguing the sector is that grey and black market activity is still alive and well in an industry with a complex regulatory framework. This activity is having a dilutive effect on the revenues of those playing by the rules. Dozens of small operators are constantly popping up taking advantage of the lack of clarity in the business. They are willing to take risks and generate revenue in areas the regulated leaders in the industry won’t touch.

There are however signs of hope for the hemp industry today. New and agile players have adapted to the markets and are able to maneuver through the industry’s maze of regulations. One such company is Clone Connect (www.cloneconnect.org). If one googles “hemp biomass”, one of the first results to pop up is Clone Connect. I recently collaborated with the company’s founder, Luke Dandrea, a millennial entrepreneur who exudes not only confidence but an energetic passion for the future of hemp.

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