I guess now pretty much everyone has jumped aboard the Marijuana bandwagon — the Motley Fool is a bit later to the party, having just announced its Marijuana Masters investing service ($1,499, no refunds), helmed by David Kretzmann (a new name to me), so let’s see what it is that the typically much more mainstream Foolies are pitching…
“Tom Gardner’s favorite marijuana stock is up 215% in the past year…
“And we think it’s just getting started
“Read on to learn more about the little company Tom compares to Shopify… and how you can secure instant access to my top 10 marijuana BUY recommendations!”
And apparently they’re starting off with a 10-stock marijuana portfolio…
“Today, I have 10 official marijuana BUY recommendations waiting for you directly inside Marijuana Masters.
“One of which was actually brought to my attention by Tom Gardner himself.
“In fact, it’s Tom’s No. 1 marijuana company in the world at the moment.”
So what else do we learn about it? Apparently Kretzmann has dug into Tom’s idea and likes it…
“But knowing just how bullish Tom was on this tiny marijuana stock, I dug into the company’s financials and decided it deserved a spot among our initial 10 official recommendations inside Marijuana Masters.
“Tom calls this stock a ‘first mover’ with ‘a great balance sheet’ that compares to Shopify, a favorite stock of his that’s returned 408% since he first recommended it in July 2016. Of course, we can’t promise performance like that for this recommendation, but this stock leaves us with lots of reasons to feel bullish.”
Any other clues?
“With inside ownership above 30% and dedicated co-founders still at the helm, I’m personally convinced that this company can turn its early lead in this space into a long-lasting competitive advantage as it expands the scope of its products and scale of distribution.”
We also get a little taste of Kretzmann’s big picture enthusiasm…
“… why now?
“As you may know, on Oct. 17, Canada will become the first major country to legalize recreational marijuana on a national level. Which means, just two weeks from today, Canadians will literally be able to walk into a store and purchase cannabis just as if it were beer.
“And then right on the heels of that are the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 6. Four states are voting on marijuana laws, and many others have bills in progress whose fate could be determined by the election’s outcome.
“With these two major catalysts at hand, I believe this is a decisive moment for investors like us.”
So… what’s the stock? Here are the rest of our hints:
“Marijuana Masters Pure Play Stock #1 – ‘The Amazon.com of Marijuana’
“Just like Amazon.com, this company aims to be ‘your everything cannabis store.'”
And a few more details…
“With a whopping 32 different e-commerce sites operating across 20 countries, and 1.5 million users in its database, it’s already one of the most popular cannabis brands out there.
“And that doesn’t even take into account its telemedicine app, which allows individuals to receive online video consultations with licensed health care professionals and obtain a medical marijuana prescription.”
The stock is apparently up 1,200%, too… though that doesn’t necessarily make them stand out as a marijuana stock, not in a sector where nuttiness is the new normal (at least for now), and they seem to be monkeying around with time periods a bit if they’re describing it as having risen both 215% and 1,200%.
Any other clues?
We do get this:
“… the most exciting part of the ‘Amazon.com of Marijuana’ is it’s on the brink of becoming the first company to sell cannabis via an online marketplace.”
So who is it? Thinkolator sez this must be: Namaste Technologies (N.V in Toronto, NXTTF OTC in the US), which is trying to build a marketplace first for medical marijuana then, perhaps, for recreational retail sales in the future. They do indeed match those clues, claiming 32 e-commerce sites in 20 countries and a 1.5 million user database, along with a Teladoc-like medical consultation service (NamasteMD) that lets you get your medical marijuana prescription with a virtual doctor visit, and the Shopify and Amazon comparisons make some sense given Namaste’s focus on growing an e-commerce platform for Canadian medical marijuana (though plenty of companies are talking about using Shopify itself to build their own marijuana stores, too).
There has been a lot of controversy over Namaste recently, moreso even than the other richly-valued marijuana stocks, mostly because management has done some really dumb things (particularly hosting a wild party for shareholders who pledged not to sell for 90 days… even as executives were reportedly selling shares)… and Andrew Left at Citron Research has a very aggressive short/fraud analysis out there right now, so if you’re going to consider Namaste, you should at least review his short thesis and Namaste’s response. I don’t know if Tom Gardner still likes the stock or has an opinion on the controversy, but clearly David Kretzmann is a fan at current prices.
If you want to read those competing reports, Citron’s two fraud allegations and the argument that Namaste will never get a Nasdaq listing (and might be delisted by the TSXV) and should be worth about 25 cents a share are here and here, and Namaste’s response is here.
Andrew Left is a bit of a blowhard, to be sure, and pushes his arguments very aggressively without always being right… but he’s also a short seller, so he’s careful with his facts and has a lot more at risk than I do, so I take his arguments seriously. And in this case, frankly, his accusations are a lot more compelling than the company’s tepid and pretty generic “nuh uh, we didn’t do anything wrong” response. That doesn’t mean Namaste is definitely a fraud, but I don’t see a lot to make them compelling compared to other Canadian marijuana companies, and I don’t like most of the rest of them at current prices, either… so it does mean that it costs me nothing to not buy the shares, and that’s what I’ll be doing.
The positive thing, I suppose, is that this isn’t a grower… they do have some kind of investment in a growing operation, and they primarily sell vaping supplies right now, but their goal is to be an e-commerce leader in medical marijuana, and essentially an online retailer of marijuana that’s produced by other companies — so they might not be as impacted by fluctuating wholesale prices in the early years as the growers could be (particularly the smaller or higher-cost growers)… but then they also will presumably have difficulty in establishing their own brands, since they won’t control their inputs, and they do need good grower relationships (Tilray dropped them, for example, after Namaste got in trouble with Canadian regulators over their marketing and their stupid “pledge party” a few weeks ago).
The goal of turning their CannMart e-commerce platform into the “next Amazon” is a delightfully lofty one, but there were hundreds of “might become Amazons” in the mid-1990s, and most of them aren’t with us any more, so be careful about how much survivorship bias you use in your rear-view mirror. Amazon itself might not have made it if they didn’t get a big chunk of financing right before the dot com crash. (If that’s before your memory, they did a $1.25 billion convertible bond financing in 1999 that lots of people thought was crazy at the time, not long before experiencing a 90%ish fall in the stock price.)
There are a few other ideas teased in the ad, but that’s the match for “Tom Gardner’s favorite” … I’ll see if I can dig up those other answers for you, but, as you’re probably well aware, I’m not all that enthusiastic about most of these companies at this point — is the Motley Fool’s decision to enter the space just another opportunistic publishing gambit, or does it mean that marijuana is ready to really go mainstream as an investment?
You’ll have to make your own call on that, but when it comes to my portfolio I’m being very cautious in this space. The business overall will clearly be quite large and the top line numbers will probably grow quickly if there isn’t a major regulatory setback in the US, but there’s a lot of junk out there… and in the closely-watched Canadian market we’ve got a massively financed and enthusiastic industry that’s perfectly capable of wildly overproducing and crushing wholesale prices for growers. Most of these dozens of heavily hyped companies probably won’t exist in a few years, or will be shadows of their current selves, so if you’re investing in the sector make sure to understand what makes your company financially viable or likely to succeed — part of that calculation will just be financing, the companies that raise hundreds of millions of dollars at these rich valuations will survive a downfall more easily because they’ll have enough money to make payroll when stock prices hit a soft spot, but predicting the actual eventual victors who have the best retail presence or the best brands or the lowest cost structure probably requires a lot of foresight and luck at this point.
And if you’ve got thoughts to share on your favorite, or want to challenge Tom Gardner to a virtual marijuana stock duel on this point, well, feel free to comment below.
Disclosure: I own shares of Shopify, Amazon and Teladoc among the companies mentioned above. I will not trade in any covered stock for at least three days after publication, per Stock Gumshoe’s trading rules.