Market Overview

How to Profit Off Marijuana Legalization

Medical marijuana related OTC securities could be an interesting group of companies to watch this year. This is especially true when you consider the fact that support for marijuana legalization is at an all-time high.

The governors of Washington and Rhode Island are petitioning the federal government to reclassify marijuana as drug with medicinal uses so that it can be regulated outside the jurisdiction of federal authorities. Of course, they are not the only states that are taking the decriminalization (and even legalization) of marijuana very seriously.

For instance, take Michigan. It is one of 16 states where medical marijuana was declared legal by voters, yet the Attorney General of Michigan, Bill Schuette, is waging a war on the law and trying to limit when, where and to whom it can be sold.

The state's war on the medical marijuana law (that voters overwhelmingly passed by 61 percent) is so unpopular with the public that a movement to get marijuana fully legalized has begun there. More than 322,600 signatures from registered voters are needed to put the issue on the ballot during the presidential election.

Traders looking to take positions on the increased public support for marijuana, may wish to consider some publicly traded marijuana companies. Although these companies are traded OTC, and therefore fairly risky, they could stand to profit in the event that marijuana is legalized.

However, there's no guarantee Michigan will legalize marijuana. In California--arguably the most pro-marijuana state in the country--voters shot down an act in late 2010 that would've legalized and taxed marijuana. While marijuana is gaining public acceptance, it's unclear whether support for legalization has reached the tipping point amongst voters.

Still, the tide seems to be turning in favor of marijuana. The question now appears to be when marijuana will be legalized, not if.

One company that might benefit from marijuana's legalization is General Cannabis, whose business lies in assisting physicians, dispensaries, and end-users on their websites in locating each other and in managing their businesses (formerly OTC: CANA).

They announced on Friday that they were changing their corporate name to SearchCore effective immediately. Apparently, they made the move to reflect the changing nature of their company, and now want to get into selling lifestyle brands, products and services. Their shares are now trading under the new symbol (OTC: SRER).

SearchCore made some moves near the end of last year that has them in a good position if the legal battle plays out favorably. Its subsidiary company WeedMaps Media purchased Marijuana.com on November 18, 2011 for an undisclosed amount. They plan on integrating Marijuana.com--a popular Internet forum--with WeedMaps.com to build a better website that reaches more people who have a favorable opinion of cannabis.

SearchCore also acquired MMJMenu in December. MMJMenu is the medical marijuana industry's biggest supplier of seed-to-sale collective management and point of sale software. So not only do they have one of the most visited websites, they also own the industry's most used software solution.

They hope that these moves to acquire technological assets that support the medical marijuana industry will lead to more people deciding to use the media, technology, medical and management services that they charge for. Having the marijuana industry's best digital tools in one place could really work out nice for SearchCore.

However, If SearchCore isn't able to monetize their Internet acquisitions; they won't be able to increase their value. Their business model relies on helping doctors, growers and buyers find each other, and if the laws aren't changed they will not be able to fully maximize their profit potential in that aspect. Also, even if the laws do change, there's also no way to really tell if they have what it takes to successfully expand into the tech sector.

Cannabis Science, Inc. (OTC: CBIS) is another company that could benefit from a loosened legal environment. Cannabis Science sells medical cannabis which could be plants grown by patients for their own use, or pharmaceutical products that are developed from one or more of the cannabinoid compounds found in the cannabis plant.

A few weeks ago, Cannabis Science issued a press release where they showed positive photo results of a female patient who had treated her basal cell carcinoma with a topical cannabis ointment. Basal cell carcinoma is a common form of skin cancer and the report shows a series of photos that could serve as documented proof that Cannabis Science's product can be used treat cancerous lesions.

Though the results have yet to pass the scrutiny of scientific peer review or a clinical biopsy, it's an intriguing development that could have significant implications for the company. Cannabis Science is currently working to make their cannabis-based medicines available to the public as soon as possible.

It is also interesting to note that Cannabis Science released their sales guidance and outlook for 2012 near the end of December. The company believes that it will do about $6.846M in sales this year. They also feel that they have the potential to increase sales figures to around $65.74M in 2014, which would demonstrate significant growth.

While these forecasting figures are all well and good, they don't account for one important element: the medical industry lobbyists. Cannabis Science's products may have medical potential, but it seems unlikely that they will be able to grab up a slice of medical market without having to deal with challenges from industry groups and the FDA. Regulations could easily sink their ambitions.

In the past, the FDA has claimed in official statements that marijuana has no medical value. It remains a contentious issue. Given that, treating Cannabis Science's projections with some healthy skepticism seems advisable.

Then we have Rapid Fire Marketing (OTC: RFMK), who announced on Wednesday that their subsidiary Medical Cannabis Management has selected a manufacturer for the new THC e-Cig and is beginning production. They said that they want the new THC e-Cig to be ready for the market in 30 days.

MCM provides marketing, consulting and management services to those in the medical marijuana market. They will reveal the name of their new product after they do a trademark search. MCM is hoping that medical marijuana consumers will be interested in a smoke-free way to use their medical cannabis almost anywhere. It will also eliminate the need to carry around a supply of marijuana all the time since the THC e-Cig uses THC oil and not the raw plant.

Vaporization is more popular than ever before with marijuana users and if MCM can get their THC e-Cig distributed in cannabis friendly states, it could do very well for them. A high-quality vaporizer that is ultra-portable like a regular e-Cig and widely distributed is something that is missing from the medical marijuana market.

Then again, there are no guarantees that a healthy alternative to smoking will get people to change their habits, so keep that in mind. If the tide of the law continues to turn against legalized marijuana, they will have to rely heavily on "head shops" to market their product, which sell marijuana paraphernalia.

And last, but not least, there is Altitude Organic Corporation (OTC: ERBB), a consulting and licensing company. Altitude Organic helps people build their medical marijuana business by offering licenses as part of a family of dispensary chains in Colorado, California and Arizona. They also offer management and staffing services and in December they reported that they have been able to expand their operations to Northern California.

Altitude Organic's dispensaries are the oldest chain of dispensaries in the US and they have a trusted brand name on the West Coast. If the legal conditions for cannabis are loosened in any way in 2012 it may be safe to say that more people will want to enter the legal cannabis market in the 16 states that already have a medical market set up. Altitude Organic could offer entrepreneurs an easy way to get into the marijuana market and they might be worth taking a look at in the chance that marijuana industry is allowed to grow.

If the legal climate changes, a marijuana franchising system could go over well in states that already allow medical use. But growth for Altitude Organic depends completely on policy change, and they could be waiting around a long time for that. If that happens, they will have to continue operating within a small and legally complicated market.

It appears that the legal climate may be the only thing that is keeping the medical marijuana industry from growing. These companies are hoping that acceptance of marijuana will continue to spread. Even if marijuana isn't legalized in Michigan or reclassified federally, these four companies have made themselves an interesting niche market and their regional business may continue to grow.

Of course, the possibility remains that established companies in other industries like tobacco could come in and fill the market demand for marijuana products. However, these companies may provide intriguing possibilities for investors looking to profit from the possibility of marijuana legislation.

Neither Benzinga nor its staff recommend that you buy, sell, or hold any security. We do not offer investment advice, personalized or otherwise. Benzinga recommends that you conduct your own due diligence and consult a certified financial professional for personalized advice about your financial situation.

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