The American cannabis market generates about $50-$60 billion in annual revenue, iAnthus Capital Holdings Inc ITHUF CEO Hadley Ford told the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in a keynote address Wednesday.
That means the legal market has only an 11-percent penetration rate, Ford said — and he expects it to eventually reach roughly 55-percent penetration, comparable to the alcohol industry.
The cannabis market could therefore reach $200 billion, and with the valuation multiples seen today, it could reach $1 trillion, the CEO said.
Competing In Cannabis
Companies must grow quickly in order to stay competitive: it's a game of musical chairs, "but there's not a lot of chairs left," Ford said.
The large New York and Florida markets are essential to a cannabis company's footprint, in the CEO's view. But entering those states is difficult for companies that haven't already made an initial public offering to raise capital, and for that reason Ford said he's expecting a wave of M&A in cannabis in 2019.
A retail presence is a must due to barriers such as filtering of cannabis content by social media companies, Ford said. Cannabis retail locations should have a great location, educated employees and provide a quality customer experience, he said.
A CBD Strategy In 2019
Consumer packaging and beverage companies are likely to make cannabis plays in 2019, and they're going to come in the form of CBD, Ford said.
"CBD is the gateway drug to THC."
This means that companies need to develop a strong CBD strategy in order to maintain their position when the heavyweights step in, the CEO said.
'It's Our Turn'
Ford pointed out that he did not use the word "cannabis" in his keynote speech Wednesday.
“Companies need to focus on the internal and stock aspects of their company to grow," the CEO said.
The companies at the conference are "four to five times undervalued," Ford said.
“My prediction for 2019? It’s our turn now for wealth creation."
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