Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos & Richard Branson: Which Market Leaders Will Make Up The Cannabis Industry Space Race?

As billionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson race for space, who will be the leaders in the nascent cannabis industry as it vaults to astronomical heights?

Operators in various parts of the cannabis industry offered Benzinga their takes. Providing various responses, most focused less on the people and more so the brands and companies that could be headed to the moon, of sorts.

Predicting The Shape Of The Cannabis Space Race In Its Early Stages

The cannabis space race is in its earliest days, providing no clear answers at this time. The uncertainty leaves room for ample speculation and hypothesizing.

Olivia Alexander, CEO of online global cannabis boutique Kush Queen, compared the industry to the dot com bubble.

"At this stage, the industry is so young with so much room for innovation and expansion it is very hard to say how many players are going to remain once the market begins to mature and fully develop on a federal level," Alexander stated.

Marco Eadie, managing director at consulting firm O'Keefe, said that well-capitalized companies would have an advantage over smaller players. "Larger companies will be much more strategic in deploying their capital," he said. Eadie added that market variables, such as state-by-state licensing and capital access, will hinder companies.

Alexander believes that the number of players in the space will hinge on which companies can successfully navigate the tumultuous space, forming a reliable consumer base in the process.

Major MSOs could have to pivot if vertical integration doesn't become part of federal legislation. Trevor Fencott, CEO of Fire & Flower Holdings Corporation FFLWF, believes that vertical integration won't last, thus separating the industry into product and distribution companies.

"Vertical integration is uncommon in most other industries and we believe this will be true of cannabis," Fencott said.

If true, both sides of the market will see "inevitable" consolidation. Like other industries, he expects significant consolidation to lead to three to five global players in each market segment, reflecting many other industries.

Seth Worby, co-founder and managing partner of the Cannabis Creative Group, believes that legalization will eventually lead to the downsizing of current players as major companies swoop in to get in on the action.

"They will find cannabis businesses with impressive revenue potential, brand equity, and operational standards – and they'll snatch them up at a premium too," Worby said.

Non-Cannabis Brands Largely Predicted To Become Eventual Market Leaders

Both major cannabis brands of today and leading non-cannabis companies could become the eventual leaders of the industry's space race.

Worby predicted market leaders will ultimately be determined by scale. "Major corporations such as Pfizer Inc. PFE, Johnson & Johnson JNJ, Procter & Gamble Co PG, et cetera, that have existing distribution and plants in similar markets will quickly emerge at the forefront of this race as soon as federal legalization comes about." 

He added that companies experienced in recreational-focused marketing, like Anheuser Busch Inbev SA BUD and Molson Coors Beverage Co Class B TAP, will also enter and innovate the space post-federal legalization.

"These types of conglomerates have stayed away from the industry because of the federal status and restrictions, but that doesn't mean they are not preparing for a shift," Worby added.

Roger Bloss, CEO of cannabis holding company MJ Holdings, Inc. MJNE, believes Jeff Bezos will be in the race as well, with Amazon.com, Inc. AMZN likely becoming a distribution dominator. Aside from Amazon, he sees brands that are able to excel at both medical and recreational becoming eventual leaders.

Leading cannabis brands weren't excluded from the conversation entirely. Eadie noted increased market caps and double-digit growth from Curaleaf Hldgs Inc. CURLF and Canopy Growth Corp CGC as signs of their strength. He also liked private companies, including Gage Cannabis and its continued focus on growth.

"Each rising star will need to differentiate themselves in this competitive market as groups like Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. HRVSF and Verano Holdings Corp. VRNOF continues to acquire unique cannabis-related companies to strengthen their portfolios," Bloss noted.

Photo: Bradley Dunn on Unsplash

Posted In: Elon MuskGage CannabisJeff BezosKush QueenO'KeefeRichard BransonRoger BlossSeth WorbyTrevor FencottCannabisGovernmentM&ANewsPenny StocksRegulationsSmall CapMarketsInterview

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