The buzz surrounding the marijuana industry has been almost nonstop in 2018 -- and it's not hard to understand why.
Last month, on Oct. 17, Canada became the first industrialized country in the world to give the green light to recreational pot. In doing so, Canada opened the door to billions of dollars in added annual sales, once the industry is running on all cylinders. Although it could take a few years for production projects to be completed, there's little doubt that this industry will produce at least a handful of long-term winners.
Don't overlook the U.S. cannabis industry
And yet, if things were a bit different, the U.S. would absolutely dwarf Canada's long-term sales potential.
As a refresher, the U.S. federal government has stood firm on its stance of marijuana being a Schedule I substance. This means it's entirely illegal, prone to abuse, and has no recognized medical benefits. This classification for pot comes with a number of disadvantages for cannabis-based companies operating in the United States.
For instance, access to financing is very limited, since banks often refuse to deal with marijuana-based businesses for fear of criminal and/or financial penalties. Pot-based businesses are also exposed to Section 280E of the U.S. tax code, which disallows any corporate income tax deductions, save for cost of goods sold, for companies that sell a federally illicit substance. This usually leads to a very high tax rate being paid by domestic pot stocks compared to a "normal" business.
Still, there's little denying the opportunity that the U.S. market affords. California alone is the fifth-largest economy in the world by GDP, and when fully up to speed could be generating $6 billion to $7 billion in annual sales which, by itself, is more than all of Canada. Tack on some other billion-dollar markets, such as Colorado, Washington, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Florida, and there's plenty of green to be made, even with the federal government holding firm on its scheduling of pot. Today, 32 states have legalized medical marijuana, with 10 of those states also allowing the consumption of adult-use pot.
This marijuana penny stock is making waves in Florida
One such company looking to take advantage of this growth is Liberty Health Sciences (NASDAQOTH: LHSIF). Never heard of Liberty Health? Don't worry, you're probably not alone. A company without "marijuana" or "cannabis" in its name is likely to fly under the radar of many fly-by-night traders. The thing is, Liberty Health Sciences offers long-term, not just flash-in-the-pan, potential.
What's interesting about Liberty Health is that it's focused on Florida's medical marijuana community. While the state isn't the oldest in the U.S. by average age of its residents, it is one of a few common destinations for retirees. And retirees are far more likely than younger Americans to have ailments that would qualify for a medical cannabis prescription. This is what gives Florida its billion-dollar potential with medical cannabis alone.
The company is currently working on an expansion of its capacity (the Liberty 360 Innovation Campus) that'll boost its growing space to 225,000 square feet. Expected to be complete by February, this would give Liberty Health more growing space than any other producer in the state. The reason this is so important is that there are only a little more than one dozen cultivation licenses in the entire state of Florida. This constrains competition and should allow Liberty Health to be a market-share leader.
Also, just last week, Liberty Health Sciences announced that it would nearly double its physical presence within the state. Already operating seven dispensaries and six delivery hubs, the company announced plans to open three new dispensaries by the end of this month and two additional dispensaries next month. This'll bring its physical presence to a dozen stores. Liberty's CEO described the company as "expanding exponentially," which is something that's bound to excite investors.
Liberty Health Sciences may be a surprising bargain
But what should really excite investors is where Liberty Health Sciences is valued relative to its potential. A number of market forecasts have suggested that Florida's medical pot industry could generate $1 billion to $1.3 billion in sales by the end of 2020. Meanwhile, Liberty Health is targeting 15% to 20% market share. Presumably, that gives Liberty Health total sales of anywhere between $150 million at the low end and $260 million at the high end.
Yet, the company has a market cap right now of only $355 million. Assuming Liberty Health can keep its costs under control by 2020, it could be healthfully profitable and valued at around two times its 2020 sales (or less), which would be incredibly cheap for a growth stock.
Of course, a lot depends on how the federal government and Florida treat cannabis going forward. If recreational pot were legalized, it opens new doors for Liberty. If things continue to go the company's way, it could prove to be quite the undiscovered gem in the marijuana industry.
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