It’s a writer’s challenge catching-up with a man on the fly and then connecting for a meaningful conversation when he’s on the run. In this case it was trying not miss the opportunity to talk with Bruce Linton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canopy Growth Corp. (TSX:CGC) who is running what’s being called Canada’s Marijuana Unicorn. We had a phone conversation while he was on the move from the airport to downtown Vancouver in preparation to attend the following day’s Canaccord Genuity Cannabis Conference.
While I had a prepared list of questions in hand, it was Linton posing arguably the most important one. “What is medical?” Answering his own rhetorical question he was unequivocal saying, “it is where the most substantial future opportunities are; Intellectual Property creation is very difficult in America because it involves an ingredient you can’t patent.”
Thinking about the magnitude of this Intellectual Property advantage, it’s worth reflecting on the discovery of insulin as an iconic Canadian medical research landmark and how it significantly improved the health of people suffering from diabetes around the world. Here are the highlights from our Q&A with Canopy Growth’s Bruce Linton.
Marijuana stocks are a frenzied space right now, but what do you think will happen when this all calms down. What will the space look like?
There is definitely a frenzy which would be the only way you could justify some of the companies valuations. But, I think like all things that are a bit active or frothy there’s probably a reason, and at the core of it there’s some underlying companies that are actually creating businesses rather than an exit strategy for the owners.
PI Financial analyst Jason Zandberg thinks that in 2019, which he estimates to be the first year after recreational use is permitted, the market will be worth $4.6-billion. He expects this will grow 10 percent annually, reaching $7.4-billion within the first five years, evenly split between medicinal and recreational users. Does this sound about right to you?
I think he’s correct if you apply those numbers to a medical market. No one actually understands it’s not about handing out bud because someone is in pain.
So you think we are moving toward treatments related to specific indications?
You’re going to have a number of companies with drug identification numbers. When you start getting into insurers paid and government paid that means that space is quite a lot largely than many forecast. It’s going to displace a great range of other drugs which are more costly and which insurer don’t want to pay for.
Do you think Canadian marijuana can become an international brand?
It already is; and it has absolutely nothing to do with marijuana, but has everything to do with public policy, and governments run on public policy. Canada’s public policy is the best in the world and is being replicated globally meaning Canadian companies which have a functional advantage. I think you’re going to find globally the only outlier is the US because it’s so fractured on its policy.
There’s a lot of conjecture that multi-national alcohol brands want to enter the marijuana space. Do you see a big roll-up coming?
Of course they are, and the big problem for them is that if you look at their disclosure statements probably for the first time in history in the last two years they list cannabis as major risk and disrupter. With any major risk and disrupter if you’re a big company, you either try to kill them through policy or you acquire them through capital. The policy genie is out of the bottle, so they are going to make acquisitions because what starts to happen in one of the G20 countries will become a contagion through the others. I think it’s a good tension on the trade.
How many Licensed Producers do you think there will be in Canada in three to five years?
There will be two or three dominant ones and probably be 20 micro ones. There’s nothing wrong with micro ones either, as they’re some of the most profitable ones in Canada right now. You can actually have a profitable business by having a niche product.
Is the Canadian marijuana space as a whole undervalued, overvalued, or properly valued right now?
Properly valued for where Canada is today; undervalued if you actually understand the policy framework that’s globally rolling out and the rate at which it’s going; and I would say overvalued in some corners if you don’t look at the underlying production assets.