The marijuana bubble will burst

Everybody and his dog, it seems, is getting on the marijuana bandwagon. Investors from the U.S. are apparently lining up for some of the action, visions of large profits dancing in their heads. Are we going to have another one of those goofy investment ‘bubbles,’ that inevitably pop and reveal how over-optimistic the whole thing was?

For sure there’s a new legal market to be exploited. The big question nobody really knows the answer to is what is it’s limit. When does investing move from acceptably risky into recklessness?

One thing we know is that an Alberta company called Aurora Cannabis, was in early and went big, banking on being ready to roll when most of the others were just waking up to the possibilities.

And what are those possibilities? Medical marijuana is one side of the equation. That’s likely the easier one to predict. Apparently it really works. In fact we spoke recently to a respectable gent in Slave Lake who has gone through the hoops for the right to use prescription Mary Jane for chronic back pain. Figuring out the right dose, he says, is tricky but interesting.

How about the recreational side of the equation? It seems the sky is the limit. But what nobody knows is how much more use there might end up being when the stuff is legal. Word on the street is the illegal trade has been a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada. But a lot of that has probably been exported to that big market south of the border. Is there any chance that could continue, legally? If not, the smuggling will continue.

But gauging the size of the rec MJ market in Canada, or in Alberta alone – that must be keeping the experts up at night. Nobody wants to be on that bubble when it bursts. But it will, and some will lose out.

Meanwhile, a new legal industry for Alberta and elsewhere in the country means mucho tax dollars for governments to invest in health care, education, roads and so forth. That, we can probably agree, is good or at least useful. If people are going to consume this stuff anyway, goes the thinking, why shouldn’t there be some benefit to the public purse?

The social impacts of increased pot? We will find out. Our guess is less negative than those of booze. Maybe a lot less. Health impacts? Safety? There’s a lot of ‘wait and see’ in the equation.

One report on the usage situation in Colorado, where pot is legal, shows use among teens actually declining since legalization. Adult use is up a bit in the same period, says a report in the Washington Post. No reasons were given. But it suggests, at least, that legalization did not result in the big increases many predicted.

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