DENVER, March 21, 2019 /CNW/ -- Following the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD sales have continued their massive growth in the United States and beyond.
- Cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical found in cannabis, has seen a huge growth in sales over the past few years.
- CBD can be derived from hemp, and the passing of a new farm bill in the States makes this form of cultivation legal at a federal level.
- This forms part of wider growth in the cannabis market, as companies expand their operations in North America and even beyond.
Wildflower Brands Inc. (OTC: WLDFF) (CSE: SUN) (WLDFF Profile) is among the companies benefiting from this market, with an increase of more than 300 percent in online sales for its CBD products last year. Tilray Inc. (NASDAQ: TLRY) is expanding with its acquisition of hemp foods company Manitoba Harvest. Canopy Growth Corporation (NYSE: CGC) (TSX: WEED) announced revenue for its fiscal third quarter rose more than 280 percent compared to a year ago. In December, Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON) (TSX: CRON) announced that tobacco company Altria would be taking a $1.8 billion stake in the company. Aphria (NYSE: APHA) (TSX: APHA) has just completed expansion projects that allows it to substantially increase its output.
To view an infographic of this editorial, click here.
CBD Drives Growth for Hemp
Hemp, a plant that has long been out of the public eye, is returning to the spotlight in a big way. A non-intoxicating form of cannabis, hemp was primarily used for centuries as a natural source of fibers, which were used in cloth, rope and even building materials. Many ships in the great age of sailing relied on hemp for their riggings.
But in the sweeping anti-drug crusades of the 20th century, hemp became caught up in attacks on cannabis. Campaigners who were determined to save consumers from their own pleasures had cannabis outlawed at a time when there was little effective way of distinguishing between hemp and other forms of cannabis. No longer needed for cloth and rigging, hemp was made illegal.
Now all that has changed - nowhere more dramatically than in the United States of America.
The Farm Bill
Hemp is making a comeback thanks to the growing popularity of cannabidiol (CBD), an active ingredient found in many forms of cannabis. It's an ingredient that companies such as Wildflower Brands Inc. (OTCQB: WLDFF) (CSE: SUN), a creator of plant-based health and wellness products, have been making extensive use of in recent years. Combined with other naturally occurring plant compounds, full-spectrum CBD is used in a range of Wildflower products, including capsules, topicals, soaps, tinctures and vaporizers.
Until recently, the production of CBD in the United States faced serious restrictions and uncertainties. Many states had legalized the production of cannabis in some form, either for medical or for recreational use. In addition, there were licensed trials of the cultivation of hemp, which can be rich in CBD. But all of these plants were illegal at a federal level, meaning that even with state-level approval, cultivators faced financial limitations and the threat of government action.
All that changed in December with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. One of a regular series of bills governing the U.S. agricultural sector, this bill removes hemp from the list of controlled substances, making it unambiguously legal for farmers to grow hemp. This changes the landscape for CBD products in the States. Companies such as Wildflower, which has already got its products into many outlets in the health and wellness sector, will be able to expand their reach even further.
States have the right to set their own rules around restricted substances, and some states have taken an unsympathetic attitude to CBD. The Farm Bill doesn't force states to change this attitude, but there are already signs that public opinion on all levels are changing. The regulations in many states assume adherence to the federal guidelines, and some states, such as Alabama, have already softened their stance since the Farm Bill became law.
Under the Farm Bill, hemp production will be tightly regulated. Most states already have existing regulations in place, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be developing its own regulations as well. But for an established company such as Wildflower, which already works in California, Washington and New York, this shouldn't be a problem.
Cannabis companies are accustomed to working in a tightly controlled environment and meeting the legal standards set by state legislators, as well as the product standards required by retail outlets. In that context, working within new federal regulations shouldn't present a significant challenge, while the existence of consistent national standards will create opportunities for growth.
CBD Demand Grows
The Farm Bill has been driven in large part by the growing demand for CBD. An obscure and seldom discussed chemical a decade ago, CBD has emerged as an important consumer product. The gradual legalization of cannabis and research into its medical effects drew attention to the fact that those benefits were not all related to THC, the psychoactive chemical that gets cannabis users high. Identified as a chemical with great potential for health and wellness, CBD has started to be marketed in its own right and is used in products such as the Wildflower Wellness line.
Public interest in CBD has grown seemingly from nowhere. Tapping into interest in both cannabis and natural remedies, and offering treatments that may succeed where others have failed, CBD sales have soared. Hemp-derived CBD alone was a $390 million market in 2018 and is expected to reach $1.3 billion by 2022. And that doesn't even include all the CBD products derived from other forms of cannabis.
The results for producers have been staggering. Wildflower saw its online sales grow by more than 300 percent in just nine months in 2018. In response, the company opened its first New York retail store, a sure sign of a product's popularity in an age when so many companies are shedding their brick-and-mortar presence.
Looked at globally, CBD is in even better health. The Brightfield Group has estimated that CBD's value will reach $5.7 billion this year and $22 billion by 2022. While research on the topic is still in its infancy, there is growing evidence that CBD could be used to treat a number of ailments, including certain extreme forms of childhood epilepsy. Even the United Kingdom, a country whose government remains staunchly opposed to the legalization of cannabis, has allowed the use of a CBD drug for this purpose.
Companies producing and selling CBD products are springing up across North America, Europe and beyond. Demand is growing, especially among millennials. That's bolstering the impressive sales of companies such as Wildflower and putting pressure on politicians to further liberalize the laws around hemp.
Making the Most of a New Market
A lot of companies are now making the most of the growing popularity of cannabis, CBD and hemp. With its acquisition of Manitoba Forest, Tilray Inc. (NASDAQ: TLRY) is tapping into an extensive U.S. distribution network and an upcoming line of CBD products.
Manitoba Harvest sells hemp-based granola, protein powder, milk and other food products at more than 13,000 points of sale across the United States.
Canopy Growth Corporation (NYSE: CGC) (TSX: WEED) impressive increase in sales was boosted by the company's first sales of legal recreational marijuana in Canada, which accounted for more than 70 percent of gross revenue. Chairman and co-CEO Bruce Linton attributed the lift to the company's decision to make early, "meaningful" investments that helped it corner a big part of the Canadian market when the law took effect. Canopy Growth is a world-leading diversified cannabis and hemp company, offering distinct brands and curated cannabis varieties in dried, oil and softgel capsule forms.
Cronos Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON) (TSX: CRON), which became the first marijuana stock to uplist from the over-the-counter exchange to a major U.S. exchange, appears poised to benefit from its move with Altria. Altria now has a 45 percent stake in Cronos, with the ability to exercise warrants it also received to boost its stake up to 55 percent. Should those warrants be exercised, Cronos would receive an additional $1.05 billion. Cronos Group is a globally diversified and vertically integrated cannabis company with a presence across five continents. Cronos Group operates two wholly-owned Canadian licensed producers: Peace Naturals Project Inc., which was the first non-incumbent medical cannabis license granted by Health Canada, and Original BC Ltd., which is based in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia.
Aphria (NYSE: APHA) (TSX: APHA) (OTC: APHQF) recently announced that Health Canada has granted the company its license amendment, permitting Aphria to commence production in an additional 800,000 square feet of facilities at its Aphria One location, as part of the company's completed Part IV and Part V expansions. Headquartered in Leamington, Ontario – the greenhouse capital of Canada – Aphria has been setting the standard for the low-cost production of safe, clean and pure pharmaceutical-grade cannabis at scale, grown in the most natural conditions possible.
Savvy companies, such as Wildflower Brands Inc., are making the most of legal moves in the United States and Canada that have created momentum and exciting opportunities for growth.
For more information about Wildflower Brands, please visit Wildflower Brands Inc. (OTCQB: WLDFF) (CSE: SUN).
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