“Almost 4:20 on 4/20, pretty exciting,” said CNBC reporter Frank Holland as he welcomed the crowd at Benzinga’s Cannabis Capital Conference before interviewing Irwin Simon, CEO of Tilray inc. (NASDAQ: TLRY), the leading global cannabis-lifestyle and consumer packaged goods company with operations in Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia and Latin America.
Cannabis Market Will Surpass Natural Organic Foods’ Market And Tilray Is Ready
Simon referred to the cannabis industry as “exciting” and compared it to the organic food industry. He recalled that when he started Hain Celestial Group one of the largest organic food companies in the world, people thought he was a “tree-hugger” and that no one he knew would dream of eating plant-based, organic foods.
“This industry reminds me so much of the natural organic food industry, the natural organic food industry in the U.S. today is well over $100 billion dollars in size and this industry will actually surpass that,” Simon said and then advanced his vision for Tilray.
“Tilray will own Canada. It’s the largest in Canada today, and it will get bigger. This is an industry that is 3.5 years old and because cannabis is not legalized in the U.S, you can’t bring in the institutional shareholders (…) and I love retail shareholders. Today they are probably about 80% of the shareholder base of Tilray. We’ve traded 25, 30 million shares today. If I was on the Canadian Stock Exchange I might have traded 200,000 shares today. This industry is going to continue to take off.”
A Look At The Calendar
Simon said he asked lawmakers in Congress to look at the benefits of federal legalization of cannabis in Canada and pass the MORE Act.
”If you ask constituents today, 65 to 70 percent want recreational cannabis legalized. If you look at Canada, Canada got about $18 billion dollars over the last three years, creating $6 billion in infrastructure. So multiply that by ten, and look at the tax dollars we’re losing in the U.S,” Simon said.
He also noted that people who are in prison for cannabis should be released and get jobs in the industry. The CEO called on the crowd at the Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami to look at the election calendar and act responsibly.
“Schumer was supposed to place his bill today, now it’s delayed to August. What is August? It is five months away from the November elections, (sic).”
With recreational sales beginning in New Jersey on Thursday (April 21), some may wonder whether this is going to be an inflection point for the industry as people are expected to cross state lines from Philadelphia and New York to buy recreational cannabis, thus building momentum to reform cannabis laws, pass the MORE Act, the SAFE Banking Act or the COA Act.
Simon explained that the investments to build infrastructure to grow and sell cannabis, as well as marketing to consumers, can be difficult under the current legal framework. Since Tilray is listed on the NASDAQ and cannot own a cannabis license, Simon plans to keep acquiring U.S.-based spirits companies and brands. He expects that federal legalization will put an end to the lines outside of cannabis shops.
When asked about the relationship between federal legalization, the end of social stigma around cannabis and the flow of capital from large companies, Simon replied: “From a federal standpoint, I don’t know if federal legalization needs to happen. What needs to happen is the SAFE Banking Act. No one has ever overdosed on cannabis. You’re going to see ‘Big Pharma,’ and liquor companies, like Phillip Morris… they’re going to have to get in there. Ultimately you can only sell so many tequilas, but infused with THC? Is that a big market? Absolutely.”
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