"There's going to be a shakeout in the public companies," predicted Scott Greiper, president of Viridian Capital and Research, a New York firm that services the marijuana sector, including its stock index. "It comes down to who's investing my money and running the company. The most important challenge for this industry is the emergence of professional, seasoned executives, operators and board members running both public and private companies."
Investors worried about putting their money into public companies that legally grow and sell pot might feel safer dealing with the industry's many ancillary businesses, including consulting, biotech, real estate and software companies. These include CannaGrow Holdings (CGRW), in Centennial, Colorado, which provides services to licensed pot growers in the state; and Totally Hemp Crazy (THCZ), a Dallas-based maker of hemp-infused beverages that recently signed a distribution agreement with a Dr Pepper bottler in Oklahoma.
That's the strategy guiding Cheryl Shuman, a high-profile proponent of medicinal marijuana, which she consumed in her own cancer treatment, and founder of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club that bills itself as "the definitive authority on connoisseurship for discerning cannabis consumers."
Shuman got burned in a pump-and-dump penny stock scheme—several of which have been uncovered by the SEC—and doesn't invest in publicly traded cannabis companies anymore, instead putting her money into private licensing, media and real estate companies.
"My pride and joy is working with Native American properties," she said, alluding to last year's announcement by the U.S. Justice Department that Native Americans can legally grow and sell marijuana on their sovereign lands. "We have 78,000 acres now in the ground."
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Shuman attends city council meetings and Congressional hearings to learn about what properties are zoned for marijuana retailers and cultivation. "It gives me legal, inside information," she said, "and anyone can go to those meetings. If you are going to invest in the stock market, go to industry expos and events, like Weedstock and CannaCon, and get to know the people behind the companies."