ETF Archives - Page 2 of 2 - Green Market Report

Debra BorchardtMarch 5, 2018


There is strong demand for ETF’s (Exchange Traded Funds) with cannabis stocks, but the barriers in the marketplace have made filling that demand difficult. Investors would like to put their money in an ETF versus indivdual stocks because they can diversify their holdings, but also because they can rely on a portfolio manager to do the research.

Since there can be so many sketchy marijuana stocks that are publicly traded, investors prefer someone else do the homework to make sure they are investing in a quality company. Normally Wall Street is thrilled to create a financial instrument where there is demand. Hey they’ll create financial instruments even where there isn’t demand and convince investors they want it. Yet the cannabis ETF is a tricky challenge to solve.

“There are two problems I see with the public trading of anything cannabis,” said David Friedman, CEO of Panther Capital. “First is the regulatory fear around the custody and trading of the underlying securities. There are regulatory risks as well as reputational ones.” Friedman added, “The second is the liquidity of the underlying assets and the ability to trade them.”

Custodial Banks

So, let’s unpack that first problem where we dive into the back office. The assets of an ETF in the U.S. have to be custodied in a U.S. bank. It can’t be offshore or in Canada. The custodial bank actually holds the securities of the ETF. This is why the main cannabis ETF’s are in Canada with the Horizons company. The Marijuana Life Sciences ETF trading under the ticker HMMJ and the Emerging Marijuana Growers Index (HMJR).

Recently, the Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ) launched with great fanfare as the only U.S. cannabis ETF. Then just as quickly, its custodian U.S.Bancorp changed its mind and declined to hold the assets. The fund used to invest in Latin American Real Estate, but with the money pouring into Horizons fund the ETF did a pivot and set itself up for cannabis.

The custodial bank has the right to terminate the contract and must give the company notice, which is usually 90 days. During this time, the ETF company can go look for another bank, except in this case that is easier said than done. Since marijuana is still federally illegal and the Cole Memorandum was recinded by the Justice Department, banks are extremely reluctant to do business with any cannabis company, even if it doesn’t “touch the plant.” If Alternative Harvest can’t replace the bank and find another custodian, it would more than likely be forced to close the fund and liquidate the holdings it has already amassed. The fear is that a large scale dumping of cannabis stocks would wreak havoc on the cannabis companies as their stock prices would plunge. For now though, the MJ is up and running.

This is why the Horizons ETF has been so successful and now has C$720 million in assets under management. Banks in Canada haven’t had the same issue as the U.S. banks since that country has legalized medicinal marijuana. Mark Noble, head of Sales Strategy at Horizons said that since Canada already had the capital infrastructure set up it wasn’t difficult to establish the ETF. “Our only difficulty was getting a sign off from the brokers and the auditors,” he said. “After numerous conversations, it was able to be done. All the stocks that are held are running legal businesses through Canadian standards.”


The stocks in the Horizon ETF’s are also trading on major exchanges in Canada, which brings us to the second problem, liquidity. As millions pour into these ETF’s, the funds have to actually go out and purchase those underlying stocks. There has to be enough to go around and when the ETF wants to sell, there have to be enough buyers in the market.

Most of the cannabis stocks in the U.S. are traded in the OTC Marketplace. There are a handful of biotech stocks traded on the NASDAQ Exchange (NDAQ) that have a cannabis component. High Times Media also called Origo Acquisition Group (OACQ) is trying to remain listed on NASDAQ, but the exchange keeps trying to delist them and Canadian medical marijuana producer Cronos Group (CRON) recently uplisted from the International Exchange to the Global Exchange. The New York Stock Exchange (NYA)  is also hesitant to list cannabis stocks, but a few have managed to squeeze their way in the door. However, the majority of pure cannabis stocks are at the OTC.

“Not every structure allows you to automate trading of the OTC stocks in baskets,” said Friedman. “Most of the OTC stocks trade too thinly to build any assets under management. It won’t be liquid if it grows too large.” Of course that is the name of the game, these ETF’s need to be big to be profitable.

Horizons saw the interest in the smaller names and created its junior ETF that recently launched has quickly grown to C$50 million in AUM. “The newer ETF is targeting cultivators one hundred percent,” said Noble. “The growers for a lack of a better term with a market cap of C$50-500 million. It’s smaller companies with the most amount of upside growth potential.”

Alternatives For Alternatives

One way around these cannabis ETF barriers is to create a less than pure cannabis ETF. Dan Ahrens, Portfolio Manager of the Advisor Shares Vice ETF (ACT) includes alcohol and tobacco stocks along with acceptable cannabis stocks. “We’re comfortable with the way we’ve invested,” said Ahrens. “We readily admit we’re not invested in pure marijuana growers, yet, but we’ll be ready for the future that’s coming.”

His fund invests in only exchanged-traded cannabis stocks. If cannabis ever gets legalized, the fund will have already established a foothold in the cannabis ETF arena. Having said that, Ahrens noted that alcohol and tobacco companies have already begun making overtures towards cannabis companies, so it isn’t inconceivable that these industries would end up overlapping. Also, by sticking with exchange-traded stocks, the Vice ETF avoids the custodial bank issues. He expressed concern about the Alternative Harvest fund, “If that fund is forced to close down and money is leaving those stocks. Their prices could go tumbling. That’s people taking out $300 million.”

That is a big problem indeed. Industry insiders are closely watching the situation at Alternative Harvest and hoping the ETF finds another custodial bank. In the meantime, it looks like money will continue to flow across the border to Canada and Horizons will be happy to fill those investors desire for a cannabis ETF.

William SumnerJanuary 31, 2018


Liberty Leaf Holdings Ltd. (LIBFF) today announced that it has been included in the Solactive Emerging Marijuana Growers Index.

Similar to Solactive’s Junior Marijuana Growers Index, the Emerging Marijuana Growers Index tracks a basket of publicly listed cannabis companies with significant business activities in cannabis cultivation and/or distribution. The junior index primarily focuses North American publicly-listed small-capitalization companies.

Although most cannabis indices focus on larger cannabis companies, the Junior Marijuana Growers Index focuses on minor companies with smaller market capitalization. Companies listed on the index are required to have a minimum market cap of CAD $50 million and a maximum of CAD $500 million. Existing members need to have a market cap of at most CAD $750 million.

Liberty Leaf’s listing will help the company move one step closer to becoming included in the Horizons Junior Marijuana Growers ETF. Owned by Horizons ETFs and still pending approval, the ETF hopes to replicate the performance of Solactive’s Junior Marijuana Growers Index; using it as its underlying index.

Solactive AG is a Frankfurt-based index provider that focuses on the development, calculation, and distribution of tailor-made indices over all asset classes. As of January 2017, Solactive AG served approximately 350 clients in Europe, America, and Asia, with approximately USD $100 billion invested in products linked to indices calculated by the Company globally, primarily via 250 exchange-traded funds from a number of well-known providers.

Unlike the popular Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF, which is focused on marijuana-related biotech companies, the Junior Marijuana Growers ETF will focus solely on small-scale cannabis cultivators.

“We look forward to broadening our shareholder base through our inclusion in the index, and ultimately, the ETF,” said Liberty Leaf Holdings President and CEO Will Rascan in a statement. “It should also help to expand our reach to an even larger audience of fund managers and investors who are becoming increasingly interested in the cannabis sector.”

Last week, Liberty Leaf also announced that it had closed a non-brokered private placement financing for a total of $2 million; allotting five million units, comprised of one common share and half of a share purchase warrant, at a price of $0.40 per unit.

Proceeds from the private placement will go towards facility build-outs for the company’s North Road Ventures and Just Kush Enterprises operations.


Debra BorchardtDecember 26, 2017


ETF Managers Group LLC  announced that MJX, the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF is live and available for trading on the NYSE Arca. This fund claims to be one of the first of its kind available to U.S. investors, the other marijuana ETF is the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences and it is traded on the Toronto Exchange under the ticker HMMJ.

The ETF’s investment objective changed on December 26, 2017. Prior to December 26, 2017, the ETF was based upon the total return of an entirely different index, the Solactive Latin America Real Estate Index (previously the Tierra XP Latin America Real Estate ETF, ticker symbol: LARE).

Sam Masucci, Founder & CEO of ETF Managers Group said, “As an ETF issuer we are excited about opportunities for innovation, the chance to give investors exposure to new markets and doing our part to impact the continued evolution of the ETF industry by meeting the appetite of investor interest.”

MJX is designed to replicate the Prime Alternative Harvest Index, which tracks companies likely to benefit from the increasing global acceptance of various uses of the cannabis plant. The ETF has 31 holdings, has $5.7 million in assets and is rebalanced quarterly. As of September 30, the fund has returned a 20.23% increase in the NAV and an 18.15% increase in market value, yet these performance figures are based on the returns of the Latin America Real Estate Index, not the new marijuana holdings.

The top ten holdings are as follows:


As of December 18, 2017, the Index had 30 constituents, 17 of which were foreign companies, and the three largest stocks and their weightings in the Index were Cronos Group, CannTrust Holdings, and Canopy Growth. Timothy J. Collins and Travis E. Trampe, each a Portfolio Manager of the Adviser, have been the Fund’s portfolio managers since 2017

StaffDecember 18, 2017


Canada’s Horizons ETF Management added 11 new companies to the portfolio of the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF (HMMJ). The names were added as a result of the quarterly rebalancing that took place on December 15, 2017.

The names added include:

Constituent Name



Canntrust Holdings Inc.


Canadian Securities Exchange

Delta 9 Cannabis Inc.


TSX Venture Exchange

Emerald Health Therapeutics


TSX Venture Exchange

Harvest One Cannabis Inc.


TSX Venture Exchange

Hydropothecary Corp.


TSX Venture Exchange

ICC International Cannabis Corp.


TSX Venture Exchange

InMed Pharmaceuticals Inc.


Canadian Securities Exchange

Innovative Industrial Properties Inc.


New York Stock Exchange

Newstrike Resources Ltd.


TSX Venture Exchange

Radient Technologies Inc.


TSX Venture Exchange

WeedMD Inc.


TSX Venture Exchange

In addition to adding the names, the ETF also rebalanced the portfolio holdings. Aphria (APHQF) is now the largest holding at 12.68% with Aurora Cannabis (ACBFF) moving up from the number three position to number two and Canopy Growth dropping to number three. GW Pharmaceuticals (GWPH) moves up to the number four spot from the fifth position and Scotts Miracle-Gro slips to number six. MedReleaf has also moved to the top five from its previous position of ninth.

According to the company’s interim report in June, “HMMJ seeks to replicate, to the extent possible, the performance of the North American Medical Marijuana Index (the“Underlying Index”, Bloomberg ticker: NAMMAR), net of expenses. The North American Medical Marijuana Index is designed to provide exposure to the performance of a basket of North American publicly listed companies with significant business activities in the marijuana industry.”

WeedMD jumped the gun and announced its inclusion on December 8th. “WeedMD’s inclusion in the North American Medical Marijuana Index caps a breakout year for the Company which saw us execute and achieve a range of significant licensing, operational and corporate milestones,” said Michael Kraft, Chairman of WeedMD. “Since announcing our landmark greenhouse expansion, WeedMD has seen incredible support from existing and new shareholders, and we look forward to broadening our shareholder base through our inclusion in the benchmark, and ultimately, the ETF.

The ETF was originally priced at a net asset value of C$10.00 and was lately trading at C$15.18.

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The Green Market Report focuses on the financial news of the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Our target approach filters out the daily noise and does a deep dive into the financial, business and economic side of the cannabis industry. Our team is cultivating the industry’s critical news into one source and providing open source insights and data analysis


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