News Fix: Attorney General Nominee Would Not Crack Down on Legal Pot, Unlike His Predecessor

The Early Investing office has been filled with Super Bowl talk this week. Co-founder Andy Gordon is considering going to Atlanta to cheer on his New England Patriots in person. Co-founder Adam Sharp is looking forward to a good game. Assistant Managing Editor Allison Brickell is looking forward to the Puppy Bowl. And like any good Giants fan (or NFL fan, for that matter), I’m rooting hard for the Rams to pull off the upset. For the record, here are our predictions for tomorrow’s big game.

  • Andy Gordon: New England 31, Los Angeles 21
  • Adam Sharp: Los Angeles 30, New England 27
  • Vin Narayanan: Los Angeles 27, New England 23
  • Allison Brickell: New England 30, Los Angeles 27

Now to the New Fix!

Cannabis

The most popular stock on Robinhood isn’t Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook or Google (Alphabet). It’s Aurora Cannabis. More people own Aurora (247,517) than any other stock on the popular trading platform (Business Insider). Apple is second, with 237,050 Robinhood members owning it.

There was a major development in Washington this week. William Barr, President Trump’s nominee to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, told Congress that the Department of Justice would not pursue cases where individuals or companies had complied with state law regarding marijuana (Vox).

This is a huge break from Sessions’ marijuana policy. Pot is still illegal at the federal level. And Sessions had planned on cracking down on marijuana businesses – even if the state they were operating in had legalized it.

Barr’s nonintervention policy is similar to the stance that former President Obama’s DOJ adopted. And it gives the industry the legal certainty it needs to grow and thrive.

In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has been tasked with traveling around the state and talking with Pennsylvanians to see if they want to legalize marijuana (PennLive).

In New Jersey, a new legislative proposal is floating around that would tax marijuana in a way that tax revenue would stay (relatively) constant even if marijuana prices fell (and they almost always fall once a state’s legal industry really gets going) (NJ.com).

The Fix isn’t sure how this hedge will work (details have been hard to come by). But if it jump-starts negotiations between the governor’s mansion, which wants a 25% tax, and the legislature, which wants a 12% tax, that’s a good thing.

The marijuana market is picking up steam overseas as well. Germany is trying to reduce its reliance on imported medical marijuana by creating domestic supply. It’s asking growers to submit proposals for German operations right now. Germany will select the winning bids this spring with the hope of domestically grown medicinal marijuana hitting the market by 2020 (Reuters).

And on the export side of the equation, it is now legal for growers in Israel to sell medical marijuana to the rest of the world (Forward).

Startups

Chipotle announced this week that it is “mentoring” eight growth-stage food startups through its Chipotle Aluminaries Project. The mentee companies are AgVoice, American Ostrich Farms, Asarasi, GrubTubs, ImpactVision, Novolyze, Rex Animal Health and Sophie’s Kitchen Plant-Based Seafood (Forbes).

The Fix is trying really hard not to make an E. coli joke here… and startups getting mentored is a good thing, so we’ll just say congratulations to these eight startups.

Crypto

Binance, the largest crypto exchange by trading volume, is now allowing customers to buy bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and ripple using credit cards (TNW).

Now that the government is open again, the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) has resubmitted the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin ETF for SEC consideration. Unfortunately, withdrawing the original application reset the SEC “game clock.” The SEC now has 240 days to consider the application. And if past is prologue, it will use almost all of that time before rendering a decision (CCN).

And finally, seven crypto exchanges are using Nasdaq’s technology to monitor their markets (Forbes). That’s an interesting development. It shows these exchanges are serious about compliance and creating a fair trading environment for everyone.

And that’s your News Fix.

Enjoy the Super Bowl, everyone. And have a great weekend!

Vin Narayanan
Senior Managing Editor, Early Investing