Tilray Pops 50% as Marijuana Clinical Trials Power Growth

September 19, 2018

By Carlo Versano

As cannabis companies like Canopy Growth and Aurora align themselves with consumer beverage brands, Tilray ー the pot stock that's up a cool 600 percent since its July IPO and has added more than $7 billion to its market cap just on Wednesday ー is taking a different tack.

The Canada-based company is making a "really strong push" into clinical trials for medical marijuana, said Bethany Gomez, director of research for consulting firm Brightfield Group.

That strategy, illustrated by Tuesday's announcement that Tilray got DEA clearance to import cannabis to the U.S. for a University of California San Diego research study, appears to be paying off.

Tilray shares were up by as much as 50 percent Wednesday ー adding to gains of nearly 30 percent the day before ー giving the company a market cap of more than $21 billion, above that of much older, established companies like Best Buy and CBS. The stock, which debuted at $17 a share two months ago, now trades over $200.

"They're aligning themselves very well in a lot of key areas," Gomez said.

Tilray is essentially making a bet that it can get into a "preferred stance" to negotiate with international governments that are beginning to grant small numbers of licenses for medical marijuana research, Gomez said.

By partnering with research facilities like the one at UCSD, Tilray has a "first mover advantage" when those licenses are given out, she said.

But whether optimism on that front justifies the stock's price gains is up for debate. On Wednesday morning Citron Research, known for making bearish bets on stocks, tweeted that Tilray's jump was "beyond comprehension." The firm said, "We are short and will hold a manageable position until rationality sets in."

Tilray is just one of several marijuana stocks that are experiencing highs. On average, the group is up about 30 percent since August, according to IHS Markit.

But it's a long game, Gomez said. "There's going to be ups, and there's going to be downs."

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