High-flying cannabis stocks clipped by Ontario retail delay

High hopes for the imminent start of legal marijuana sales in Canada were dimmed by news that one of the country’s largest provinces would delay the start of brick-and-mortar retail sales until next year, dinging shares of some of the companies that hope to capitalise on the country’s coming green rush.

Shares of the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF, which tracks the sector, were down 4.45 per cent to C$14.60, putting it on track for its worst one-day drop in a month, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Aurora Cannabis dropped 10.3 per cent, Canopy Growth shed 8.48 per cent, Aphira was off 10.27 per cent and Hydropothecary was down about 5 per cent.

Their momentum has been snuffed out by an announcement yesterday from Ontario’s newly-elected conservative government that private retail stores would be allowed to start selling marijuana on April 1, dialling back the previous liberal government’s goal of allowing sales in government-run stores to begin October 17, when the substance officially becomes legal. Online sales will be permitted in Ontario from October 17 onwards, according to Reuters.

Despite being cheered by Canada’s move to legalise recreational marijuana earlier this year, cannabis stocks are still having trouble finding their footing after a bumper 2017, as governments grapple with how best to regulate sales. Canopy, which rose 225 per cent in 2017, is up just 8.4 per cent so far in 2018, while Aurora Cannabis is down 44 per cent year to date after advancing 317 per cent a year earlier.