Three industry experts who presented at the MJBizFinance Forum on Tuesday predicted the marijuana industry is heading in the right direction, albeit with bumps along the way.

“Year-over-year industry growth … remains incredibly attractive,” Vivien Azer, managing director and senior research analyst at Cowen, told those attending the one-day event ahead of the formal kickoff of MJBizCon in Las Vegas.

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But Azer said Cowen analysts agree that federal marijuana reform is unlikely this year or in 2022 because of various political dynamics in Washington DC.

“Don’t hold your breath,” Azer said.

At the same time, the industry is continuing to attract investment capital, and mergers and acquisitions are expected to continue, said Scott Greiper, president of Viridian Capital Advisors.

“Despite all the headwinds that face this industry every day, the industry is doing quite well,” Greiper said.

According to a Viridian analysis, Greiper said, investors have pumped roughly $70 billion into the cannabis industry overall, including $5 billion so far in 2021.

One of the more interesting trends, Greiper said, is that inexpensive debt has been driving a lot of the acquisition deals this year, since larger multistate operators are getting 8%-10% interest rates on debt capital.

“The big MSOs have been having a field day” thanks to cheap capital and smaller companies that have been up for sale, Greiper said.

So-called special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) remain a viable option for cannabis funding, said Mike Regan, founder of MJResearchCo.

He noted that roughly $1.3 billion in SPAC investment capital is waiting to be invested in cannabis companies. That total includes $510 million raised by several SPACs for plant-touching companies and another $813 million by SPACs dedicated to ancillary cannabis businesses.

– John Schroyer