Readers of the Wall Street Journal were greeted Tuesday morning by a full-page advertisement calling on President Donald Trump to lift federal marijuana bans, as U.S. cannabis firms seek to capitalize on Canada’s recreational launch.
“We want to get cannabis into the national narrative because this industry presents the biggest economic opportunity our generation will see from a job-creation and tax-generation perspective,” said the person behind the advertisement, Derek Peterson, CEO of Irvine, California-based Terra Tech, a multistate cannabis firm.
The ad – placed on Page A8A – appears as a letter to Trump and opens with, “Dear Mr. President, We need your help!”
The advertisement goes on to state: “The rapidly growing American cannabis industry represents an extraordinary economic opportunity for our country, yet Canada is threatening to deprive American farmers, workers and businesses from the prosperity that rightly belongs within our borders.”
It further emphasizes that “America is rapidly losing its competitive edge to Canada” and calls on the federal government to “allow states to enact their own cannabis regulation so that we can fairly compete and protect our domestic industry before it’s too late.”
Peterson said the ad is part of a media campaign he’s launching on the issue that will include television commercials, with spots targeted for the Fox & Friends show on the Fox News Channel – a network known for its conservative audience and coverage.
“We’re putting our own skin in the game, because the risks are very real for U.S. operators,” he said.
While Canada will unveil its adult-use program on Wednesday, the country’s federal medical marijuana program has been in place since 2001. That has allowed Canadian cannabis firms to raise billions of dollars from institutional investors and the public capital markets.
Meanwhile, U.S. cannabis companies remain strapped for cash, unable to trade on the major exchanges.
“What this ultimately does is create a very uneven playing field – especially from a capital market perspective,” Peterson said. “A lot of U.S. companies are underfunded and are in talks with Canadian companies that want to buy their way into the U.S.”
The lack of access to capital has led dozens of U.S. cannabis firms to list on the Canadian Securities Exchange – a move Peterson said his firm is considering – but regrettably.
“I’d rather keep the business here in the U.S. and be able to do business with Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs,” he said.
“Unless something changes, we are not going to be able to compete against companies that can go out and raise $500 million or more at a time. We barely have access to checking accounts right now.”
Terra Tech trades on over-the-counter markets in the U.S. under the ticker symbol TRTC.
Lisa Bernard-Kuhn can be reached at email@example.com