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Cannabis Watch: TerrAscend says Morgan Stanley, BNY Mellon lift custody ban on cannabis for Toronto Stock Exchange listing

Morgan Stanley and Bank of New York Mellon have lifted a ban on providing custody services for the Toronto Stock Exchange listing of TerrAscend, a move that will make it easier for institutions to buy and sell the cannabis company’s stock, TerrAscend said.

Morgan Stanley MS, -0.02% and BNY Mellon BK, -0.20% both provide stock-trading custody services which include the settlement, safekeeping and reporting of securities and cash for clients.

But these services have not been available for cannabis-related companies such as TerraAscend TSND, +5.12% TSNDF, +5.00%, because pot remains a Schedule I controlled substance under U.S. law.

That means hedge funds and mutual funds that buy and sell stocks would have no easy way of trading cannabis stocks.

TerraAscend Executive Chair Jason Wild said the company moved its listing to the Toronto exchange on July 1 with the expectation that the stock would receive more trades from Canadian and European investors.

See: Cannabis company TerrAscend draws kudos from analysts with Toronto Stock Exchange listing on tap for next week

Wild told analysts on Thursday that custodian services have been opened up via Morgan Stanley, BNY Mellon and others in a move that will also allow U.S. institutions to buy and sell the stocks.

“Prior to listing, when investors asked us about U.S. custody, we opined that we didn’t know if a [Toronto Stock Exchange] listing would solve that issue,” Wild said. “But I’m happy to report that already Morgan Stanley, Bank of New York and their purchasing stock-clearing unit, Cohen, and others have removed TerrAscend from their block security list pursuant to their formal MRB, or marijuana-related business, policy.”

It’s not clear if the clearance-service change will include cannabis stocks of other companies with operations in the U.S.

Also read: TerrAscend eyes more M&A after closing big acquisition of Gage

A spokesperson from Morgan Stanley declined to comment. A BNY Mellon spokesperson did not immediately reply to an email from MarketWatch.

Wild said TerraAscend has had “multiple institutional inbounds in recent weeks” from both U.S. and foreign investors.

“While institutional investors may still refrain from investing in our shares based upon their internal compliance policies, custodial impediments will no longer be in the way of the firms that ultimately choose to invest,” Wild said. “While the removal from the blacklist has gone without much notice, we do think that this is a big deal.”

Wild said TerraAscend expects to be included on “several” indexes in coming months.

Lack of institutional involvement in U.S. cannabis stocks listed over the counter and on the Canadian Securities Exchange has often been seen as contributing to both the weak stock performance and volatility of pot stocks, which are mostly owned by individuals, not institutions.

The current year has been tough for cannabis-stock prices amid a lack of movement on cannabis reform at the federal level. The SAFE Banking bill, for example, which was first proposed about a decade ago, has yet to come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate.

The AdvisorShares Pure U.S. Cannabis exchange-traded fund MSOS is down 27.5%, the Global X Cannabis ETF POTX is down 37.3% and the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF MJ has lost about 27.2%.

While cannabis stocks overall have been hard-hit in 2023, TerraAscend’s stock is up nearly 39%.

Wild told MarketWatch that the company’s second-quarter results were boosted by the addition of dispensary locations in Maryland in the final weeks before the state kicked off adult-use sales of cannabis over the summer.

While the company’s second-quarter loss of 5 cents a share fell a penny short of the FactSet consensus target, TerrAscend’s revenue of $72.1 million beat the forecast of $71.3 million. The company said its results also exceeded internal forecasts.

TerrAscend expects full-year 2023 revenue of at least $305 million, compared with the analyst view of $303.5 million.

By positioning the company to grow regardless of the lack of action in Washington, Wild said TerraAscend is in a better place today, with the lowest employee turnover since the company was founded in 2017, said Wild and TerrAscend CEO Ziad Ghanem.

“We feel for us, we’ve made it to the other side,” Wild said.

Also read: Canopy Growth beats analyst targets as its ‘asset-light’ strategy bears fruit, but Curaleaf’s miss weighs on pot stocks

Also read: Green Thumb Industries posts another profit as CEO channel Warren Buffett

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