Cowen & Co. Races to Be $6 Billion Pot Industry’s Financial Guru

Article by Jennifer Kaplan, Bloomberg

Cowen & Co., the nearly century-old firm founded as a bond brokerage, is racing to become Wall Street’s leading provider of cannabis research, staking a claim to an industry generally forsaken by financial institutions.

Analysts at the New York-based company have assembled a trove of data on the burgeoning field of semi-legal marijuana. And on Thursday Cowen will host its first investor conference devoted to the controversial topic.

The firm is betting it’s worth the risk to explore an industry that could generate tens of billions of dollars a year — and intersect with many established sectors. Marijuana is federally illegal in the U.S., so most institutions and large corporations keep their distance. But eight states and the District of Columbia have voted to allow the drug for recreational use. That means one in five Americans will live in an area where it’s legal to get high.

“Anyone who’s interested in figuring out the future of the consumer needs to be here,” said Lisa Thomas, Cowen’s associate director of research. The same goes for people interested in health care, industrial agriculture and other areas, she said.

Twenty-eight states also have legalized for medical purposes. That’s helping boost total U.S. cannabis sales from $6 billion to $50 billion by 2026, according to Cowen’s 110-page report, which included analysis from 10 senior researchers. And legalization in Canada is opening up that market as well.

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