Nasdaq Denies Cannabis Entrepreneurs A Listing On Stock Exchange

If you have never seen the 1930s film Reefer Madness, here’s the original trailer highlighting the dangers of marijuana.

Rather comical, isn’t it? Of course, it’s overly dramatic, but the real kicker is that not much has really changed — even though plenty of research shows that cannabis is beneficial in select, controlled cases, especially for conditions such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

The most recent controversy surrounding cannabis is less about the plant’s medicinal capabilities or psychotropic effects, and more about its impact on the business world. I’m not talking about small dispensaries having issues with local government, either. I’m talking about MassRoots, a network of 725,000 marijuana users and Nasdaq, the US stock exchange.

What is MassRoots?

According to the company website, MassRoots is a “social network for the cannabis community.” The Denver-based social network has been denied a listing on Nasdaq, despite its 725,000 users. Users from across the 24 states where marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes, as well as from states where it’s legal for recreational use, are able to communicate about all things related to the industry.

Although MassRoots does meet the Nasdaq criteria — being a $40-million market — Nasdaq has denied the network a spot. Nasdaq’s reasoning? Well, presently, marijuana use is still illegal at the federal level.

Why is it a big deal?

There are plenty of individuals who are trying to grow legitimate marijuana-related businesses. Since MassRoots was denied, it’s believed that all cannabis-related companies will also be rejected. This is a blow to cannabis entrepreneurs as they may not have access to the same kind of capital and investment as other businesses.

In an article for Forbes magazine, writer Carol Tice recently suggested that due to the legalization of medical marijuana in 24 of the 50 states, marijuana is providing business owners with a new opportunity — one that may become very profitable, very quickly. Start-ups are taking a chance now in the hope that once demand increases, they will be ready.

Article: Are We Moving One Step Closer to the Federal Legalization of Marijuana?

Let’s put it this way — according to USA Today, in Colorado alone, legal sales of both medicinal and recreational marijuana reached nearly $1 billion in 2015. This provides tax revenue, job growth, and saves the state millions of dollars by reducing the strain on the criminal justice system caused by illegal marijuana use.

What’s next for MassRoots?

Although individuals in the industry are upset, Nasdaq does, in fact, reserve the right to deny companies a listing on the stock exchange. A Nasdaq representative told MassRoots CEO Isaac Dietrich that the business would be able to quietly withdraw its application, before it was made public.

Instead of keeping it hush, hush, Dietrich told all MassRoots members and all other related parties. Had MassRoots been accepted, it would have provided the business with the opportunity it needed to grow. Unfortunately, due to the Nasdaq rejection, their off-exchange shares plummeted 18 percent.

It’s been reported that Dietrich is not backing down without a fight — he will be asking for Nasdaq’s denial in writing and plans to appeal the decision if necessary. MassRoots intends to protect the community it has built, as well as the over 300 shareholders who are currently operating within the market.

Dietrich is asking other companies and organizations in the market to write to Nasdaq as well, supporting the appeal. He’s calling on investors, activists, business owners, and all other supporters to help the business move forward, not backwards.

I am not saying the use of marijuana is wrong or right, but it seems hypocritical to support the use of alcohol and tobacco when these two substances cause far more damage —  to society and public health.

At the end of the day, entrepreneurs see an opportunity in the burgeoning marijuana industry, but some fear that growth may be marred by controversy. They want to take risks, but one obstacle after another seems to hinder their progress. Until the use of marijuana is no longer a federal crime, this battle will likely continue.

What are your thoughts on this recent denial? Do you believe MassRoots has the right to be listed on the Nasdaq stock market?

—Krista Hillis


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