source: Wallstreet Cheat Sheet\. Peter Gimble

The United States and Canada have both been on the forefront of cannabis policy changes over the past couple years. In the U.S., 17 states have legalized medical marijuana, two states have legalized adult use of marijuana, and many more states have ballot measures in place for the November 2014 elections. In Canada, the newly established Marihuana for Medical Purposes (MMPR) regulations have opened up the market to cannabis producers and make it much safer, easier, and more convenient for Canadian citizens to fill medical declarations.

Despite these dramatic new changes, investors have relatively few options for capitalizing on the industry’s growth. Cannabis remains illegal on a federal level in the U.S., which has kept many public companies out of the production side of the business. At the same time, Canada’s reforms have been relatively strict with only a handful of the 400-plus applicants receiving approval to become legal and regulated cannabis producers.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best ways for investors to gain exposure to the burgeoning cannabis industry and which country might yield the best opportunities. In particular, we’ll look at Abattis Bioceuticals Inc. (OTC:ATTBF) (CSE:ATT) — a multi-faceted cannabis company involved in numerous areas of the industry that we recently profiled in a video interview with CEO Michael Withrow below — and other popular companies in the space like GrowLife Inc. (OTCBB:PHOT) and Cannabis Science Inc. (OTCBB:CBIS).

U.S. — Products, Services, & Research

Publicly traded cannabis companies in the U.S. tend to focus on completely legal ancillary businesses. For example, GrowLife Inc. (OTCBB:PHOT) provides both consumer and commercial growing equipment specifically geared towards the cannabis industry, and VaporBrands International Inc. (OTC:VAPR) manufactures electronic vaporizers in partnership with HEMP Inc. (OTC:HEMP). Businesses like these are well-positioned to benefit from the growth in the cannabis industry since private producers and sellers often have difficulty acquiring these types of products and services from traditional venues.

In addition to ancillary products and services, some publicly traded companies are involved in cannabis research. For example, Cannabis Science Inc. (OTCQB:CBIS) is developing novel cannabinoid-based therapies to improve patient lives; its CS-S/BCC1 topical cannabinoid is preparing to enter Phase I clinical studies for the treatment of skin cancer. Early studies in four patients showed that they experienced shrinking and apparent eradication of their skin cancer legions following topical exposure of CS-S/BCC1 to basal and squamous cell carcinomas.

These dynamics could change with revised banking laws proposed earlier this year by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and subsequent memos by the U.S. Department of Justice and Treasury Department. The new guidelines help cannabis producers and retailers cope with the challenges of running their businesses in cash by addressing some key concerns for commercial banks. The move could also enable publicly traded companies to become more involved in cannabis production and sale if the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission follows suit with more leniency for states where it’s legal.

For now, U.S. companies are limited primarily to ancillary products and services as well as medical research when it comes to exposure to the cannabis industry.

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