Weed stocks surge as Kamala Harris vows to decriminalize pot in debate

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U.S.-listed shares of major cannabis producers surged on Thursday after Democratic vice president nominee Kamala Harris said marijuana would be decriminalized at a federal level in the United States under a Biden administration.

During Wednesday night’s debate with Vice President Mike Pence, Harris said she and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would also expunge the criminal records of people convicted of marijuana-related offenses in the past.

Cannabis stock tracker MJ ETF MJ.P rose 5.5% to mark its best session since early June, while Tilray Inc jumped 19.2% on the Nasdaq. U.S.-listed shares of Canopy Growth Corp, Aphria Inc and Aurora Cannabis Inc closed between 10% and 13% higher.

Even though many U.S. states have legalized marijuana use, banks and other traditional financial institutions have so far largely refused to work with the industry as cannabis is still a classified substance at the federal level.

“Access to safe banking will transform the industry, freeing up capital markets for investment and reducing the risk of operating a cannabis business,” said Keith Cich, co-founder of cannabis-related products manufacturer Sunderstorm Inc.

Regulatory issues have also restricted cash availability for companies in the nascent sector at a time when they are struggling with a lack of profitability due to high costs.

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