TORONTO — The company which owns and operates Canada's only platform used to finalize stock trades says it is leaving the door open to clearing trades of issuers with marijuana-related activities in the U.S., where marijuana remains illegal under federal law, for certain exchanges.
In August, the Globe and Mail reported that TMX Group Inc.-owned subsidiary and clearinghouse Canadian Depository for Securities Ltd. was contemplating a ban on clearing cannabis stocks with U.S. exposure.
TMX (X.TO) reiterated in a news release Friday that there is no ban on clearing securities of cannabis companies with U.S. interests, but discussions about how to handle those trades continue with exchanges and the Canadian Securities Administrators, the umbrella organization for Canada's provincial and territorial securities regulators.
However, TMX added that any "solution will be founded on each exchange's role in applying listing requirements, including exchange rules related to issuers' compliance with applicable laws."
This leaves the door open for trades of cannabis companies with U.S. assets to continue on the Canadian Securities Exchange, where roughly a dozen of the listed marijuana-based companies have U.S. holdings.
Friday's comment comes after TMX, which also operates the Toronto Stock Exchange, last month issued a staff notice warning that listed cannabis firms with U.S. exposure could face delisting from the TSX. While some states have legalized marijuana to varying degrees, it remains illegal under U.S. federal law to cultivate, distribute or possess the drug south of the border, the TMX also noted in October.
The CSA, however, said last month that pot companies must tell investors about certain risks when they invest south of the border, in line with the CSE's approach.
TMX spokesman Shane Quinn said Friday that discussions with the CSA and exchanges on how to handle these trades were taking longer than initially hoped, and it was important to provide an update to the market.
"That's something we wanted to clarify," he said. "That the solution will be founded on each exchange's role in applying the listing requirements, and that is in line with the CSA's announcement."
TMX's commentary was welcomed by Ottawa-based cannabis investment firm CannaRoyalty Corp (CRZ.CD).
"This is a positive development for CannaRoyalty and for any issuer with U.S. marijuana-related activities traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange ("CSE")," said Marc Lustig, CannaRoyalty CEO, in a statement Friday. "The CSE has repeatedly expressed support for issuers with U.S. cannabis assets and as expected, TMX has confirmed it will base any rules regarding the clearing of these issuers on the rules of individual exchanges.
"We expect this guidance to continue to remove any persisting rumours regarding the Canadian regulators' view of issuers with U.S. cannabis assets."
Beacon Securities analyst Vahan Ajamian says TMX's release was short on details but highlighted how various exchanges have had differences in applying listing requirements.
"We continue to believe the status quo that has existed for the last 12 months — where U.S. operators trade on the CSE, and most Canadian operators on the TSX or TSX Venture — will continue indefinitely," he said.