Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) has rarely wavered from founder Sam Walton’s gospel of Christian free enterprise or his conservatism.
That makes it no surprise that, over the years, the world’s largest retailer has taken stands against medical marijuana laws, sometimes refusing to cover employees’ legal cannabis prescriptions.
So the most recent news coming out of Bentonville, Ark., was a bit shocking.
Earlier this week, Walmart’s Canadian division said it’s exploring the possibility of selling cannabis-infused products its stores.
While various global beverage and tobacco giants have been showing interest in the legal cannabis market, Walmart is the first big retailer do so – and probably the most surprising choice possible.
What’s next? Cannabis grow kits at Hobby Lobby? Marijuana-infused nuggets at Chick-fil-A?
Earlier this year, it greenlit the sale of American Cannabis Co. Inc. (OTC: AMMJ) soil mix, via its online store. While this is a far cry from stocking Walmart shelves with bud and edibles, it was a big step into the cannabis market for the traditionally conservative retailer.
Now Walmart doesn’t want to anger conservative customers. That’s why you won’t be able to buy your bud from the retailer – in Canada or here at home – maybe ever.
Instead, Walmart Canada is looking into cannabidiol, or CBD.
CBD is a non-psychoactive but beneficial agent in marijuana. One CBD drug – a childhood epilepsy treatment from GW Pharmaceuticals PLC (Nasdaq: GWPH) – just got reclassified as a Schedule V drug in the U.S., on par with cough syrup.
While Walmart Canada execs have stated “we do not have plans to carry CBD products at this time,” they do admit to some preliminary fact finding. And that means Canadians soon may be able to pick up CBD-infused products – from face creams to coffee drinks – at their local Walmart.
Of course, this is a balancing act for Walmart. While they don’t want to offend their conservative customers, Genesis Market Insights recently valued the global legal marijuana market at $17.18 billion. By 2023, it’s expected to reach $59 billion.
Those are profits Walmart doesn’t want to miss out on.
And neither do investors…
With Canada going fully legal in just three days – that’s this Wednesday, Oct. 17 – it seems like every company is trying to get in on the $22.6 billion windfall that Deloitte’s been forecasting.
Even Walmart’s jumping in.
Cheers and good investing,
Michael A. Robinson