In this uncertain environment, Canada may offer the sharpest glimpse of the future—and the business opportunities—for financial-services companies willing to take the risk. In 1999, Canada began to allow legal access to medical marijuana. Even so, the industry didn’t take off until 2013, when the government changed regulations to make it simpler for companies to enter the market. At least 20 countries—Australia, Germany, and Mexico among them—and 29 U.S. states have followed suit.
Now comes legalized recreational pot. Nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia have taken the step. This year, Canada will become the first country to do so since Uruguay in 2017. Already, Canada has the largest herd of “cannabis unicorns”—fledgling publicly traded companies worth $1 billion or more—such as Canopy, Aurora Cannabis, and Aphria. Canadian stock exchanges host at least 85 pot companies, with a combined market value of C$30 billion.