By Adam Eyal / January 20, 2019

The Little-Known Canadian Firm Poised to Dominate Legal Cannabis in the U.S.

Marijuana company with the hottest IPO of 2018 has a billionaire CEO who doesn't smoke weed.

Jars of medical cannabis line the shelves inside a Good Meds medical cannabis center.
(Photo by Matthew Staver/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Jars of medical cannabis line the shelves inside a Good Meds medical cannabis center. (Photo by Matthew Staver/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Brendan Kennedy, CEO of the Canadian cannabis production company Tilray, is Wall Street’s version of the old adage: don’t get high on you own supply. It’s true, he doesn’t smoke weed, and thanks to new partnership deals with Big Beer and Big Pharma, his under-the-radar company is poised to dominate the burgeoning legal cannabis market in the United States.

Last year provided plenty of evidence of Tilray’s explosive potential. The company’s IPO in July ended up the hottest offering of 2018, returning 315% on an investment and sending the company’s valuation to a sky-high $9 billion. It was also among the top 10 performing NASDAQ stocks last year. All that helped it ink a $100 million partnership deal with the brewery giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, as well as a global distribution deal  with the pharmaceutical conglomerate Novartis—the first of its kind in the marijuana industry—to market co-branded oils and pills for a variety of disorders, from epilepsy to insomnia to post-traumatic stress.

“It was inevitable the U.S. would legalize,” Kennedy says, looking back on his company’s long-term strategy a few years ago. “The frustrating part was, how did everyone else not see it?”

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