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Canadian investors now have four exchange-traded funds to choose from for tapping the high-flying cannabis sector. But this wider availability of ETFs may not translate into significant differences for gaining exposure to the underlying stocks.

On Wednesday, Horizons ETF Management (Canada) Inc. introduced the country's fourth marijuana-focused ETF – the Horizons Emerging Marijuana Growers Index ETF – trading on the Aequitas NEO Exchange under the ticker HMJR.

The same ETF provider is responsible for launching the world's first marijuana-focused ETF – the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF – last April. The fund, with the ticker HMMJ, has $725-million in assets under management and has seen some of the highest flows into any Canadian ETF in recent months.

Earlier this month, actively managed ETFs were launched from Redwood Asset Management Inc. and Evolve Funds Group, touting the ability to easily move in and out of stocks as well as being able to craft a fund that is more of a pure play on the cannabis sector, rather than index funds that typically only rebalance on a quarterly basis.

Being the first out of the gate played in HMMJ's favour – it was worth more than $110-million under management within the first six days of being on the market. To date, the other funds have had a much slower start, currently sitting at only $2-million to $15-million in their first few days of trading.

But while both actively managed funds have not yet released their full holdings to investors, the industry's newest ETFs appear to show minimal differences in the top stocks investors are able to gaining access, too.

Popular pot stocks – such as Canopy Growth Corp., Aurora Cannabis Inc. and CanniMed Therapeutics Inc. – have been grabbing the attention of investors over the past several months. These companies have been top holdings in HMMJ since inception, and can also be found in both Redwood's Marijuana Opportunities Fund (MJJ) and the Evolve Marijuana ETF (SEED).

HMMJ has a 12.85 per cent weighting in Canopy, MJJ has approximately 8 per cent, and Seed has 10 per cent. HMMJ has a 14.68 per cent weighting in Aurora Cannabis, MJJ has about 3 per cent, and SEED is 10 per cent. All three ETFs also have top holdings in MedReleaf Corp. and Emerald Health Therapeutics Inc.

MJJ seeks opportunities in cannabis and cannabis-related companies on a global basis. But, for now, 100 per cent of the top holdings are Canadian-based and 80 per cent of the fund's top holdings replicate HMMJ. Two stocks not found within HMMJ are Village Farms International Inc., an organic greenhouse farmer, and Indiva Ltd., a producer of medical cannabis.

The fund could quickly shift those holdings to more global companies once regulation changes, portfolio manager Greg Taylor says, and is one of the reasons the fund has a 25-per-cent cash holding.

"Cash is the big swing factor with this fund," Mr. Taylor says. "Our theory is that when the sector is overvalued or overbought, I would look to raise cash and then wait for a better opportunity to play into the sector. Right now, I think there is still a big downside that is coming."

Despite listing on the Aequitas NEO Exchange, and not being tied to the TSX rules (which ban companies who do business in the U.S. market, where the drug is legal in certain states but illegal under federal law), MJJ does not include firms that have a significant amount of U.S. exposure. Companies such as Aphria and Canntrust holdings have announced they will be pulling back from U.S. business, but Mr. Taylor says he will wait until such firms confirm they have done so before considering them for the fund.

Similar to MJJ, the top 10 holdings for SEED are all Canadian companies, 90 per cent of which are found in HMMJ. SEED holds 25 stocks in total, and does have a 7-per-cent global exposure through Australian firms such as Auscann Group Holdings Ltd. and Abcann Global Corp.

Evolve chief executive Raj Lala sees the fund being more globally focused as more jurisdictions expand in the marijuana sector.

"The next wave of growth could be driven by the globalization of the industry," Mr. Lala said during the fund's launch. "Active management in SEED allows us to capitalize on these opportunities."

The one standalone of the bunch is HMJR. The fund is designed to tap into small-cap companies primarily involved in the cultivation, production and/or distribution of marijuana. Stocks within the fund must have a market capitalization greater than $50-million but less than $500-million for initial inclusion – an area Horizon's first fund HMMJ doesn't track, as companies have to be over $75-million to be included in HMMJ's index.

As a result, investors won't find too much duplication in the top 10 holdings for this fund. Similar to MJJ, the fund also launched on the NEO Exchange but does directly invest in companies that have U.S. marijuana operations such as Marapharm Ventures Inc. and Liberty Leaf Holdings Ltd.

What the marijuana ETFs hold

HMMJ*MJJ**SEEDHMJR*
AURORA CANNABIS INC .14.68%3.00%10.00%
CANOPY GROWTH CORP .12.85%8.00%10.00%
APHRIA INC10.10%10.00%
MEDRELEAF CORP9.50%5.00%10.00%
GW PHARMACEUTICALS PLC7.45%
SCOTTS MIRACLE-GRO CO6.60%
CRONOS GROUP INC6.29%10.00%
CANNIMED THERAPEUTICS INC4.25%6.00%6.00%
CANNTRUST HOLDINGS INC3.78%
INSYS THERAPEUTICS INC2.88%
EMERALD HEALTH THERAPEUTICS2.20%2.00%5.00%
SUPREME CANNABIS CO2.27%5.00%
NEWSTRIKE RESOURCES LTD1.86%
ORGANIGRAM HOLDINGS INC2.06%7.00%5.00%
22ND CENTURY GROUP INC1.77%
RADIENT TECHNOLOGIES INC1.31%
HYDROPOTHECARY CORP1.53%9.00%5.56%
ABCANN GLOBAL CORP1.24%2.5%5.12%
MARICANN GROUP INC1.25%7.00%6.52%
ZYNERBA PHARMACEUTICALS INC0.96%
ICC LABS INC0.91%2.26%
WEEDMD INC0.77%5.34%
DELTA 9 CANNABIS INC0.88%2.05%
INVICTUS MD STRATEGIES CORP NEW0.72%3.00%
EMBLEM CORP0.65%3.26%
INMED PHARMACEUTICALS INC0.56%
HARVEST ONE CANNABIS INC0.42%2.20%
INNOVATIVE INDUSTRIAL PROPERTIES0.38%
INDIVA LTD2.00%1.20%
VILLAGE FARMS INTERNATIONAL INC6.00%
TERRASCEND CORP2.00%7.80%
CANNABIS WHEATON INCOME CORP5.00%
CANN GROUP LTD8.15%
AUSCANN GROUP HOLDINGS LTD2.50%7.59%
MPX BIOCEUTICAL CORP7.38%
HIKU BRANDS CO LTD4.45%
BENCHMARK BOTANICS INC4.51%
VALENS GROWORKS CORP4.44%
NUTRITIONAL HIGH INTERNATIONAL2.86%
PUF VENTURES2.85%
BELEAVE INC2.49%
CRESCO PHARMA LTD2.45%
MGC PHARMACEUTICALS LTD2.40%
HYDROPONIC CO LTD2.12%
MARAPHARM VENTURES INC1.94%
CANADA HOUSE WELLNESS GROUP INC1.64%
HEMPCO FOOD AND FIBER INC1.83%
LIBERTY LEAF HOLDINGS1.52%
CASH HOLDINGS25.00%

Source: Companies

Notes: HMMJ as of Feb. 14. *Holdings are cap-weighted. **Holdings are approximate; totals will not equal 100 as full holdings remain undisclosed