U.S. Marijuana Stocks Aren’t Worth the Risk for Investors – Barron's

Illustration by Maria Corte

Beth Stavola feared she’d made a terrible investment mistake.

After having twins, the New Jersey mother of five took a break from her Wall Street career. In 2012, she heard of a business for sale in a small Arizona town. A visit impressed her enough to convince her husband that they should put about $1 million into a medical-marijuana venture.

“I didn’t know anything about growing, producing, dispensing,” Stavola recalls. So they found an experienced manager to run the operation, while she kept the books. But she says she soon noticed checks written for cash and a wedding dress charged to the business. With the help of a private eye, the Stavolas say, they found that the manager hadn’t come clean about his background—leaving out convictions for robbery conspiracy and other crimes.

When they fired him, she says he threatened her family. “It was scary. We were sick to our stomachs,” Beth Stavola says. “I was never in a world like that.”

Determined to salvage their stake, she took charge of the 47-acre pot farm. She opened her first dispensary in Douglas, Ariz., a few streets from where convicted drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera once had a tunnel under the border with Mexico.

When two more dispensaries came up for sale, she bought them. By 2017, when her company was acquired for $25 million, it had expanded to Nevada, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. This month,the buyer, MPX Bioceutical, combined with another U.S. chain of marijuana outlets, iAnthus Capital Holdings (ticker: IAN.Canada), in exchange for stock worth about $600 million.

Stavola is staying on at iAnthus. She and her co-workers are now part of an

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