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A mairjuana plant in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth, which is 38% owned by beer and spirits company Constellation Brands, bought the right to acquire Acreage Holdings only if recreational marijuana is legalized in the U.S.

The big picture: The tie-up between the U.S. company that grows and sells pot in a handful of states — former Speaker of the House John Boehner is on the board — and the world’s most valuable pot company is essentially a bet on the future that’s valued at $3.4 billion dollars.

Between the lines: The non-deal deal is structured to avoid obstacles that would come with Canopy’s outright acquisition of Acreage before legalization. A deal now would get Canopy’s shares de-listed from the Toronto and New York Stock Exchange, which both forbid listing companies with U.S. cannabis operations since it’s federally illegal. (Canada made marijuana fully legal nationwide in October.)

  • “This is like a very large game of double dutch, as in ‘if the rules change we'll come play, but until then we'll keep spinning those ropes.’ It's a waiting match,” Brent Williams, founder of Highwater Financial, a cannabis-focused investment firm, tells Axios.
  • “It’s a great precedent to set for the Aurora Cannabis's of the world to come in for further expansion of Canadian companies into the U.S.”

How it works: The deal is terminated if cannabis is not legalized (or if exchanges don't change their rules) within 7.5 years, or 90 months. If the deal falls through, no word on what happens to the $300 million upfront cash Canopy agreed to pay Acreage shareholders.

  • But the heads of both companies and many analysts are optimistic legislation will pass within the next 2 or 3 years.
  • The companies said the deal value was a 41% premium over Acreage's share price.

What’s in it for the companies:

  • “Canopy has been at risk of missing out on the U.S. market as it grows. Now they have sort of secured a path towards that, while avoiding an outright acquisition today," Rob Wertheimer, a founding partner of Melius Research, tells Axios. “Acreage is attached to what has become an emerging North American leader and that’s well-positioned for growth.”

The bottom line: This just built a path for companies to buy into a budding U.S. marijuana market without breaking any laws and without facing the wrath of stock exchanges. Analysts say the deal structure could set off a wave of similar transactions.

Go deeper: 4/20 sells high: Corporate America embraces marijuana's big day

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The social media addiction bubble

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Right now, everyone from Senate leaders to the makers of Netflix's popular "Social Dilemma" is promoting the idea that Facebook is addictive.

Yes, but: Human beings have raised fears about the addictive nature of every new media technology since the 18th century brought us the novel, yet the species has always seemed to recover its balance once the initial infatuation wears off.

Young people's next big COVID test

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Young, healthy people will be at the back of the line for coronavirus vaccines, and they'll have to maintain their sense of urgency as they wait their turn — otherwise, vaccinations won't be as effective in bringing the pandemic to a close.

The big picture: "It’s great young people are anticipating the vaccine," said Jewel Mullen, associate dean for health equity at the University of Texas. But the prospect of that enthusiasm waning is "a cause for concern," she said.

8 hours ago - World

New Zealand authorities charge 13 parties over deadly volcano eruption

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at New Zealand's parliament in Wellington. Photo: Mark Tantrum Photography via Getty Images

New Zealand authorities laid safety violation charges Monday against 10 organizations and three individuals over the fatal Whakaari/White Island volcanic disaster last December, per a statement from the agency WorksSafe.

Details: WorksSafe declined to name those charged as they may seek name suppression in court. But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said government agencies GNS Science, which monitors volcanic activity, and the National Emergency Management Agency were among those charged over the "horrific tragedy" that killed 22 people.