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Expand chart
Data: S3 Partners; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The marijuana industry has quietly been having a very strong 2019, and it could push even higher.

The big picture: The nascent industry has drawn an outsized share of short sellers who are betting the stocks will fall in value. Short sellers, by and large, say they are not bearish on the business, but believe the companies' valuations are wildly high, making them good short bets.

  • Tuesday's reefer rally, however, has put short sellers in a position where they'll need to double down or bow out of their positions.
  • Canadian marijuana company Aphria announced a deal to produce and sell medical cannabis patches developed by scientists at MIT, and Aurora Cannabis announced an expansion into Portugal.

Details: Shorts had been up $21 million in mark-to-market profits, but headlines Tuesday of new breakthroughs poised to boost the industry pummeled them with $213 million of mark-to-market losses. They are now down $192 million for the month and $1.78 billion for the year, according to S3 Partners managing director of Predictive Analytics Ihor Dusaniwsky.

  • The ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF has risen 47.5% year-to-date and the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF is up 51.5% on the year.
  • "If losses for cannabis short sellers continue to mount, we should see continued short covering and added upward price pressure boosting the profits of a growing community of long shareholders," said Dusaniwsky.

The bottom line: Short sellers borrow stock with the intention of buying it later at a lower price and pocketing the difference. But with an average stock borrowing fee of 15% and mounting gains in the cannabis sector, it's getting very expensive to hold onto short positions.

Go deeper: Sin industries like marijuana and sports betting could shine in 2019

Go deeper

Scoop: CIA director Gina Haspel almost resigned over plan to install Kash Patel as deputy

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel almost resigned in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelations stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.