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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Don't bet against sin industries like marijuana and sports betting in 2019, even if the broader economy and markets stumble.

The bottom line: Industries usually develop organically, including all the layers of infrastructure and logistics. These won't. Instead, they're being born into adulthood by rapidly-expanding legalization.

  • As a sign of high times, former Speaker John Boehner and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld this year joined the board of a cannabis company, Acreage Holdings. Boehner invoked the need for veterans to access the drug legally.
  • And the farm bill signed this month legalizes hemp at the federal level.
  • Be smart: Lots of these companies will fail. But there will be some analysts who can't see the growth for the growing pains.

The legal marijuana industry had a banner year in 2018, as the global market exploded and cannabis pushed its way into the financial and cultural mainstream, Gillian Flaccus ("a member of the AP's marijuana beat team") writes:

  • "Liberal California became the largest legal U.S. marketplace, conservative Utah and Oklahoma embraced medical marijuana, and the U.S. East Coast got its first commercial pot shops" in Massachusetts in November.
  • "Canada ushered in broad legalization, and Mexico's Supreme Court set the stage for that country to follow."
  • "U.S. drug regulators approved the first marijuana-based pharmaceutical to treat kids with a form of epilepsy, and billions of investment dollars poured into cannabis companies. Even main street brands like Coca-Cola said they are considering joining the party."

"A majority of U.S. states have legalized marijuana to varying degrees, and U.S. companies are scrambling to get in on the action," the AP Markets Team adds:

  • "Both the NYSE and Nasdaq saw their first purely cannabis companies list shares in 2018. But stocks in the companies that produce and sell marijuana have largely underperformed the overall market this year."

An exception to the trend, per the Boston Globe: "New Hampshire’s libertarian streak has long been a source of pride for residents, but for cannabis users, that self-image isn’t living up to reality. With pot legalization sweeping through New England, New Hampshire is now an island of prohibition."

  • "Unlike Rhode Island, whose governor recently said the tiny state could be driven by peer pressure into legalizing the drug soon, [the Granite State] wants to hold out against the rising political tide."
  • "New Hampshire is surrounded by Vermont, Canada, Maine, and Massachusetts — all of which have legalized marijuana."

Flashback: The battle to legalize sports betting was won in May at the U.S. Supreme Court, and the specifics are being worked out in state legislatures and by the professional sports leagues.

Go deeper: "The high-stakes game for sports betting dollars."

Go deeper

49 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: More boycotts coming for Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Leaders of the Stop Hate For Profit social media boycott group are discussing whether to organize another campaign against Facebook in light of an explosive investigative series from The Wall Street Journal, Common Sense CEO Jim Steyer tells Axios.

The intrigue: Sources tell Axios that another group, separate from the Stop Hate For Profit organization, is expected to launch its own ad boycott campaign this week.

Democrats' dwindling 2022 map

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats are trying to unseat only about half as many Republican House members next year as they did in 2020, trimming their target list from 39 to 21.

Why it matters: The narrowing map — which reflects where Democrats see their best chance of flipping seats — is the latest datapoint showing the challenging political landscape the party faces in the crucial 2022 midterms.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Evergrande's reassuring default

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

It's not a Lehman moment but it's still a very big deal. Chinese construction giant Evergrande looks set to default on its $300 billion of liabilities, in a move that has already had global market repercussions.

Why it matters: Evergrande is the first big test of the global financial system — and especially the Chinese financial system — since the pandemic-induced chaos of March 2020, when central banks around the world were forced to take unprecedented measures to prevent total collapse. So far, world markets seem to be coping just fine.

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