Emerging Cannabis markets

"It looks a lot like the California industry did in the late '90s and early 2000s, where you have a quasi-legal situation happening, where the public is fine with it and the government is OK with it, but it's not yet taxed and regulated," said Arcview's Dayton. "There is an industry there that's ripe for growth."

For other countries, it's still too early to say if they'll be attractive areas for cannabis-focused investors. In Uruguay, where the drug has been legal since 2013, the government limits the price to around $1 per gram, muting business opportunities for now. Jamaica may have a rich cannabis history — Bob Marley can lay claim to one of the drug's cultural icons — but the country is still rolling out its programs, and no major companies have emerged yet. Chile, similarly, where at-home consumption has been decriminalized, is still an immature market.

Now Mexico is just starting to consider the idea of legalization, though Dayton says the results of the ballot issues in California and Arizona (where voters will decide this November whether to legalize recreational marijuana usage) could sway that argument one way or another. If the U.S. border states OK recreational pot, he says, it's likely only a matter of time before Mexico follows suit.

Research is beginning to show that CBD is different than other well-studied cannabinoids. All cannabinoids act as ligands, meaning they dock onto the binding site of a protein and have the ability to modulate a receptor’s behavior. CB1 receptors are widely distributed, but are particularly abundant in areas of the brain, including those concerned with movement, coordination, pain and sensory perception, emotion, memory, cognition, autonomic and endocrine functions.

CB2 receptors are found mostly in the immune system, and they seem to reduce inflammation and certain kinds of pain. Although cannabinoids all have similar structures, they display a wide array of actions at each of the different receptors.

However, scientists are finding out that CBD has very little effect on CB1 and CB2 receptors, which probably explains why it doesn’t have mind-altering effects, unlike THC, which positively regulates the CB1 receptor. That’s why most marijuana grown for recreational purposes are typically very low in CBD and high in THC.