In case you haven't noticed, the marijuana industry has many investors seeing green. The average pot stock valued in excess of $200 million in market cap has seen its share price double or triple over the trailing year.
What's behind this move? Look no further than the notable change in the way the public looks at weed. Back in 1995, the year before cannabis was legalized for the first time in California for medical use in compassionate cases, only a quarter of the population was in favor of its legalization. By the latest survey in October 2017, support had reached an all-time high of 64%. As favorability toward cannabis improves, the thinking is that it could result in changes at the federal level. After all, if politicians fail to align their views with that of their constituents, they risk being voted out of office.
It also hasn't hurt that legal weed sales have exploded. Colorado saw legal sales growth of more than 30% in 2016, while California's recreational legalization should result in more than $1 billion in additional tax revenue being collected by the state each year, on top of what it's already receiving from legal medical cannabis.
However, it's worth pointing out that most marijuana stocks are still unprofitable. Some, like cannabinoid-based drug developers, are expected to remain in the red for years to come as they develop and test their product lines. Others, like a number of the Canadian-based cannabis companies, have been pouring capital into expansion projects, which has more than negated rapid sales growth.
Yet a few promising "green shoots" have emerged.
Two pot stocks actually seeing green
Based on their most recent quarterly reports, the following are the only two marijuana stocks to have delivered a profit.
If there's a pure-play marijuana stock that's been the most consistent in the profit column, it would have to be Canadian-based medical-cannabis grower Aphria (NASDAQOTH:APHQF). Despite being on track to spend more than $100 million on its phase 4 project that'll boost growing capacity to 1 million square feet and allow it to produce around 100,000 kilograms of dried cannabis annually, the company has been profitable in far more quarters than it hasn't been.
In the company's fiscal first-quarter report, released last month, it produced 40% more in sales from the prior-year period and generated its eighth-consecutive quarter of positive EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Just as important, its all-in costs to produce dried cannabis dropped by more than 3% from the sequential fourth quarter, while its kilograms sold (which includes kilogram equivalents, like cannabis oils) increased 15% over the same period.
The end result was a healthy net income of $11.8 million during Q1 2018, which compared with just $0.7 million in Q1 2017. Though margins did improve during the quarter, aiding profitability, much of the company's year-on-year profit increase was a result of gains from its strategic investments.
Having ended the quarter with nearly $93 million in cash and almost $106 million in working capital, Aphria is well capitalized and on track to complete phase 4 by January 2019. If Canada does move forward with a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, Aphria will be looking to scoop up around 10% of the adult-use market share with its increased capacity.
On the other hand, Canadian medical-cannabis grower Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) has consistently produced losses as it's poured cash into its large-scale project, the Aurora Sky. When complete by mid-2018, Aurora Sky is expected to be the largest and most automated cannabis grow facility in the world, with more than 100,000 kilograms of dried weed produced annually across its 800,000 square foot facility. Presumably, this should also push Aurora's costs to produce dried cannabis way down.
However, the company's fiscal 2018 first-quarter results bore a surprise: a quarterly profit. Subsequent to the end of the quarter, but included in the company's Q1 2018 press release, Aurora announced that its active registered patients surpassed 20,000, as compared with 8,200 as of the end of Q1 2017. This helped push sales higher by 169% from the prior-year period, as well as boosted the amount of gram-equivalent cannabis sold by 18% from the sequential fourth quarter.
But the true marvel was the $3.65 million in recorded in net income. Aurora's management team attributed the reversal from a year-ago loss mostly to higher sales, and to a lesser degree an unrealized gain on the change in fair value of biological assets, and a $1.56 million unrealized gain tied to an investment.
As long as Aurora Cannabis' primary project remains on track and on budget, it, too, is in great shape to claim about 10% of the medical and recreational market share (if approved) in Canada.