There are plenty of ways to make money from the marijuana boom. Tilray (TLRY), for example, focuses primarily on producing marijuana for medical cannabis markets across the world and the soon-to-open recreational marijuana market in Canada. MedMen Enterprises (MMNFF -6.29%) specializes in the retail side of the marijuana industry as well as cannabis cultivation.
Investors have definitely been more enthusiastic about Tilray's prospects this year, with its stock soaring over 400%, while MedMen's share price rose by a respectable but less impressive 16%. But which of these marijuana stocks is the better pick now? Here's how Tilray and MedMen stack up against each other.
The case for Tilray
Tilray's opportunity for tremendous growth is just around the corner. Canada is scheduled to open its recreational marijuana market on Oct. 17. Tilray is in position to be very competitive in this market. It already has lined up supply agreements with eight provinces and territories, the most important of which is Ontario, Canada's heaviest-populated province.
Like most of its peers, Tilray has been busy cranking up production capacity to meet what's expected to be very strong demand in the Canadian recreational market. The company expects to have 682,000 square feet of growing space in Canada by the end of this year, plus 230,000 square feet of growing space in its Portugal facility.
Although Canada hasn't finalized regulations concerning cannabis-infused beverages and other cannabis edibles, the country is expected to do so in 2019. There has been a flurry of deals and rumors of deals recently involving big beverage companies and Canadian marijuana growers. Tilray is likely to rank among the top candidates to be a partner for some of the major beverage companies eyeing the marijuana market.
International medical cannabis markets present an even greater opportunity for Tilray. The company recently became the first producer to secure approval to supply both cannabis flower and cannabis oils to Germany. Tilray also expects growth from other countries with legal medical cannabis markets, including Australia and the United Kingdom.
The company already has a big partner for the medical cannabis market. Tilray and Sandoz Canada, a subsidiary of Novartis, announced an alliance earlier this year to develop and market medical marijuana products. This deal includes the two companies marketing co-branded products, with Sandoz Canada's sales team promoting those products to hospitals and pharmacies.
Over the long run, the global cannabis market could top $100 billion annually, with some observers predicting that it might reach $150 billion or more. Tilray is arguably one of the best-positioned marijuana growers to capitalize on this opportunity.
The case for MedMen
MedMen's primary opportunity is in the biggest marijuana market in the world: the U.S. Total global marijuana sales in 2018 are expected to be around $12.9 billion. The U.S. will generate roughly $11 billion of that total.
California ranks as the most important state by far in the U.S. marijuana market. MedMen opened its first medical marijuana dispensary in the state in 2010. The company now has eight retail cannabis locations in California. In the second quarter of 2018, MedMen's seven stores that were operational generated average revenue per square foot of $6,541 -- a better performance than Apple and Tiffany, companies that consistently rank among the top retailers.
MedMen also operates in several other states with significant marijuana markets. The company expanded into Nevada in 2013. It currently runs two dispensaries in the Las Vegas area and plans to soon launch two locations near the Las Vegas Strip, the city's famous stretch of hotels and casinos.
In addition, MedMen has four medical marijuana dispensaries in New York state. It also recently acquired a dispensary and cultivation license in Florida, which could have the third-largest marijuana market in the U.S. by 2022 despite only allowing medical marijuana. MedMen plans to open dispensaries in the state as well.
But while MedMen's primary focus is on the rapidly growing U.S. market, it isn't ignoring the opportunity presented in Canada. MedMen and Cronos Group formed a joint venture, MedMen Canada, to open retail stores across Canada targeting the recreational marijuana market.
Better marijuana stock
Both Tilray and MedMen have tremendous growth opportunities. But Tilray's market cap is more than three times greater than MedMen's. Because of this huge gap in valuation, I think that MedMen is the better marijuana stock right now.
Investors should keep in mind, though, that MedMen still isn't profitable, and it could be awhile before the company breaks even. There's also a risk that the U.S. government could crack down in states that have legalized marijuana. While that scenario seems unlikely, it could happen.
These factors make MedMen a stock that could be too risky for many investors. However, with its growth potential in the U.S. and in Canada, MedMen appears to be a marijuana stock for more-aggressive investors to keep on their radar screens.