Everything has looked up for HEXO Corp. (NYSEMKT:HEXO) so far this year. Its stock has soared nearly 80%, making HEXO one of the best-performing Canadian marijuana stocks. Things haven't been too shabby for CannTrust Holdings (NYSE:CTST), either. Its stock is up more than 30%.
But which of these marijuana stocks is the better pick for investors now? Here's how HEXO and CannTrust stack up against each other.
The case for HEXO
HEXO has one thing going for it that only one other Canadian marijuana grower can claim -- at least so far: a partnership with a well-known major international beverage company. Molson Coors Brewing picked HEXO above all other contenders as its cannabis partner. The two companies plan to launch cannabis-infused beverages.
But the cannabis beverages market in Canada has to wait until next year. In the meantime, HEXO has a huge opportunity that's quickly approaching: Canada's recreational marijuana market opens on Oct. 17.
Earlier this year, HEXO (then known as Hydropothecary) signed a supply agreement for the recreational adult-use market with its home province of Quebec. The deal ensures that the company will have a 35% market share in Quebec.
And there's more. HEXO has supply channels lined up in four other Canadian provinces. The most important of these is Ontario, which is the country's most populated province. HEXO invested in cannabis retailer Fire & Flower earlier this year and expects to establish a retail presence in key markets throughout Canada.
HEXO has focused primarily on the homefront so far. However, the company recently announced plans to establish a cannabis production facility and distribution center in Greece in partnership with Greek cannabis company Qannabos. HEXO plans to use this location as a launching pad to reach into other European markets in addition to Greece, which legalized medical cannabis earlier this year but hasn't issued licenses to producers yet.
Keeping up with demand in Canada and international markets shouldn't be a big problem for HEXO. The company expects to have an annual production capacity of 108,000 kilograms by the end of 2018.
The case for CannTrust
CannTrust has a partnership with an alcoholic beverage company, too. In September, the company entered into an exclusive partnership with Breakthru Beverage, the largest alcoholic beverage broker in Canada. Breakthru made a strategic investment in CannTrust and is establishing a brokerage operation to bring CannTrust's recreational cannabis products to market.
The company has supply agreements for the recreational marijuana market with four provinces so far -- Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario. CannTrust launched three new brands targeting the recreational market.
What about international opportunities? CannTrust checks off several boxes. The company partnered with Stenocare to sell medical cannabis in Denmark, recently completing its first shipment of cannabis oils to the country. As of now, CannTrust is the only licensed producer authorized to export to Denmark.
CannTrust also already ships medical cannabis to Australia. The company hopes to export medical cannabis products to other countries, including Brazil, Germany, and Mexico, in the future.
Its Niagara facility already includes 450,000 square feet of growing space. An expansion project is underway that will boost this space by 600,000 square feet. CannTrust anticipates increasing its annual production capacity to well over 100,000 kilograms by 2019.
Better marijuana stock
HEXO and CannTrust match up pretty well on production capacity and supply channels for the Canadian recreational marijuana market, but I think that HEXO has a potential advantage with its Molson Coors partnership. On the other hand, CannTrust appears to have an edge on the international medical cannabis front.
In my view, the deciding factor between the two comes down to valuation. My Motley Fool colleague Sean Williams sees CannTrust as one of the three cheapest pure-play marijuana stocks. While I think there are a few stocks that are even better bargains, I agree with Sean that CannTrust's valuation is relatively attractive compared to most other marijuana stocks. HEXO has plenty of potential, but I think the nod for better marijuana stock goes to CannTrust.