It's easy to think of Canopy Rivers (CNPO.F -2.07%) as an extension of Canopy Growth (CGC -0.28%). After all, Canopy Growth formed Canopy Rivers as a way to pursue investing opportunities in the cannabis industry that help (you guessed it) Canopy Growth.

But as of Sept. 20, Canopy Rivers obtained its own stock listing. The two companies might still be joined at the hip for the most part, but they present very different prospects for investors. Which is the better marijuana stock over the long run? Here's how the parent, Canopy Growth, stacks up against its child, Canopy Rivers.

Shadow of Canadian maple leaf on top of pile of marijuana leaves

Image source: Getty Images.

The case for Canopy Growth

You've heard of big pharma and big tobacco. Make way for big marijuana. And its leader is Canopy Growth. Sure, Tilray might claim a higher market cap for now. Aurora Cannabis might have greater production capacity. But it's Canopy Growth that stands atop the global cannabis industry.

A major reason why is Canopy's relationship with Constellation Brands (STZ 3.49%). The Fortune 500 alcoholic beverage company owns a 38% stake in Canopy thanks to its $4 billion investment in August. Canopy and Constellation plan to market a variety of cannabis-infused beverages as soon as regulations permit.

The cash that Constellation poured into Canopy also gives the company unparalleled flexibility to expand globally. Canopy has already bought Colorado-based hemp researcher ebbu Inc. and Manitoba retailer ManitobaCo since the closing of its deal with Constellation. Plenty of other acquisitions could be on the way, potentially including bottling operations and a cannabis-focused biotech.

Canopy Growth is already formidable even without buying other companies. It claims 4.3 million square feet of licensed growing space, with even more on the way. Canopy has secured supply agreements with all of Canada's provinces.

The company saw early on the potential for the global medical marijuana market and aggressively built its international presence. Today, its subsidiaries operate in Australia, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, and Lesotho. Germany is the most promising of these markets. The company should also be in a good position to profit as the new medical cannabis market in the United Kingdom expands. 

The case for Canopy Rivers

Many of the same opportunities in front of Canopy Growth are also present for Canopy Rivers. The latter's focus, though, is on finding companies across the cannabis industry's value chain. 

Canopy Rivers started out in 2017 with a focus on making royalty streaming deals. In these deals, the company provides growth capital and strategic support to partners in exchange for an agreed-upon stream of future cannabis production.

But the company's business model is a little different with partners that aren't cannabis producers. In those deals, Canopy Rivers either makes an equity investment or finances convertible debentures -- debt that can be converted to equity in the future. 

The company's portfolio so far includes 11 partners. Five of those are royalty streaming deals, notably James E. Wagner and LiveWell, both of which are publicly traded. Canopy River also has several partners in which it has made an equity investment with no royalty streaming, including retailer/distributor Solo Growth and pharmaceutical-focused cannabis company TerrAscend.  

There are two potential advantages that Canopy Rivers holds over its parent Canopy Growth. First, its market cap of around $550 million is only a fraction of Canopy Growth's $8.5 billion. This could give Canopy Rivers more room to run. Second, Canopy Rivers could possibly generate stronger growth if some of its equity investments pay off big.

The better marijuana stock

Sometimes a child goes on to greater achievements than its parent. But I don't see that happening in this case.

Canopy Rivers primarily focuses on benefiting Canopy Growth. Although they're legally separate entities, Canopy Rivers exists to boost Canopy Growth, which owns 27% of its spinoff. Canopy Rivers' acting CEO is Bruce Linton, Canopy Growth's co-CEO. 

If you're going to buy a stock, you want its management team to work for its investors -- not for another company, no matter how closely related it might be. Canopy Growth is clearly the better marijuana stock, in my view.