If you're looking to potentially buy a marijuana stock in 2019, you have plenty of choices. Two marijuana stocks that present great examples of the diversity of options are Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY) and KushCo Holdings (NASDAQOTH:KSHB).
Tilray has received a lot of publicity since its initial public offering (IPO) in July 2018. Shares of the Canadian cannabis producer have more than tripled in value since then, giving Tilray a market cap of almost $7 billion.
KushCo Holdings is much smaller than Tilray and hasn't received as much publicity. Shares of the leading provider of packaging solutions to the U.S. cannabis industry haven't performed very well over the last 12 months, either.
But past publicity and performance don't make one stock better than another. Which of these two marijuana stocks is the better pick now?
The case for Tilray
Tilray claims several tailwinds working in its favor. The most obvious one right now is the Canadian recreational marijuana market, which opened for business in October 2018.
You can expect tremendous revenue growth when Tilray reports its fourth-quarter results in the near future. However, it will only be the tip of the iceberg for the company. Supply constraints continue to be an issue. As Tilray increases its production capacity, its sales will really skyrocket.
There's also a big potential market in Canada that has yet to open up. Regulations for cannabis edibles and concentrates are expected to be finalized in 2019. Tilray and beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev announced in December that they were teaming up to research nonalcoholic cannabis-infused beverages that could target this new market opportunity.
But as exciting as the Canadian market is for Tilray, the company's bigger growth driver should stem from expanding globally. Tilray partnered with Novartis' Sandoz unit to market medical cannabis products in international markets. The company already has a solid presence in the fast-growing German medical marijuana market. It acquired Chile-based Alef Biotechnology to beef up its Latin American operations. Tilray also has subsidiaries in Australia and Portugal.
Tilray can't enter the biggest marijuana market of all yet -- the U.S. -- and retain its stock listing on the Nasdaq stock exchange. However, there's another potentially huge U.S. market that Tilray could soon compete in. The recent U.S. legalization of hemp presents a significant opportunity for the company to develop hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) products. Market research company Brightfield Group estimates that the U.S. hemp-based CBD market could reach $22 billion by 2022.
Other consumer products could present another sizable growth opportunity for Tilray. The company recently signed an agreement with Authentic Brands Group (ABG) to market and distribute consumer cannabis products leveraging ABG's popular brands including Nine West, Prince, and Spyder.
The case for KushCo Holdings
Unlike Tilray, KushCo Holdings doesn't sell any cannabis products. But the company has rapidly become the top supplier to the U.S. cannabis industry of packaging solutions that are critical to their businesses, including pop-top bottles, tubes, vaporizer cartridges, and other containers.
KushCo has also ventured beyond its core focus on packaging. A couple of key acquisitions last year opened up new opportunities for KushCo within the cannabis industry. The company now operates a subsidiary that supplies hydrocarbons and solvents that are used in extracting cannabinoids from cannabis plants. KushCo also now has another subsidiary that provides marketing and e-commerce solutions for the cannabis industry.
These moves to vertically integrate position KushCo as a strong player in the U.S. cannabis market. And that market is expanding significantly. Thirty-three U.S. states now allow legal sales of medical cannabis. Ten states have legalized recreational marijuana.
Even though marijuana remains illegal at the federal level in the U.S., the market opportunity is enormous. Analysts project that the U.S. marijuana market will top $22 billion by 2022, coincidentally close to the same size as the hemp-based CBD market.
KushCo benefits from the U.S. legalization of hemp in several ways. Hemp-based CBD oils should drive higher demand for its packaging solutions. The likelihood of increased vaping of CBD should boost KushCo's vaporizer cartridge sales. Increased extraction of CBD from hemp should fuel demand for the company's solvents.
The U.S. is certainly KushCo's top priority, but the company also has sales operations in Canada. In addition, growing medical cannabis markets in Europe and Latin America present growth opportunities for KushCo.
Better marijuana stock
Both Tilray and KushCo have tremendous potential. But I think that KushCo is the better pick right now.
Tilray's market cap already reflects expectations of enormous growth. The marijuana producer could eventually deliver on those expectations, but it could take a while.
Big growth expectations are also baked into KushCo's share price. Consider, though, that KushCo made roughly 2.5 times the revenue that Tilray did in the two companies' most recently reported quarter, but Tilray's market cap is nearly 16 times higher than KushCo's is.
I like KushCo's prospects in the U.S. marijuana market. I like its prospects in the U.S. hemp market. And I like its global opportunities. Despite its lackluster performance in 2018, I view KushCo Holdings as a top marijuana stock to put on your list for 2019.