Cronos Group is the best-performing marijuana stock of all time. Its stock is up more than 60% over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, Innovative Industrial Properties arguably ranks as one of the safest picks to profit from the cannabis boom. And its share price has more than doubled over the last 12 months.
But which of these two winners is the better marijuana stock to buy right now? Here's how Cronos Group and Innovative Industrial Properties stack up against each other.
The case for Cronos Group
If you had $1.8 billion to invest in a marijuana producer, which one would it be? The answer for tobacco giant Altria (NYSE:MO) was Cronos Group. And considering that Altria is the most successful stock ever, you can count on the company's executives thinking through that decision pretty well. The reasons why Altria chose Cronos make a compelling case for why ordinary investors might also want to consider the marijuana stock.
At the top of the list is the fantastic growth opportunity in the global marijuana market. Estimates vary on just how big the market will actually be -- and how long it will take to reach its potential size. But there's no question that the opportunity exists for tremendous growth. A global market of $200 billion within the next 15 years appears to be attainable.
But why did Altria pick Cronos instead of other marijuana producers? Altria CEO Howard Willard stated in December that his team believed that "Cronos Group's excellent management team has built capabilities necessary to compete globally."
One of those capabilities for competing globally is Cronos Group's production capacity. The company is on track to grow around 117,000 kilograms of cannabis annually thanks to its own expansion efforts and key joint ventures.
Cronos has also built a solid global distribution network. It teamed up with pharmaceutical supplier Pohl-Boskamp to move into the fast-growing German medical marijuana market. The company landed a supply agreement with pharmaceutical wholesaler Delfarma to serve Poland's medical marijuana market. Cronos formed joint ventures in Australia and in Latin America to reach those international markets as well.
Back home in Canada, Cronos joined forces with leading U.S. cannabis retailer MedMen. The two partners are launching retail cannabis stores in provinces that allow private retailers.
An enormous opportunity in the global cannabis market combined with a solid infrastructure to capitalize on that opportunity makes Cronos Group an attractive choice for aggressive investors. And the Altria deal only enhances the appeal for this high-flying marijuana stock.
The case for Innovative Industrial Properties
Innovative Industrial Properties claims three key advantages over Cronos Group. The most important of these advantages is that it can and does operate in the U.S.
The company is the leading real estate investment trust (REIT) focused on the U.S. medical cannabis industry. Innovative Industrial Properties develops properties then leases them to tenants that operate medical marijuana businesses.
Don't underestimate just how important Innovative Industrial Properties' U.S. presence is. The U.S. by itself makes up more than three-quarters of the total global marijuana market. And the company's tenants currently operate in 11 states, four of which are projected to have marijuana markets topping $1 billion annually by 2022.
Innovative Industrial Properties has plenty of room to grow in the medical cannabis industry. Thirty-three U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana.
Another advantage for Innovative Industrial Properties over Cronos Group is that it's consistently profitable. The company reached profitability in the second half of 2017 and hasn't looked back. As an added bonus, Innovative Industrial Properties has no debt.
The company also claims at least one other edge over Cronos that could be especially attractive to some investors -- its dividend. As an REIT, Innovative Industrial Properties must return a minimum of 90% of taxable income to shareholders in the form of dividends. The company's dividend currently yields close to 2.6%.
Better marijuana stock
Which of these two marijuana stocks is the better pick right now? It depends.
If you're a more conservative investor, my view is that you'll probably be better off going with Innovative Industrial Properties. The company is in a solid financial position. It has great growth opportunities. And it pays a nice dividend.
However, if you're a more aggressive investor, I think Cronos Group could be more up your alley. With Altria at its side, Cronos Group appears to be well positioned to be one of the top players in the global cannabis market. My hunch is that federal marijuana laws in the U.S. will be revised in the not-too-distant future, allowing Cronos to enter the huge market.
Both of these stocks face risks, notably including the possibility that marijuana demand isn't as great as expected. But I think that Cronos Group and Innovative Industrial Partners will continue to be what they've been in the past: winners.