Depending on your preferred source, the marijuana industry is set to grow to between $50 billion and $200 billion in annual sales in roughly a decade, give or take a year. Mind you, the worldwide legal weed industry generated "only" $10.9 billion in licensed-store sales last year, demonstrating what a mammoth opportunity awaits the industry and investors.
Among the many metrics investors tend to home in on with cannabis stocks is their peak production potential. Although it's important to recognize that there's far more to pot stocks than just production, the amount of marijuana a grower can deliver when fully operational is the surface-scratching number that often gets investors intrigued.
With this in mind, let's take a closer look at the four cannabis stocks currently on track to produce at least 250,000 kilos of weed per year, when fully operational.
Aurora Cannabis: At least 667,000 kilos
At this point, the undisputed output leader looks to be Edmonton-based Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB), which has 15 separate growing facilities. Aurora has a current operating run rate of around 150,000 kilos per year, but plans to boost its output to at least 625,000 kilos annually by the end of fiscal 2020 (June 30, 2020), assuming all of its key grow farms have been licensed.
According to the company's most recent investor presentation, its grow farms should yield a minimum of 667,000 kilos when everything is up to speed. Of course, Aurora's forecasts at its largest facilities, which includes the completed Aurora Sky campus, as well as Exeter, Aurora Sun, and Aurora Nordic 2, are deemed conservative by the company. If Aurora's yields are even modestly above projections, or if it were to expand Whistler Pemberton, Aurora Prairie (formerly CanniMed's core campus, which Aurora acquired last year), or ICC Labs in South America, this company could easily surpass 700,000 kilos of production per year.
In addition to leading in the production column, Aurora Cannabis also has a presence in 25 countries, including Canada. If and when dried flower oversupply and/or commoditization strikes in Canada, as it's done in a number of recreationally legal U.S. states, Aurora intends to lean on these foreign markets as external channels to avoid domestic pricing pressure.
Canopy Growth: More than 500,000 kilos
Even though it's the largest cannabis stock by market cap in the world, Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC) isn't ahead of Aurora Cannabis in annual peak marijuana output -- at least not yet.
Canopy Growth is relatively secretive compared to most major marijuana growers about its yields per square foot and its peak production expectations. But the company did note in a June presentation that over 5 million square feet of its grow farms are licensed for production, out of an expected 5.6 million square feet. Assuming that Canopy Growth yields around 100 grams per square foot, which is more or less in the middle of what most growers have been forecasting at peak production, it should have no trouble surpassing at least 500,000 kilos of annual output.
The wild card here is what Acreage Holdings (OTC:ACRGF) might bring to the table. As you may recall, Canopy Growth has agreed to acquire U.S.-focused dispensary operator Acreage Holdings in a cash-and-stock deal, with the contingency being that the U.S. federal government has to legalize cannabis. If this deal were to come to fruition, Canopy Growth would inherit Acreage's licenses that span 20 states (on a pro forma basis), including its grow farms. Thus, it's still possible that Canopy becomes the largest pot grower in the world, depending on what the United States government does with regard to cannabis, and how much annual production Acreage Holdings is working with when the deal is completed.
Flowr Corp.: More than 550,000 kilos
No, your eyes aren't deceiving. Small-cap Flowr Corp. (OTC:FLWPF) is a big deal when it comes to global cannabis output.
Until recently, Flowr was thought of entirely as a niche player. The company's Kelowna campus in British Columbia is focused entirely on ultra-premium and premium dried flower and derivatives, making it a unique player in a crowded field. However, the Kelowna campus was expected to produce only around 50,000 kilos a year when fully operational. Even adding in the Flowr Forest, which consists of 150,000 kilos of outdoor grow, and 42 greenhouses, each 4,500 square feet in size, adjacent to Kelowna, Flowr wasn't viewed a major player.
That changed in late June, which is when Flowr agreed to acquire Holigen. The prized asset here is Holigen's Portugal-based Aljustrel outdoor grow farm, which spans about 7 million square feet. When fully operational, Aljustrel is capable of perhaps 500,000 kilos of output per year. Even though outdoor-grown cannabis won't be anywhere near the quality of what Flowr is producing at Kelowna, Holigen's facility is perfectly positioned to take advantage of European demand. Flowr will likely use this outdoor grow for derivative pot products.
Aphria: 255,000 kilos
The fourth and final cannabis stock that's guided to north of a quarter-million kilos a year in annual production is Ontario-based Aphria (NYSE:APHA).
Unlike Aurora Cannabis and Canopy Growth, which have 15 and 10 respective grow sites, Aphria is working with only three:
- Aphria Diamond: A joint-venture project with Double Diamond Farms that's retrofitting existing vegetable-growing facilities. When fully operational, Aphria Diamond could produce 140,000 kilos per year.
- Aphria One: This is Aphria's four-stage organic project that's fully licensed and planted. Although it took quite a bit of time to construct and license, it'll yield 110,000 kilos of cannabis per year.
- Broken Coast Cannabis: This was an acquisition of Aphria's in 2018 that looks to add about 5,000 kilos of output annually.
Combined, Aphria looks to produce 255,000 kilos a year, with the big holdup at the moment being its Aphria Diamond facility, which has been awaiting licensing for over a year. Recently introduced changes at Health Canada should help expedite this review process.
Remember, production isn't everything in the cannabis space -- but that doesn't mean it's not a good place to start your research.