Over the next decade, you'd probably struggle to find a growth opportunity that's more exciting than legal cannabis. With Canada giving recreational marijuana the green light last October, Mexico expected to follow suit very soon, and more U.S. states legalizing pot, the door is wide open for marijuana stocks to thrive.
However, there's one area where pot stocks have not excelled: gaining investors' trust.
Over the past year, pot stock investors have been hit with a flurry of scandals. In December, Aphria was blasted with a short-seller report alleging that it had grossly overpaid for its Latin American assets. Even though an independent committee proved this allegation to be false, the committee did uncover conflicts of interest among certain executives, which led to the departure of longtime CEO Vic Neufeld.
Just two months prior, in October 2018, Namaste Technologies was also hit with a short-side report alleging wrongdoing. Once again, a committee found that most of the claims had no merit, but did uncover the sale of company assets by now-former CEO Sean Dollinger to a related party. Dollnger was terminated from his role as CEO with cause.
Then, of course, there's CannTrust Holdings (OTC:CNTTQ). CannTrust admitted in July that it grew cannabis in five unlicensed rooms at its flagship Niagara campus for a period of six months. Further, it was revealed that CannTrust's then-CEO Peter Aceto knew about this illicit grow, but allowed it to continue. CannTrust has since had its cultivation and sales licenses suspended by Health Canada, with no timetable set as to when it could regain full compliance.
Suffice it to say that transparency hasn't been great with most cannabis stocks. But that's not the case with the following three pot stocks which are, arguably, top-notch when it comes to sharing information with investors.
Among pure-play marijuana growers, perhaps no company is more upfront with its shareholders than Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB). I might pick on Aurora regularly for diluting the daylights out of its shareholders, but there's no questioning that management is doing a very good job of keeping investors informed as to what's going on.
For numerous quarters now, Aurora Cannabis has been providing Wall Street with sales guidance for its upcoming quarterly release. This guidance is typically issued about four to six weeks before reporting its results. Although the company wound up whiffing on its own sales guidance in its most recent quarter, the simple fact that investors and Wall Street have a pretty good idea of what to expect ahead of the announcement is something virtually no other pot growers offer their shareholders.
Aurora also does a bang-up job of updating investors on the progress of the company's 15 cultivation facilities, as well as its partnerships and processing sites. Just this past week, Aurora released an all-encompassing update on its growing and processing sites, noting that most of the big expenses for its massive 1.62-million-square foot Aurora Sun facility are in the rearview mirror. Before the end of the company's fiscal 2020 (June 30, 2020), pretty much all of its facilities should be fully licensed and operational, leading to at least 625,000 kilos in annual run-rate output.
Also mentioned in this latest update was the introduction of Aurora Insider, an investor blog that'll be dedicated to providing regular updates about the company's operations. I may not be the biggest fan of the results Aurora has delivered thus far, but it's top-notch in my book for investor transparency.
Innovative Industrial Properties
Cannabis real estate investment trust (REIT) Innovative Industrial Properties (NYSE:IIPR) also deserves a nod for keeping its shareholders up to date on the figures that matter.
As a REIT, Innovative Industrial Properties acquires medical cannabis cultivation and processing facilities, then aims to lease these assets out for long periods of time, thereby reaping the rewards of rental income. Since the year began, IIP's property count has increased from just 11 to 31 properties in a dozen states. As icing on the cake, Innovative Industrial is able to pass along a 3.25% annual rental increase to its tenants, as well as a 1.5% management fee that's tied to the underlying rental rate. This modest bit of organic growth ensures that IIP is able to stay ahead of the inflationary curve.
What makes IIP so special is that it takes the time report its average-weighted lease length and current yield on invested capital, along with the aggregate capital that's invested or earmarked for property upgrades, with each newly acquired asset. The company's latest property purchase, which was announced about two weeks ago, shows that its average-weighted lease length is 15.9 years, with an average return on invested capital of 14.5%. This suggests that IIP should have a complete payback of what it's invested in these properties in five years, and that it's cash flow should be relatively consistent for approximately a decade and a half.
The REIT model is already fairly low-cost and predictable, but IIP makes it even more trustworthy by keeping some of the most important metrics investors care about up to date.
Planet 13 Holdings
A third cannabis stock that does a top-notch job of providing information to its shareholders is small-cap, vertically integrated multistate operator Planet 13 Holdings (OTC:PLNH.F).
Planet 13 is the operator of the largest dispensary in the world: a 112,000-square-foot store just west of the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. Aside from an incredible selection of product, this store will feature a pizzeria, coffee shop, events center, and consumer-facing processing center, making it sort of the Disneyland for cannabis enthusiasts. It's worth mentioning that, by 2024, Nevada has been forecast as the leading state for per-capita cannabis spending. Right now, Planet 13 is responsible for about 10% of the Silver State's monthly marijuana sales.
What makes Planet 13 such a winner in the transparency department is the company's monthly update on visitor traffic, average ticket, and paying customers, at its SuperStore in Las Vegas. This information allows investors to generate a very good guess as to what sales will total in the next operating earnings release. According to the September data release from the company, the average ticket is up more than $13 since the SuperStore opened in November, all while the number of average daily visitors (not to be confused with paying customers) has nearly doubled.
There's simply no dispensary operator that can offer the experience that Planet 13 brings to the table.