One year ago today, Canada made history. On Oct. 17, 2018, it became the first industrialized country in the world to officially legalize recreational marijuana. Although monthly sales data on cannabis stores tends to run a few months behind, the existing trend suggests that first-year trailing sales (Oct. 17, 2018-Oct. 17, 2019) will likely come in a bit below 1 billion Canadian dollars (about US$757 million).

This is also a big day in Canada because it's the day when derivative pot products become legal. Derivatives, such as edibles, vapes, infused beverages, concentrates, and topicals, offer considerably more attractive margins than dried cannabis flower. When derivatives finally begin making their way onto dispensary shelves by mid-December, the expectation is that sales will rise significantly for pot stocks.

However, Canada's growing pains right now simply can't be overlooked. A slew of supply problems have significantly weighed on the sales forecast of pretty much every Canadian weed grower in 2019 and 2020. In fact, the forecast now shows that three U.S. cannabis stocks will generate more revenue in 2020 than Canopy Growth, Aurora Cannabis, and any other Canadian pot stock you can think of.

A handful of cannabis buds lying atop a messy pile of cash.

Image source: Getty Images.

Curaleaf Holdings

At the top of the pack looks to be vertically integrated multistate operator Curaleaf Holdings (OTC:CURLF). According to its management team, the company is targeting between $1 billion and $1.2 billion in 2020 sales, but we'll have to see if that comes to fruition. Up to this point, management teams have provided unattainable forecasts throughout much of the industry.

The two factors helping to push Curaleaf to its leading sales position are its number of operational locations, as well as its inorganic expansion.

Right now, Curaleaf has 49 open dispensaries in a dozen U.S. states, which also goes along with 14 cultivation sites and 13 processing facilities. Few multistate operators have more than a handful of open locations at the moment, meaning Curaleaf's 49 are far and away leading the pack. This will allow Curaleaf a more rapid ramp-up in sales than its peers.

The other component here is acquisitions. The purchase of Cura Partners, which owns the well-known Select brand, should lead to an instant surge in revenue. Meanwhile, the more recently announced purchase of privately held multistate operator Grassroots will boost Curaleaf's presence to 19 states, increase its retail door license count from about 70 to 131, and lift its operational store count to 69. On a pro forma basis, Curaleaf has nearly twice as many open stores as its next closest peer. And that should translate into rapid sales growth.

A green highway sign with a white cannabis leaf in the upper-right-hand corner.

Image source: Getty Images.

Cresco Labs

Next up is multistate operator Cresco Labs (OTC:CRLBF), which, according to the consensus estimate on Wall Street, should be able to generate almost $664 million in revenue in 2020.

Similar to Curaleaf, Cresco Labs has a presence in one dozen U.S. states, with pro forma licenses to open 67 retail locations. Assuming all of its pending acquisitions were to close, the company would have 35 operational dispensaries, as well as 25 production facilities. 

Arguably the biggest growth driver for Cresco Labs is the company's pending all-stock purchase of Origin House (OTC:ORHOF). When announced in April, the deal was valued at closer to CA$1.1 billion, albeit both companies have seen their market caps fall substantially in recent months.

Whereas most multistate operators are acquiring other operators, the purchase of Origin House is unique. That's because Origin House's unique function is as a cannabis distributor in California. Whereas the Golden State has thousands of pot products for purchase in hundreds of dispensaries, there are only a handful of distribution licenses issued. If Cresco Labs is able to complete its acquisition, which is merely awaiting final word from the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division, it'll have access to more than 500 dispensaries in the California market. This will be Cresco's most immediate growth driver, with the opening of new retail locations providing the company's long-tail sales opportunity.

My personal suspicion is that the Cresco-Origin House deal will close within the next couple of weeks.

A large cannabis dispensary sign outside of a retail store.

Image source: Getty Images.

Green Thumb Industries

Last, but not least, multistate operator Green Thumb Industries (OTC:GTBIF) has a consensus forecast of $484 million in 2020 sales, per Wall Street. That's modestly higher than Canopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis, which Wall Street expects to produce $460 million and $432 million, respectively, in fiscal 2020 sales.

Again, the formula for sales growth isn't hard to uncover. Green Thumb, like its peers, is angling to open new locations as quickly as possible, as well as make acquisitions that'll move the company into lucrative markets. Green Thumb currently checks in ahead of Cresco Labs, but behind Curaleaf, with 95 retail licenses, but keeps with the theme of operating in a dozen states. Green Thumb had 32 open locations as of October 2019. 

Green Thumb's primary strategy has been to focus on states with the largest addressable markets. Its stores are located in states with an aggregate of 150 million people, as well as smaller states that could pack quite the punch in terms of weed sales. Nevada, for example, was entered via the now-complete Integral Associates purchase. The Silver State is expected to generate the highest cannabis spending per capita by 2024, according to the State of the Legal Cannabis Markets report, making it one of the top targets for multistate operators. Green Thumb also happens to be the only company allowed to operate a dispensary on the Las Vegas Strip.

With Green Thumb just touching the tip of the iceberg in major markets like California, Florida, Nevada, and Illinois, it's easy to see how its full-year sales could approach a half-billion dollars next year.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.