Things certainly did not go as expected for cannabis stock investors in 2019. Following a first quarter that yielded incredible returns, pot stocks spent the remaining nine months of the year retracing their steps. A combination of high tax rates on weed in the U.S., supply issues in Canada, and a persistent black market pushed most cannabis stocks into steep losses last year.

However, there have been exceptions. While keeping in mind that there are a lot of one-time benefits and fair-value adjustments associated with marijuana stock income statements, six cannabis stocks have managed to produce at least one quarter of real operating profit (not to be confused with net income), without the aid of these one-time benefits. If you've been considering investing in the high-growth marijuana industry, the following six stocks are a good place to begin your research.

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

Image source: Getty Images.

Innovative Industrial Properties

Among pure-play cannabis stocks, none is more profitable on a per-share basis than Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR 0.49%). The secret sauce here is that IIP, as the company is known, is a cannabis real estate investment trust (REIT). Like a typical REIT, it acquires assets that it then leases out for long periods of time. But unlike most REITs, IIP's assets are medical marijuana cultivation farms and processing sites.

Following its most recent property acquisition, Innovative Industrial Properties has 47 assets in 15 states, with a weighted-average remaining lease length of 15.5 years and an average yield on its $510 million in invested capital of 13.3%. Translation: IIP will have a complete payback on its invested capital in less than 5.5 years. It's a highly predictable model in terms of cash flow and expenses, and it has a built-in (albeit modest) organic growth component thanks to annual rental increases and property management fees tied to the underlying rental rate. 

OrganiGram Holdings

When it comes to Canadian pot growers, only New Brunswick-based OrganiGram Holdings (OGI 0.98%) has managed to deliver a quarter of no-nonsense operating profit. In the company's fiscal third quarter, it wound up producing 24.8 million Canadian dollars in net sales and CA$12.3 million in gross profit before accounting for fair-value adjustments. Even including operating expenses, OrganiGram managed CA$1.2 million in operating profit. To be clear, other Canadian pot stocks have been profitable, but all of them have relied on asset revaluations, derivative liability revaluations, or fair-value adjustments to be so. OrganiGram didn't need these one-time benefits to generate its operating profit in Q3 2019.

OrganiGram's key to success is the fact that it's only operating one campus in Moncton, New Brunswick. Utilizing a three-tiered growing system, Moncton should be one of Canada's most efficient cannabis grow farms, with yields potentially hitting 230 grams per square foot (psf) -- the industry average is probably closer to 75 grams psf to 125 grams psf. Also, with just one operating campus, OrganiGram should be able to more effectively adjust its costs to respond to consumer demand and market conditions.

A person holding a vial of cannabinoid-rich liquid in front of a flowering cannabis plant.

Image source: Getty Images.

MediPharm Labs

Extraction-services provider MediPharm Labs (MEDIF 4.01%) has produced not one, but two consecutive quarters of operating profit and net income. What makes this fact so insane is that MediPharm only began its hemp and cannabis processing operations in November 2018. In other words, it took less than two full quarters for the company to go from flipping the "on" switch to generating a recurring profit.

MediPharm has been so successful in the early going because it's at the epicenter of the derivative movement -- derivatives being alternative pot products such as vapes, edibles, and infused beverages. MediPharm processes hemp and cannabis biomass to provide the resins, distillates, concentrates, and targeted cannabinoids being used in these substantially higher-margin products. Plus, with the company often locking in fee- and volume-based processing deals for a year or longer, MediPharm Labs' cash flow and expensing are easier to forecast.

The Valens Company

Perhaps it's no surprise that The Valens Company (VLNS) is also on this list considering that it's a prime competitor to MediPharm Labs. The company, which you may know best as "Valens GroWorks" (it recently changed its name), reported a gross margin of close to 78% in its August-ended quarter, an operating profit of CA$5.5 million, and CA$5.9 million in net income.

Like MediPharm, Valens Company is expected to see increasing importance as a marijuana middleman thanks to its processing capabilities. Valens landed two-year deals with HEXO and Tilray in 2019, and has plans to increase its processing capacity from its current 425,000 kilos per year to something closer to 1 million kilos on an annual run-rate basis. The launch of derivatives in Canada in mid-December, and the fact that they're a much-higher-margin item than dried cannabis flower, makes Valens and its peers a necessity in the supply chain.

Cannabis leaves next to a jar full of infused topicals.

Image source: Getty Images.

Charlotte's Web

Though stretching the limits of the phrase "cannabis stock," Charlotte's Web (CWBHF 2.80%) also qualifies as having produced a real operating profit. The company that utilizes hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) in a host of products sold in the U.S., ranging from oils to topicals, has generated $71.8 million in sales through the first nine months of 2019, leading to a gross profit of $52.2 million, not including any fair-value adjustments (which in Charlotte's Web's case are minimal). Compared to $49.1 million in operating expenses through nine months, the company has delivered a modest $3.1 million real operating profit on a fiscal year-to-date basis. 

While CBD could be one of the fastest-growing aspects of the cannabis movement -- Brightfield Group estimates that the compound annual growth rate for CBD could top 100% between 2018 and 2023 -- Charlotte's Web and the CBD industry have been stymied by a cautious stance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Thankfully, Charlotte's Web's focus on topicals and oils, and not on so much on edibles and beverages, which are drawing the ire of the FDA, should allow it to continue growing with ease.

Trulieve Cannabis

Last, but certainly not least, the most profitable company in the entire cannabis space, based on total operating income and net income: Trulieve Cannabis (TCNNF -1.22%). Trulieve is a vertically integrated multistate operator that's primarily focused its attention on Florida, its home market. To date, Trulieve has opened 40 dispensaries, allowing it to gobble up the most medical marijuana market share in the Sunshine State. With the company focused on branding close to home, expenses have remained low, while profits have been robust.

In Trulieve's most recent quarter, the company produced $70.7 million in sales, with cost of goods sold hitting $26.7 million and operating expenses totaling $20.6 million. In other words, Trulieve produced an operating profit of more than $23 million in a single quarter before any fair-value adjustments or one-time benefits/costs. For what it's worth, Trulieve wound up benefiting from a $66 million fair-value adjustment in its latest quarter. There's simply no pot stock that's currently as profitable as this company.