Finally, after a precipitous nine-month downtrend, cannabis stock investors can breathe a sigh of relief. The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF, which holds close to four dozen marijuana stocks of varied weightings, ended January virtually flat -- and a flat month is practically a victory of late in the marijuana space.
Yet, in spite of ongoing supply problems in Canada and high tax rates in recreationally legal U.S. states, a handful of marijuana stocks managed to do a lot more than simply tread water in January. The following five cannabis stocks all gained at least 15% to open the new year. Note, I've excluded some top performers in January that would otherwise have made this list, such as Shopify and Scotts Miracle-Gro, because they derive only a small percentage of their sales from cannabis or cannabis-related activities.
Namaste Technologies: Up 88%
The runaway leader among pot stocks in January was Namaste Technologies (NXTTF -2.71%), a provider of vaporizers and the operator behind integrated medical cannabis patient portal NamasteMD. The company's 88% gain in share price looks to be primarily tied to a Jan. 13 announcement that Choklat had received a processing license from Health Canada to produce infused chocolates and drink mixes. Namaste owns a 49% stake in Choklat, and since derivative pot products are viewed as a considerably higher-margin product than dried flower, this news was received well by investors.
Of course, Namaste is also still reeling from a scandal that saw now-former CEO Sean Dollinger sell company assets to a third party without disclosing the sale in security filings. Despite being a year removed from the disclosure of this incident, it's proven more difficult than expected for Namaste to regain the trust of its shareholders.
KushCo Holdings: Up 26%
Another ancillary company that logged a stellar month is U.S.-based KushCo Holdings (KSHB). Although KushCo has seen its business adversely impacted by the vape-health crisis in the U.S. (KushCo's largest revenue driver is vaporizer sales), investors appear to be coming around to KushCo's longer-term growth prospects.
Even with the company hitting only $35 million in fiscal first-quarter sales, the company's management team stood by its outlook that calls for between $230 million and $250 million in full-year sales. This would place KushCo's market cap at less than one times its 2020 revenue. Further, management expects margins to improve throughout the year, with vaporizer sales picking up in the second half of fiscal 2020. This generally upbeat outlook -- and a possible push toward positive adjusted EBITDA -- seems to have put some pep in KushCo's step to begin the year.
Innovative Industrial Properties: Up 18%
There's a very good chance that cannabis real estate investment trust Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR -2.54%) needs little introduction, as it's a regular to these top-performing lists. Last month, Innovative Industrial wound up adding a few additional assets to its portfolio, bringing its owned properties up to 48 in 15 states. The weighted-average remaining lease length on these properties is 15.6 years, with an average return on assets of 13.3%. In other words, the company will have a complete payback on its $529 million in invested capital in less than 5.5 years.
Innovative Industrial Properties also wound up selling more than 3.4 million shares of its common stock in January, raising $250 million in gross proceeds. Although this leads to existing shareholders being diluted (at least in the short term), IIP has shown a penchant for successfully putting its capital to work quickly and effectively. Thus, the cash raise looks to be another sign that IIP plans to stay aggressive with regard to acquiring new assets.
Liberty Health Sciences: Up 18%
Though it often flies under the radar, vertically integrated dispensary operator Liberty Health Sciences (LHSIF) logged a solid January, with its shares gaining 18%. One reason for the optimism looks to be that Liberty opened its 23rd store in medical marijuana-legal Florida almost three weeks ago. Unlike most core U.S. markets, Florida hasn't struggled with supply or regulatory issues. Thus, dispensary operators in the Sunshine State have thrived.
Liberty Health Sciences' fiscal third-quarter operating results also raised some eyebrows. Sales surged to 16.1 million Canadian dollars from CA$3.2 million in the year-ago quarter, with the company reporting net income of CA$6.9 million. Understandably, fair-value adjustments played a key role in these profits. However, Liberty Health did generate about CA$2 million in operating profit without the aid of fair-value adjustments, which demonstrates real progress.
CannTrust Holdings: Up 15%
Last, but not least, embattled cannabis stock CannTrust (CNTTQ) galloped higher by 15% in January. Then again, this is probably little solace after giving back 81% of its market value in 2019.
The reason CannTrust regained 15% of its market value in January remains a mystery, as the company had no significant press releases that would explain the increase. However, CannTrust's management team has suggested that it will have met a laundry list of requirements put forth by regulatory agency Health Canada to (hopefully) have its cultivation and sales licenses reinstated by the end of the first quarter. As a reminder, CannTrust sales and cultivation licenses were suspended in September after the company admitted to illegally growing pot in five unlicensed rooms at its flagship Niagara campus for a period of six months (October 2018 to March 2019).
What's more, CannTrust hasn't exactly lost much ground to its peers due to the aforementioned supply issues in Canada. Yes, it would be better if CannTrust were growing and selling cannabis, but it's really not fallen too far behind its competition.