Cannabis stocks haven't exactly shone over the last year. Capital constraints, weak internal controls, overaggressive management teams, regulatory bottlenecks, exceedingly high tax rates, a thriving black market, and unrealistic expectations have all played a part in bringing the industry to its proverbial knees since the end of the first quarter of 2019. As a result, the legal marijuana space has witnessed a spike in companies attempting to seek bankruptcy protection, a mass exodus of top-level executives, a sea of goodwill impairment charges, widespread downsizing, and numerous capital projects getting shelved or outright canceled, all in the past three months. That's not the kind of backdrop that tends to attract growth investors, even those with a high tolerance for risk. 

Cannabis equities, however, may be nearing an inflection point. Keeping with this theme, many companies, vis-a-vis their new management teams, have instituted tighter cost controls, begun the process of cleaning up their balance sheets, and doubled down on simply growing great weed in a cost-efficient manner. Legal marijuana, in turn, should slowly morph into a more professionally managed industry with a rather bright long-term outlook. Here are five cannabis stocks poised to benefit from these ongoing structural and tactical changes over the next decade. 

A miniature shopping cart containing marijuana leaves set against a light green backdrop.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Aphria: A ridiculously cheap multinational weed company

Aphria (NYSE:APHA) has the industry's most attractive valuation, a strong international presence highlighted by its German subsidiary CC Pharma, a top-flight production capacity, one of the longest cash runways, and one of the most highly praised dried flower brands in Broken Coast. Nonetheless, the market has chosen to ignore all of these positives because of the sins of its former management team.

Aphria's shares have lost another 20.7% during the first two months of 2020. This sharp pullback, though, should prove to be an amazing buying opportunity for patient investors. Eventually, Aphria's core value proposition will break through this unwarranted wave of pessimism. The company, after all, has one of the strongest outlooks within its peer group, spearheaded by its growing international operations and early brand-building efforts.  

2. Canopy Growth: The industry's top dog

Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC) is Canada's largest pot company by market capitalization. It has a top-tier, fully funded production capacity and one of the largest international footprints, and it is headed up by consumer packaged goods veteran David Klein. Perhaps most importantly, though, Canopy sports a large equity stake from alcoholic beverage giant Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ). This marquee partnership has given Canopy the ability to expand internationally and beef up its product portfolio, and it has kept the company from having to repeatedly dilute shareholders.

The bad news is that Canopy is still losing money hand over fist, despite these competitive advantages. Klein's task, therefore, is to cut costs, boost sales, and streamline operations. Fortunately, he has the right kind of experience to achieve these goals, which bodes well for Canopy's long-term prospects. All told, Canopy clearly has the inside track at being the industry's biggest name by 2030. So, unless things go completely haywire in the interim, Canopy's stock should turn out to be a great buy-and-hold play. 

3. Cresco Labs: A top American cannabis play

Cresco Labs (OTC:CRLBF) is a multistate operator in the United States. The company's core value proposition centers around its recent acquisition of Origin House, which gave it a massive footprint in California. The quick and dirty version of the story is that Cresco now has a shot at $1 billion in annual sales by 2022. That's a rather healthy outlook for a company with a market cap currently at $1.1 billion. 

The catch -- and it's a big one -- is that the Californian legal pot market is in desperate need of a regulatory overhaul. Burdensome tax rates and a licensing bottleneck for dispensaries have kept the black market firmly in the picture. In fact, it's an open secret in the Golden State that most licensed companies still sell illicit cannabis in order to remain economically viable.

Cresco, in turn, may have made a crucial mistake with this merger. If California can get its house in order, though, Cresco should be a prime beneficiary. Longer-term, the company is also sitting in the catbird seat in the event cannabis is rescheduled at the federal level. This American pot stock is definitely a high-risk play due to the legal hurdles that currently exist at both the state and federal levels. But there's also a chance that Cresco might be a big winner once these legal headwinds are resolved.  

4. Cronos Group: An innovative approach to cannabis

Cronos Group (NASDAQ:CRON) has taken a lot of flak for its cautious approach to business development in the past. But this conservative strategy appears to be a stroke of genius in light of how the industry has evolved over the past year. Instead of using its multibillion-dollar investment from Altria (NYSE:MO) on a merger and acquisition spree, Cronos has quietly focused on research and development, most notably through a biofermentation partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks.

The long and short of it is that Cronos is basically prepping for the day the United States ends federal prohibition on marijuana. Once this happens, Cronos should be able to quickly ratchet up production by taking advantage of Altria's network of contract farmers. It will also likely be able to roll out one of the most technologically advanced lineups of derivative products. Cronos is clearly playing the long game -- a strategy that should pay off handsomely for patient shareholders. 

5. OrganiGram Holdings: Canada's most efficient grower

OrganiGram Holdings (NASDAQ:OGI) is firmly in the middle rung of Canadian pot growers. The company's size, however, belies its stellar long-term value proposition. The fact of the matter is that OrganiGram punches well above its weight, thanks to a proprietary three-level indoor growing system and a laserlike focus on cost controls. The result is that the company is on track to achieve sustained profitability well before most of its peers (with perhaps the exception of Aphria). OrganiGram's cash runway should thus turn out to be among the best in the industry. That's a big advantage in an industry where fresh capital is quickly becoming hard to dig up.

The company also has another, somewhat hidden competitive advantage. By going small, so to speak, OrganiGram didn't take on vast amounts of leverage immediately out of the gate. So as the industry matures and additional market opportunities open up in Canada and abroad, it should be able to scale up to capitalize on these longer-term opportunities as they become available. Some of its chief competitors, on the other hand, are so laden with debt right now that they may ultimately fade from the picture well before the legal cannabis market lives up to the hype. In brief, OrganiGram may be a small-cap company now, but it definitely has the potential to evolve into a large-cap giant by the end of the decade.