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Better Marijuana Stock: Canopy Growth vs. Green Thumb Industries

By Keith Speights – May 24, 2020 at 9:36AM

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Which stock wins in a matchup between the biggest Canadian cannabis producer and one of the biggest U.S. cannabis operators?

If you're familiar at all with the cannabis industry, you've undoubtedly heard of Canopy Growth (CGC -1.80%). It's the biggest Canadian cannabis producer with the largest market cap of any pure-play pot stock on the market right now.

But I suspect there are still quite a few investors who aren't as familiar with Green Thumb Industries (GTBIF 1.08%). The U.S.-based cannabis operator should be on investors' radar screens, though. In its latest quarter, GTI generated more revenue than Canopy Growth did in its most recent reported quarter. Which of these two marijuana stocks is the better pick for long-term investors?

Cannabis leaf on top of $100 bills

Image source: Getty Images.

The case for Canopy Growth

We don't have to come up with a pretty good argument to invest in Canopy Growth. Constellation Brands (STZ -1.71%) CEO Bill Newlands recently articulated a solid case for the stock as the adult beverage giant upped its stake in Canopy Growth.

Newlands said two things that really stood out in the press release announcing Constellation's exercise of close to 18.9 million warrants to buy Canopy shares. First, he stated, "While global legalization of cannabis is still in its infancy, we continue to believe the long-term opportunity in this evolving market is substantial." Newlands also said, "Canopy is best positioned to win in the emerging cannabis space." 

There shouldn't be much argument with Newlands' first statement. The cannabis industry truly is only in its early stages. Canada's adult-use recreational marijuana market only opened in October 2018. Most medical and recreational cannabis markets in U.S. states are still relatively new.

But what about Newlands' argument that Canopy Growth is set to be a big winner? Although some might dispute that the company is in the best position to win in the cannabis market, there are plenty of reasons to think that Constellation's CEO is right.

It certainly helps that Canopy has a massive cash stockpile thanks to Constellation's repeated investments. Canopy also has solid operations in Canada and in other key cannabis markets across the world. It's even poised to be a major player in the U.S. with hemp CBD operations already in place and an option to acquire U.S.-based Acreage Holdings should federal marijuana laws change.

Canopy Growth also appears to be on the right track under the leadership of new CEO David Klein, who previously served as Constellation's CFO. The company has cut costs. Its revenue is growing. And Canopy has launched new cannabis-infused beverages in Canada that could create a new winning product category. 

The case for Green Thumb Industries

No, Green Thumb Industries doesn't have a huge equity partner as Canopy Growth does. But it doesn't appear to need one.

GTI posted revenue of $102.6 million in the first quarter, an impressive jump of 267.6% year over year and 35.4% quarter over quarter. Not only is GTI's revenue growth greater than Canopy's, as mentioned earlier, its revenue total also tops the Canadian company's.

Although GTI isn't profitable yet, it's making pretty good progress toward that goal. The company's net loss of $4.2 million in Q1 was a significant improvement from its loss in the fourth quarter of 2019. And GTI again generated positive EBITDA, up from $7.8 million in 2019 Q4 to $20.3 million in Q1, along with positive free cash flow from operations.

The great news is that GTI is just getting cranked up. It's continuing to open new stores in states with sizable legal cannabis markets. GTI currently has 44 retail cannabis stores in the U.S. but owns licenses for another 52 stores. And the cannabis markets are booming in several of the states where it operates, notably including its home state of Illinois.

Then there's the matter of valuation. GTI's market cap is a little under $2 billion. Its shares trade at around eight times trailing-12-month sales. With its revenue likely to reach $435 million or more this year and prospects for strong growth in the future, GTI could nearly be viewed as a bargain -- at least when compared to most marijuana stocks.

Better marijuana stock

I like both of these stocks. My view is that Bill Newlands' take on Canopy Growth could very well be proven right over the long term. But if I could buy only one of these stocks right now, it would be Green Thumb Industries. It's hard to argue against GTI when it has a market cap that's less than one-third of Canopy's but is delivering stronger financial results. Canopy's not a bad pick, but Green Thumb Industries is more attractive.

Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Constellation Brands and Green Thumb Industries. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Canopy Growth Stock Quote
Canopy Growth
$2.73 (-1.80%) $0.05
Green Thumb Industries Stock Quote
Green Thumb Industries
$9.37 (1.08%) $0.10
Constellation Brands, Inc. Stock Quote
Constellation Brands, Inc.
$229.68 (-1.71%) $-3.99
Acreage Holdings, Inc. Stock Quote
Acreage Holdings, Inc.

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