There's no question that this is going to be a big decade for the technology sector. We're liable to see a demand explosion for cloud computing, cybersecurity, and Internet of Things devices. But don't sleep on the marijuana industry.

Although Wall Street estimates vary wildly, as we'd expect from an industry with no modern-day precedent, global sales could hit anywhere from $50 billion to $200 billion a year by 2030. For some context here, worldwide legal weed sales didn't even hit $11 billion in 2018.

A clear jar packed with dried cannabis buds that's lying atop a fanned pile of cash.

Image source: Getty Images.

But every fast-growing industry encounters growing pains. In Canada, regulatory issues have constrained supply. Meanwhile, in the U.S., high tax rates on legal weed have made it difficult for licensed producers to compete with the black market.

Yet, in spite of these growing pains, two pure-play cannabis stocks have stood out. Though we may have seen a quarterly profit pop up now and then from the marijuana industry, the following two pot stocks have risen head-and-shoulders above the field and become the most profitable marijuana stocks on the planet.

The most profitable pot stock on a per-share basis

Take note that there are a couple of ways to define "most profitable." It could be the most profitable company on a nominal basis (i.e., actual profit, without dividing into total shares outstanding), or it can be the most profitable on a per-share basis (net income divided by shares outstanding). In terms of the latter, the most profitable marijuana stock is unquestionably Innovative Industrial Properties (NYSE:IIPR).

Innovative Industrial Properties is a cannabis-focused real estate investment trust (REIT). That long stretch of words simply means that IIP, as the company is also known, buys medical marijuana cultivation and processing assets and leases them out for very long periods of time (usually 10 to 20 years). IIP is able to reap the rewards of rental income, while also passing along annual rental increases to outpace the inflation rate. Additionally, IIP collects a property management fee of 1.5% that's tied to a property's base rental rate. While much of the company's growth has been tied to new asset acquisitions, there is a modest organic growth component built in.

An indoor commercial cannabis grow farm.

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The thing to understand about REITs is that they're a low-cost, high-yield operating model. Although the upfront cost to buy an asset is high, the cost to maintain its existing portfolio is relatively small. Thus, REITs offer very predictable and transparent cash flow, and they avoid normal corporate income-tax rates in exchange for returning most of their earnings to shareholders in the form of a dividend. In IIP's case its payout has skyrocketed from $0.15 a quarter to $1.17 per quarter over the past three years. 

Innovative Industrial Properties' portfolio currently features 62 properties spanning 16 states, with $844.8 million in capital already committed, and another $245.9 million set aside to reimburse certain tenants for the completion of construction or improvements. The average-weighted lease length of these properties is a cool 16 years. Though IIP no longer reports its average yield on invested capital, it was north of 13% during the first quarter. This would suggest the potential for a complete payback of invested capital within six years. 

What all of this means is Innovative Industrial Properties is very profitable. After delivering just over $2 in earnings per share (EPS) in 2019, Wall Street is looking for $3.24 in 2020 EPS, and well over $5 per share in 2021. On a pure-play basis (that means not including Scotts Miracle-Gro), you're not going to find a more profitable pot stock on a per-share basis.

Multiple labeled jars packed with unique dried cannabis buds seated atop a dispensary store counter.

Image source: Getty Images.

The more profitable cannabis stock on a nominal basis

There's also the most nominally profitable cannabis stock on the planet, Trulieve Cannabis (OTC:TCNNF).

Trulieve is a vertically integrated U.S. multistate operator, which is to say that it controls the seed-to-sale process in the legalized U.S. states it chooses to operate in. Most MSOs choose to control the seed-to-sale process because it's cheaper, and this way they have a say on the quality of the final product.

Trulieve currently has 60 operational dispensaries in the U.S., which is second only to Curaleaf, which, through acquisitions, has 93 open dispensaries nationwide. Yet, what's most interesting about Trulieve's story is that it's almost entirely concentrated in its home market of Florida. Of its 60 open retail locations, 58 are located in Florida.

This focus on the Sunshine State is precisely why Trulieve has been so profitable for so long. By attempting to saturate Florida with Trulieve dispensaries, the company has been able to effectively build up its brand with minimal marketing expenses. According to company estimates, Trulieve controls roughly half of Florida's medical marijuana market share. That's a pretty enviable positon to be in with the Sunshine State expected to vote on recreational marijuana in 2022, and Florida projected to hit $1.9 billion in annual weed sales by 2024.

A green highway sign with a white cannabis leaf that reads, Now Entering Florida.

Image source: Getty Images.

The big question remains whether or not Trulieve Cannabis can take this blueprint of success in Florida and transition it to other markets. While the company already has a small presence in California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, it's Pennsylvania that could become Trulieve's next Florida. That's because Trulieve agreed to acquire a cultivator/processor and a retailer in the Keystone State last week. Since Pennsylvania is a limited license state, this should give Trulieve the opportunity to successfully build up its brand in select cities, as it's done in Florida. 

Just how profitable has Trulieve been? Including fair-value adjustments and one-time costs and benefits, the company reported $178 million in net income last year. But I'm more of a fan of what it's done without the aid of fair-value adjustments and other benefits. Through the first six months of 2020, Trulieve has generated $216.8 million in revenue, $158.2 million in gross profit (sales minus cost of goods sold), and $89.9 million in operating income (gross profit minus total expenses), without including any adjustments.

On a nominal basis, you won't find a more profitable marijuana stock.