It's been a crazy year on Wall Street. Investors only have eyes for the unrelenting rally in and growth prospects of tech stocks. But they might be overlooking an even greater growth story: marijuana stocks.

Though cannabis stocks have been on a wild ride of their own over the last five to seven years, we're beginning to see the first signs of industry maturation. In October 2018, Canada became the first industrialized country in the world to roll out the green carpet for recreational marijuana sales.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the November elections saw cannabis measures in five states pass with ease. In total, 36 states have given the green light to medical marijuana, with 15 of these states also legalizing adult-use consumption or the retail sales of weed.

Every year, the cannabis industry makes some form of new history, and 2021 won't be any different. The coming year will be the first time we see a pure-play pot marijuana stock surpass $1 billion in annual sales.

Dried cannabis buds placed atop a messy pile of cash.

Image source: Getty Images.

Curaleaf is going to do what no other pure-play pot stock has done before

What investors want to see out of the cannabis industry is legitimacy. The U.S. is unquestionably the largest cannabis market in the world. However, marijuana is still an illicit substance at the federal level. Lawmakers seem to be in no rush to pass cannabis banking reforms. If a pure-play cannabis stock were to reach $1 billion in annual sales, it would further help to legitimize cannabis as a long-term growth story worthy of investment.

The pot stock expected to accomplish this feat in 2021 is none other than vertically integrated multistate operator (MSO) Curaleaf Holdings (OTC:CURLF).

Curaleaf has two main growth catalysts to thank for Wall Street's forecast of $1.26 billion in full-year sales for 2021. First, there's the organic growth potential of its existing dispensaries. The company has 96 operational dispensaries -- nearly two dozen more than the next-closest publicly traded competitor. Curaleaf holds more than 135 total retail licenses in 23 states, meaning it can open more than three dozen additional dispensaries.

The second catalyst is major acquisitions. In February, Curaleaf closed its purchase of Cura Partners, which owned the Select brand of cannabis products. Select has been launched in a number of new states but is particularly popular on the West Coast. 

More importantly, in July, it closed on an all-stock acquisition of privately held multistate operator Grassroots. This deal added over two dozen operational dispensaries, nearly doubled its retail license count, and boosted the number of states it operates in from 18 to 23. 

This combination of organic and acquisitive growth should allow Curaleaf to breeze past $1 billion in full-year 2021 sales.

A large cannabis dispensary sign in front of a retail store.

Image source: Getty Images.

Curaleaf isn't alone 

But a number of its peers will soon follow in its footsteps.

Green Thumb Industries

In 2022, MSO Green Thumb Industries (OTC:GTBIF) is expected to crest $1 billion in sales. Green Thumb has approximately 50 operational dispensaries at the moment, but holds licenses to open as many as 96 in a dozen states.

Green Thumb's focus on key markets will help it hit $1 billion in annual sales. The company acquired its way into Nevada and has a burgeoning presence in Illinois and New Jersey. By mid-decade, Nevada should lead the nation in cannabis spending per capita, with all three of these key states generating over $1 billion in annual weed sales.

It also doesn't hurt that Green Thumb generates about two-thirds of its revenue from derivatives (i.e., edibles, vapes, infused beverages, concentrates, and topicals). These higher-priced, higher-margin products should allow the company to generate recurring profits in 2021 and beyond.

Cresco Labs

There's also a chance that Cresco Labs (OTC:CRLBF) could join the billion-dollar party as soon as 2022. Wall Street's consensus currently has Cresco falling $26 million shy of $1 billion in 2022. It wouldn't be unreasonable to see this forecast move higher, though. The reason? California.

Though Cresco is maximizing its presence in the limited license state of Illinois, retail is unlikely to be its major growth driver in the years ahead. Rather, it's the company's wholesale cannabis operations. By acquiring Origin House in January 2020, it gained access to a highly lucrative cannabis distribution license in California. This deal allows Cresco Labs to place cannabis products into more than 575 dispensaries throughout the biggest cannabis market in the world by annual sales.

In other words, if California is able to work through county-specific red tape and open many new dispensaries over the next 18 to 24 months, $1 billion in sales could be very achievable for Cresco Labs.

A cannabis bud lying atop a doctor's prescription pad.

Image source: Getty Images.

Trulieve Cannabis

Even Trulieve Cannabis (OTC:TCNNF), the aforementioned "next-closest publicly traded competitor" to Curaleaf, has a shot at reaching $1 billion in sales by 2022. Wall Street's consensus projects the company will fall $29 million short of $1 billion in sales in 2022. Then again, Trulieve has made a habit of trouncing revenue expectations.

What makes Trulieve so unique is the company's near-obsession with the Florida market, where medical marijuana is legal. The company has 74 operational dispensaries, 69 of which are located in the Sunshine State. Saturating Florida has allowed Trulieve to secure roughly half of the state's medical cannabis market. Importantly, it's helped the company build up its brand without having to spend a fortune on marketing. This is why it's the most nominally profitable pure-play pot stock on the planet.

Trulieve's ability to reach $1 billion will hinge on the company's ability to maintain its dominance in Florida, as well as to expand its presence into a handful of new states.

Curaleaf will make history in 2021, but its peers won't be too far behind.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.