Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR -0.70%) is not only one of the rare consistently profitable marijuana stocks on the market, it's also among the precious few that rose in price over the course of 2020. And how: $1,000 worth of its shares bought at the beginning of the year would have doubled and then some to $2,421.

Innovative currently is the only real estate investment trust (REIT) that specializes in cannabis properties. This makes Innovative a go-to option for the many cash-strapped weed companies looking to raise capital through a classic real estate move: the sale-leaseback deal (in which a business sells property to an outside company, then leases it as a tenant).

Happy woman holding marijuana seedling.

Image source: Getty Images.

Sale-leasebacks have swelled Innovative's portfolio. Across the three quarters of fiscal 2020 that the company reported this calendar year, its real estate assets grew from just under $690 million to over $916 million. The company has plenty of cash on hand for new investments, meanwhile, and carries a very light debt burden.

No wonder, then, that Innovative's adjusted funds from operations (considered the most important profitability line item for REITs) climbed steeply over those three quarters, landing at $27.9 million in Q3 from Q1's nearly $17.8 million.

And where REIT profitability goes, so goes a REIT's dividends. Innovative has lifted its quarterly payout in each of the trailing three quarters; from the beginning of this year until now, it has risen 24%.

The marijuana industry had serious challenges in 2020. While many remain, the landscape should improve in 2021 (due to legalization developments in the U.S., among other factors). Innovative will be right there to take full advantage, since what it offers pot companies is compelling and beneficial. The company should keep rolling well into the new year.