A change in mindset often happens during periods of stock market volatility. Some investors shift from focusing on making money to trying to avoid losing money.

The problem, though, is that times like these can offer great ways to profit -- if you keep your eyes open. There's one particular area that many investors are avoiding or at minimum overlooking that could be quite lucrative over the next few years. It could even be the biggest moneymaking opportunity of the decade.

Down but not out

Curious about what the mystery investing opportunity is? Let's cut to the chase: It's cannabis.

You might be skeptical. That's understandable. Cannabis stocks were overhyped in recent years. Some valuations became downright ridiculous. When the cannabis industry experienced serious supply-demand imbalances, most pot stocks crashed. The performance of the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF, one of the biggest marijuana ETFs on the market, shows how the story played out.  

MJ Chart

MJ data by YCharts

However, the cannabis market isn't a mere novelty. Market researcher BDSA estimates the global legal cannabis market reached $30 billion in 2021. The U.S. accounted for $25 billion of that total.

To be sure, the explosive growth seen in the early days of cannabis legalization is in the past. But BDSA projects the global cannabis market will nearly double to $57 billion by 2026. Other analysts think the market could grow at an even faster rate.

Potential ways to make money

It's not always easy to identify the probable long-term winners in a fast-growing market that's still in its early innings. But a few companies stand out as most likely to succeed.

Cresco Labs (CRLBF 8.11%) is on track to soon become the largest U.S. cannabis company based on revenue. The multi-state operator hopes to complete its acquisition of Columbia Care by the end of 2022. Once the transaction closes, Cresco will operate over 130 retail stores in 18 markets, including all of the 10 fastest-growing cannabis markets with projected annual revenue of over $1.4 billion.

The company already ranks as the No. 1 wholesaler of branded cannabis products in the U.S. It also has the top market share in cannabis product categories including flower, concentrates, and vapes. 

Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR -0.37%) (IIP) is the leading real estate investment trust (REIT) serving the cannabis industry. The company currently owns 111 properties in 19 states.

Cannabis operators sell their properties to IIP and then rent the properties under long-term leases. This model has proven to be highly lucrative for IIP with its profits skyrocketing more than 90x over the past five years. As the U.S. cannabis market expands, IIP should grow as well.

Scotts Miracle-Gro (SMG 0.72%) is best known for its consumer lawn and garden products. However, the company's Hawthorne segment is also the top provider of hydroponics products to cannabis operators.

Hawthorne isn't the growth driver that it once was for Scotts, primarily because of the oversupply issues impacting the U.S. cannabis industry. However, the business should have strong long-term prospects.   

Near-term headwinds

Cresco trades at under 1.3 times sales. And that metric doesn't reflect the big revenue boost the company will have once its acquisition of Columbia Care closes. IIP sports a forward earnings multiple of under 14.6, which is low for a company with such a fast growth rate. Scotts Miracle-Gro stock trades at only 12.9 times expected earnings.

These low valuations reflect the cannabis industry's current headwinds. Too much supply has negatively impacted the growth of cannabis operators such as Cresco. It has affected the ability of at least one of IIP's tenants to pay rent. And it has hurt hydroponics product sales for Scott's Hawthorne unit.

However, supply-demand imbalances work themselves out over time. The cannabis market will almost certainly continue to grow robustly. Cannabis truly could be the biggest moneymaking opportunity of this decade -- or at least one of the top opportunities.