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Better Buy: Aurora Cannabis vs. Scotts Miracle-Gro

Keith Speights, The Motley Fool

Looking for winning marijuana stocks? Two that probably should be on your short list are Aurora Cannabis (NYSE: ACB) and Scotts Miracle-Gro (NYSE: SMG). Shares of Aurora have soared more than 80% so far this year, while Scotts Miracle-Gro stock is up more than 35%.

If you can afford to invest in only one marijuana stock right now, though, there are plenty of things to consider when choosing between Aurora and Scotts. Here's what you need to know to decide which of these two marijuana stocks is the better pick.

Giant marijuana leaf in a shopping cart.

Image source: Getty Images.

The case for Aurora Cannabis

Aurora Cannabis' revenue continues to soar thanks to the Canadian adult-use recreational marijuana market. Sales should grow even more later this year assuming that regulations are finalized for cannabis edibles and beverages as anticipated.

Based on results from the first full quarter to include adult-use recreational sales, Aurora is in second place in the important market. The company seems likely to at least maintain that position going forward with its industry-leading production capacity.

But an even bigger opportunity for Aurora is in international medical cannabis markets. On this front, the company is arguably in the best position of any marijuana producer. Aurora has operations in 24 countries spanning five continents. In the last quarter, it posted the highest international sales among Canadian marijuana producers.

Aurora recently cemented its premier spot in the important German medical cannabis market. The company was one of three to win provisional approval to cultivate medical cannabis in Germany.

How big are Aurora's growth prospects? The company thinks that there could be up to a $9 billion annual market in Canada, including both adult-use recreational and medical cannabis sales. The global medical cannabis market outside of Canada could exceed $50 billion. It should be noted, however, that the latter figure includes the U.S. -- a market in which Aurora can't currently compete and still retain its listings on the New York Stock Exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange.

These projections don't include the potential for consumer products containing cannabidiol (CBD) produced from marijuana or hemp. Aurora is a major player in the global hemp market, recently completing its acquisition of HempCo.

There's one knock against Aurora when comparing the company to some of its peers: It doesn't have a major partner outside of the cannabis industry. That could change soon, though. Aurora tapped billionaire investor Nelson Peltz as a strategic advisor in March to help line up partnership deals with big companies in industries that cannabis could disrupt.

The case for Scotts Miracle-Gro

Scotts Miracle-Gro has been best known through the years for its consumer lawn and garden products. But Scotts is also now a top supplier to the U.S. cannabis industry thanks to a string of acquisitions made by its Hawthorne Gardening subsidiary. Hawthorne provides a wide range of products to the cannabis industry, including hydroponics, fertilizers, and lighting systems.

There are a couple of significant growth opportunities for Scotts' Hawthorne subsidiary. First, several of the states in which it operates are only in the early stages with their legal marijuana markets. The biggest of these states, California, launched its adult-use recreational marijuana market last year. California's recreational market got off to a rocky start due to onerous regulations and high taxes.

However, things are getting better in the Golden State, according to Hawthorne General Manager Chris Hagedorn. That's great news for Scotts, considering that more than half of Hawthorne's revenue is generated in California.

What's the second growth opportunity for Hawthorne? More states appear likely to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana in the future. Three of these states -- Illinois, New Jersey, and New York -- are especially promising because of their size. As more states open up recreational markets, demand for the products that Hawthorne sells should grow considerably.

We can't overlook Scotts' consumer lawn and garden business, either. It still generates close to half of total revenue. The business should enjoy sales growth as Scotts launches several new organic products this year. Over the longer term, warmer temperatures could also boost sales for the company's lawn and garden products.

In addition to its growth prospects, Scotts Miracle-Gro offers something that Aurora Cannabis and most other marijuana stocks don't: a dividend. Scotts' dividend currently yields 2.8%.

Better buy

Aurora Cannabis will likely deliver higher revenue growth over the next several years. However, it will need to do so to justify its valuation. Aurora's market cap is over $9 billion but the company had less than $100 million in sales over the last four quarters.

I think that Scotts Miracle-Gro is the better choice for most investors. Scotts has a tried-and-true business with its consumer lawn and garden products. Its Hawthorne subsidiary should pick up momentum. And if U.S. federal marijuana laws are changed to leave it up to individual states to enforce their own marijuana laws, Scotts is likely to be a big winner. Throw in its solid dividend and Scotts Miracle-Gro looks like one of the more attractive marijuana stocks on the market right now.

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Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.