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The Big Under-the-Radar Marijuana Stock You'll Want to Closely Watch This Year

Keith Speights, The Motley Fool

You've probably heard of most of the marijuana stocks with multibillion-dollar market caps. They're the ones that make headlines by establishing partnerships with big companies outside of the cannabis industry and teaming up with well-known celebrities. 

There's a good chance you've also heard of some marijuana stocks that aren't quite as large but are listed on U.S. stock exchanges. CannTrust and HEXO are good examples.

However, there's one big marijuana stock that has likely flown under the radar for many investors. This stock's market cap of $2.4 billion makes it bigger than CannTrust and HEXO combined. And it's a stock you might want to closely watch this year. Which stock is it? Cresco Labs (NASDAQOTH: CRLBF).

Magnifying glass on top of a marijuana leaf

Image source: Getty Images.

Cresco who?

Cresco Labs ranks as one of the largest cannabis operators in the U.S. The company holds cannabis licenses in 11 states. At least five of these states are on track to have legal marijuana markets of $1 billion or more by 2022.

The company will soon have 14 cannabis production facilities in nine states. These facilities combined provide Cresco Labs with an estimated annual production capacity of over 147,500 pounds of cannabis (nearly 67,000 kilograms). However, Cresco expects its expansion projects will boost this capacity to over 515,000 pounds (more than 233,000 kilograms) by the end of 2019.

But Cresco Labs isn't just a cannabis producer; it's a cannabis retailer, too. The company currently operates 21 cannabis dispensaries in eight states. Overall, Cresco holds 51 cannabis retail licenses.

Cresco focuses largely on the U.S. medical cannabis opportunity. However, its retail stores in Massachusetts and Nevada sell adult-use recreational cannabis. The company's average revenue per square foot of $6,500 beats well-known retail leaders including Apple, Starbucks, and Tiffany.

A big deal in the works

Cresco Labs could soon be even larger. The company announced earlier this month that it plans to buy Origin House (NASDAQOTH: ORHOF) in the biggest acquisition of a public U.S. cannabis company ever. The deal isn't finalized yet, as Origin House shareholders must vote to approve the acquisition. This vote is expected to take place in June.

Origin House started out focusing on royalty streaming deals with cannabis companies. However, the company shifted gears. Origin House is now the leading distributor of cannabis products in California. It also markets several of its own brands and is continuing to expand its lineup.

In addition, Origin House is looking to build up its business in Canada. The company acquired leading Canadian vape retailer 180 Smoke, which operates 23 retail stores. Origin House plans to use 180 Smoke as a launching pad to roll out cannabis retail stores in Canada that carry its own in-house brands plus other brands.

Cresco's acquisition of Origin House will make the company an even formidable contender in the U.S. cannabis market. Combined revenue including Origin House should be around $383 million in 2019. By 2021, Cresco Lab's revenue could jump to more than $1 billion with projected EBITDA of $317 million. 

A bet on the U.S. cannabis market

I think that Cresco Labs could represent one of the best ways to profit from growth in the U.S. cannabis market -- and that growth should be significant. An annual U.S. legal cannabis market of $22 billion or more is expected by 2022.

Cresco also has entered the U.S. hemp market. In February, the company established a new hemp cannabidiol (CBD) subsidiary, Well Beings. Cresco plans to expand its hemp CBD products to all 50 states. Estimates vary on how big the U.S. hemp CBD market will be, but there's almost certainly a multibillion-dollar opportunity.

In the third quarter, Cresco Labs made $12.2 million in revenue and $2.9 million in earnings. That revenue total is more than twice as much as Canadian marijuana producer Cronos Group reported in its last quarter. And Cronos lost money instead of making a profit. Despite the much better performance, Cresco Labs' market cap is less than half that of Cronos Group.

Probably the main reason why this is the case is that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level in the U.S. But efforts are underway to change that. As progress is made on this front, Cresco Labs' valuation could come more into alignment with the valuations of Canadian marijuana stocks. Cresco might be under the radar for many investors now, but it probably won't be for too much longer.

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Keith Speights owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Starbucks and has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Origin House. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.