Perhaps one of the most prominent internet clickbait articles to emerge around the cannabis scene over the past several years is one with a headline suggesting that Philip Morris was producing a brand of marijuana cigarettes called Marlboro M’s. The story, which published on the satire news site Abril Uno, was based on conspiracy theories that have spread since the 1960s indicating that Big Tobacco would be the first of corporate evils to swoop in and infiltrate legal weed.
Fast forward a few years, however, and the basis behind this snippet of fake cannabis news is now poised to become a reality.
Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and maker of the Marlboro cigarette brand, is reportedly considering a bold move to join the cannabis industry. The company is looking to acquire Canadian cannabis producer Cronos in an attempt to diversify and expand market share into the legal cannabis sector, according to a report from Reuters.
The news was partly confirmed by Cronos on Monday, with the company saying “it is engaged in discussions concerning a potential investment” by the Marlboro producer. But that “there can be no assurance such discussions will lead to an investment or other transaction.” In other words, no deal has yet been made.
There has been a lot of talk this year about when the tobacco companies were going to jump into the cannabis trade. But so far, the crossover from traditional SIN products to legal weed has been made primary by the larger alcohol companies. The only mention of Big Tobacco jumping into the mix was in September when it was revealed that Imperial Brands, maker of the Kool and Winston cigarette brands, was part of a medical marijuana investment pool with Canopy Growth.
Still, the news that Altria may be interested in the Canadian cannabis market shows that cigarette makers are eyeing recreational marijuana as a way to increase profits and possibly even compensate for a steady decline in smokers. Cigarette smokers are at an all-time low, according to a report from the Guardian. As for Altria, its stock has dropped 20 percent over the past year as a result.
The company recently entered the e-cigarette, JUUL market, but with legal cannabis predicted to become a multi-billion dollar beast, it makes sense that the company would be sniffing around for opportunity.
There are apparently some similar deals in the works. Several reports have surfaced over the past week suggesting that Altria is talking to other cannabis firms, including Aphria and Tilray. Other cigarette makers could be looking to strike, as well, a source close to the Canadian cannabis market told Market Watch.
Murray Garnick, executive vice president at Altria Group, said earlier this year that the company was watching and waiting for the pot laws to change in the United States. But that “we’re studying and evaluating opportunities” in the cannabis space.