Multinational tobacco conglomerate Philip Morris International recently announced that it is researching the possibility of getting involved in the legal weed industry.
Last week, Philip Morris CEO Andre Calantzopoulos told Bloomberg News that it was considering cannabis as a potential element of its new “Beyond Nicotine” strategy. Now that global cigarette sales are on the decline, the tobacco firm is planning to diversify its product range to include botanical sleep aid, energy-boosting, or calming products. And although the company has yet to finalize these plans, cannabis could well fit into that picture.
“We are doing all this work and will determine one day what avenues to pursue,” said Calantzopoulos to Bloomberg. “But our priority is what we’re doing with our smoke-free products, and that’s where I would stay on cannabis.”
Five years ago, Philip Morris invested $20 million in Syqe Medical, an Israeli company that just developed the first cannabis microdosing inhaler to ever receive international regulatory approval. At the time, Philip Morris was only interested in using Syqe's technology to create smoke-free nicotine delivery devices. But now that the new cannabis inhaler has been approved for use in Canada, the tobacco giant is taking a fresh look at the legal weed industry.
Philip Morris is only taking its first baby steps into investigating the legal weed market, but other cigarette firms have already dropped serious coin on this new industry. In 2018, Altria, best-known for making Marlboro cigarettes, spent $1.8 billion buying up a 45 percent stake in Cronos, a Canadian cannabis company. Since the acquisition, the company has filed two patents for weed vapes and hired a lobbyist to advocate for CBD product regulation in Congress.
This March, British American Tobacco (BAT), maker of American Spirit, Camel, Newport, and other smokes, bought a 20 percent share in Organigram, another Canadian cannabis firm. This $175 million deal will make BAT Organigram's largest shareholder, and the company has indicated that it will be focusing its initial efforts on bringing new CBD products to market.
Big tobacco companies' interest in the legal weed industry has been growing so rapidly that Congress has taken notice. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s new cannabis legalization bill will reportedly include provisions to keep massive alcohol and cigarette companies from dominating the US cannabis market.