Will we soon see the Marlboro man staring off into the distance while smoking a joint?
That could be a real possibility after Altria Group, owner of Marlboro cigarettes, the world’s best-selling brand, recently purchased a 45 percent stake in Cronos Group Inc., a Toronto-based global cannabinoid company for $1.8 billion,
Altria also said it has plans to buy another 10 percent of Cronos as the market for cannabis for recreational use and marijuana for medical use continues to grow.
This is another case when a product that was once illegal and landed a lot of black people in jail is now legal thanks to the backing of both big business and government.
“Investing in Cronos Group as our exclusive partner in the emerging global cannabis category represents an exciting new growth opportunity for Altria,” said Howard Willard, Altria’s chairman and CEO.
Cronos is a vertically integrated cannabis company with a presence across five continents.
Cannabis, or marijuana, for recreational and medical purposes is legal in Canada, but Altria, which is based in Richmond, Virginia, has put itself in a good position should federal laws permitting the legalization of marijuana change in the United States. Canada became the second G7 country to legalize marijuana on October 17.
Marijuana for recreational use is legal in some states, including California, Washington and Colorado, but federal laws prohibit the drug’s use. “Cronos Group has no U.S. operations, and cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. Through Cronos Group, Altria is better positioned should cannabis become federally permitted,” the companies said in a recent news release.
The deal between Altria and Cronos would help Cronos accelerate its growth strategies, research and development and intellectual property development.
Altria owns Philip Morris.
Remember television commercials featuring a Little Person, wearing a pillbox hat, yelling, “Call for Philip Morris?” The company also owns U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company and six of the world’s top 15 tobacco brands.