Cannabis community members and advocates have feared a tobacco industry takeover of cannabis for a long time.
Members of the tobacco industry wanting to get involved in the fast-growing cannabis industry is logical.
After all, both industries produce products that are designed to be inhaled in a similar fashion.
Smaller players in tobacco have already made inroads into the cannabis industry, and recently one of the biggest tobacco companies made an enormous investment into the cannabis space.
Altria makes a significant investment in Canadian cannabis producer
Marlboro is one of the most recognizable brands on the planet, and definitely one of the biggest tobacco brands out there.
Altria, the maker of Marlboro, recently made a huge investment in Canadian cannabis producer Cronos Group.
The 1.8 billion-dollar deal gives Altria a 45% stake in Cronos, and Altria has the option to purchase an additional 10% over the next 5 years.
Revenue growth for Altria is reported to be stalling, which is not surprising given the status of the tobacco industry in recent years.
The future of big tobacco is not nearly as bright as the future of the cannabis industry, so Altria's move is far from shocking.
Altria's entry into the industry is a two-edged sword
Initial reactions from the cannabis community to Altria's investment were mixed. Some advocates voiced displeasure, as one of their greatest fears became a reality.
Because of the tobacco industry's history of unethical business practices, the displeasure on the part of some is understandable.
And other members of the cannabis community were more optimistic about Altria's entry into the cannabis space because such a sizeable investment further legitimizes the cannabis industry.
“You’ve got some of the larger players taking interest, and that’s a good thing. It’s going to create more economic vitality, more jobs.” said National Cannabis Industry Association's Aaron Smith.
Plus, for what it's worth, it's a good thing to see companies shifting their focus from producing a harmful substance to a healthy alternative, and it could help a lot of struggling tobacco farmers who want to make the shift.
"When you see companies like Constellation and Altria shifting their supply chains from toxic substances to this healing plant, that’s in some ways the culmination of my life’s work," Harborside's Steve DeAngelo said to the New York Times.
DeAngelo, one of the most influential cannabis activists and entrepreneurs for the past 40 years, also expressed his concerns, adding that a lot of people who worked to bring cannabis to where it is today are not being honored or included in the industry’s success.
His hope, however, is that cannabis will positively impact the tobacco and alcohol industries.
“We have to create an industry that breaks these old molds that clearly are not working,” DeAngelo said in the article.
“Just imagine if all the people who are smoking tobacco were smoking cannabis, which doesn’t give you cancer. As that happens in the minds and hearts and souls of consumers, you will see a cannabization of the corporate world.”
Cannabis opponents are likely to pounce on this investment
In recent years cannabis industry opponents like Kevin Sabet have tried as hard as they can to convince people that cannabis is the 'next big tobacco.'
Tobacco is reported to kill 7 million people a year worldwide. Cannabis toxicity has not killed anyone in the history of humankind.
But that is not likely to stop cannabis opponents from pointing to this investment as proof to back up their claims.
Putting the deal into perspective
The investment by Altria into the cannabis industry is an enormous one, yet it is far from being a full-blown takeover of the industry.
That is a point that cannabis advocates need to keep in mind as well. A vast majority of the cannabis industry has no ties to the tobacco industry, and that is very likely to always be the case.
Regardless of how you feel about the tobacco industry and its involvement in cannabis, we should all be able to agree that this is a late entry into the cannabis space.
As such, big tobacco, or any other industry for that matter, can likely never get a monopoly on the cannabis industry. Pandora is simply too far out of the box and has been for a while now.
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