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Big Tobacco is that general name given to the largest global tobacco industry companies in the world. Some of these companies are Philip Morris International, Altria, British American Tobacco, and Imperial Brands. 

Trends and the latest news reveal that these companies are making significant moves to launch into the cannabis industry. How long have they been hatching these plans? Have they been successful so far? In this article, we look at the past and present influence of big Tobacco and marijuana. More importantly, we consider what the future would likely hold for big Tobacco in the cannabis industry.

The Influence of Big Tobacco on Marijuana in the Past

Big Tobacco has not influenced marijuana in the past years, especially concerning marijuana legalization. However, this was expected from these companies, given the resources at their disposal.  Perhaps one factor that has discouraged them from making any positive move is the realization that marijuana would directly compete with their main product — cigarettes.  

However, things have started to change. There are now signs that big tobacco companies have begun to tap into the increasing acceptance of cannabis globally — and they’re doing so strategically.

How is Big Tobacco Impacting the Cannabis Industry?

Big Tobacco has begun to impact the cannabis industry by investing heavily in different aspects of the industry. Philip International invested $20 million in Syqe Medical, an Israel-based company that developed a medical cannabis inhaler. 

Sometime in 2018, Imperial Brands, through its venture arm, invested in Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies, a cannabis-focused biotechnology firm. 

In 2018, Altria, owner of the Marlboro brand of cigarettes, invested about $1.8 billion in Cronos, a cannabis company based in Canada. 

In 2019, Imperial Brands also announced its investment of C$123 million for a stake in Auxly Cannabis, a cannabis company based in Canada. With this rapid investment from these companies in less than five years, we can only imagine how much impact they would have in years to come if there are no restrictive policies in place.

Why Now?

Even though the interest of Big Tobacco in the cannabis industry has gotten more evident over the past few years, it didn’t just start today. As early as 1970, the then president of Philip Morris, George Weissman, wrote in an internal memo while writing about marijuana that stated: “While I am opposed to its use, I recognize that it may be legalized in the near future…we should be in a position to examine 1. A potential competition, 2. A possible product. 3. At this time, cooperate with the government.”

As far back as 1983, tobacco companies had been fishing for the right opportunity to blend marijuana into cigarettes if the government legalized cannabis. Since that period, big tobacco companies continued to research cannabis as a form of product completion and the development of products containing cannabis with high sales potentials.

However, it appears that the recent momentum comes primarily on the back of several states in legalizing cannabis, as this serves as a pointer to the possibility of imminent federal legalization. In addition, the increased demand for recreational marijuana and medical marijuana has also contributed to their interest in the cannabis industry.

The tobacco industry is also in a crisis with the end of the product imminent as several data indicate a significant decline in sales. More consumers now understand how detrimental this product can be to their health, and several studies establish the connection between the use of Tobacco and cancers such as lung cancer.

Big Tobacco and Cannabis: How Do They Compare?

Tobacco and cannabis are two completely different products. Although several controversies surround both products, other studies support the increased acceptance of cannabis for its various benefits. 

One of the major controversies surrounding both products is the mode of consumption. Smoking tobacco is one of the primary causes of lung cancer, coronary heart diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, etc. While one of the forms of consuming marijuana is by smoking it, it is essential to state that research shows smoking marijuana is far less dangerous than smoking tobacco. 

More importantly, there are many other non-harmful ways of consuming cannabis, such as edibles, tinctures, oils, etc. The benefits of cannabis transcend just benefits for medical purposes, and its benefits also extend to the environment.  Hemp is a natural purifier that captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and cleans the air we breathe. You simply cannot say this when it comes to tobacco.

The Future of Big Tobacco and Marijuana

There is no policy in place that inhibits Big Tobacco from getting into the marijuana industry. Thus, it appears that if we do nothing, these big tobacco companies would primarily diversify into the cannabis industry and may even take over. According to the CEO of Philip Morris International, Jacek Olczak, the company has plans to stop selling cigarettes in the United Kingdom within the next ten years. He also commented that the company has plans to diversify into other less harmful products to human health, which draws attention primarily to its interest in cannabis.

If Big Tobacco gets into the cannabis industry, its notorious desire to profit at the expense of human health will become a big issue. Big tobacco companies manipulated the chemical makeup of cigarettes and deliberately misrepresented the extent to which tobacco causes harm to humans for so many years. They may also begin to find ways to get people more addicted to marijuana even at a younger age.

However, it appears that so many states are proactively putting measures in place to inhibit the extent of the impact of Big Tobacco. Specifically, states that have legalized cannabis have managed to resist the effect of Big Tobacco by implementing strict public health regulations for marijuana and having restrictive limitations of the product package and advertising that children will find appealing.

Many industry experts have continued to call for the prevention of the entrance of Big Tobacco into the cannabis industry. Their reason is apparent. Even though cannabis in its natural form is relatively benign, it can potentially be modified by adding other substances. This could create products that could be very harmful to individuals.

Staying Safe and Staying Healthy Through Elevate Holistics

Let’s be honest: there’s a lot to know about cannabis. Thankfully, there is no better platform to learn all you need than through Elevate Holistics. We provide you with all the information you need to stay safe and healthy as you safely consume cannabis for your medical purposes. Even though we specialize in helping you get your MMJ card online, we have all the resources you need to be confident and knowledgeable about cannabis. Stay with us, and you’ll get the most out of cannabis education. 

Patient Resources:

Want to know more about weed’s legality in the Bay State? Read our latest blog post for more information.

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About the author

Ally Hilbert is the Content and SEO Manager here at Elevate Holistics, working to publish and run Elevate’s blogs and landing pages, as well as conduct keyword research, competitor analysis, and more. After having brain surgery at the age of 17, Ally became fascinated with medical cannabis and its benefits, and, at 18, had her first CBD-related piece published. Today, she’s been writing about cannabis for the past six years, and simply can’t think of a better company to get to do it for. When she’s not writing or editing, Ally’s side-by-side with her pup Sadie in Seattle.
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