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Tobacco Companies Are Pivoting Towards Marijuana

In the 1970's, the tobacco industry listed marijuana as one of its biggest threats. And nearly 50 years later, it appears they've decided to embrace it.

Tobacco companies are increasingly investing in and developing products related to the cannabis industry. In 2016, Phillip Morris, one of the biggest tobacco companies, invested $20 million in an Israeli company that creates 3D-printed cannabis inhalers, and also received a patent to produce marijuana terpenes for one of its European subsidiaries. Other companies are increasingly putting out vaping products that can be used by both tobacco and marijuana smokers.

The industry is increasingly taking a, "If you can't beat them, join them," approach. Americans, particularly young Americans, are smoking at increasingly lower rates. And with cannabis becoming legal in more states, the people who are interested in smoking are going with marijuana to avoid the health risks associated with cigarettes.

The question is how involved in the cannabis industry can Big Tobacco actually get. In 2010, California voters shot down a ballot initiative that would've legalized recreational marijuana partly due to rumors that tobacco companies were buying up large tracts of land with the intention of dominating the cannabis market and forcing out smaller growers. Those rumors turned out to be false, but they were still worrisome enough to delay California legalization to 2016.

Americans still have a distrust towards tobacco companies, and finding out that Big Tobacco is flooding the markets with their cannabis would discourage many people from participating in the market.

So for now, Big Tobacco is stuck on the sidelines. But it's only a matter of how long before they try to take a bigger share.

(h/t Observer)


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