How tobacco giant Altria becomes a cannabis company

Altria, one of the largest tobacco companies in the world, is fast becoming one of the largest and most influential cannabis companies in the world as well.

After spending $ 1.8 billion to buy a stake in a multinational cannabis company in 2018, Altria is now lobbying chambers of Congress and at the state level to pass pro-cannabis laws, recent filings and reportage show.

Whispers of a Big Tobacco power play to capture the cannabis industry have swirled for years in circles of the legalization of marijuana and the cannabis industry.

And now it seems to be happening, albeit slowly, in broad daylight and in a form similar to other big business techniques: acquisition, intellectual property, and lobbying for friendly regulation.

Altria spent $ 1.8 billion in December 2018 for a 45% stake in Cronos Group, one of the first large multinational cannabis companies based in Canada.

Since then, Altria has acted on several fronts to protect its investment.

As Forbes first reported, Altria has quietly added cannabis technology to its portfolio, acquiring patented marijuana vaporizers and filing new patent applications for proprietary devices.

And in a sign both of the maturation of cannabis as a serious business – and in a clear indication of how the cannabis industry is using the same tactics employed by Silicon Valley, alcohol and d ‘other sectors of big business to get favorable regulation – Altria is also covering its bases politically, both at state and federal level.

To court members of Congress, Altria in 2020 hired Based in Denver Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck, one of the nation’s top cannabis and hemp law firms, CBD policies and “non-tobacco excise taxes”, recently federal disclosure deposits show.

Altria paid a total of $ 30,000 to three lobbyists for the company in the fourth quarter of 2020 to lobby the House on tax matters, according to the documents.

In the Senate, Altria paid $ 50,000 to two lobbyists Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, another lobbying firm with an active cannabis policy store, to mobilize lawmakers on “problems related to hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD)” as well as a proposal to raise the legal smoking age to 21, deposits show.

And like Cannabis Wire first reported On Sunday, Altria is also pushing the legalization of marijuana at the state level. In the comments to Cannabis thread, the company has also officially spoken out in favor of federal legalization.

Altria registered last month to push for “fair regulation of cannabis sales in Virginia,” the website reported.

And you could argue that Altria is already reaping results.

Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly last week passed bills that would legalize the use and sale of adult cannabis in the state. If the bills are approved by Gov. Ralph Northam, sales in Virginia, where Altria is headquartered in the state capital of Richmond, would begin in 2023.

By then, it is quite possible that federal law has changed in favor of Altria.

Last week, Senate Democratic leaders, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, says legalization would be a priority for the current Congress.

And this is something that Altria also very clearly promotes and can have a direct influence on.

“Altria supports the federal legalization of cannabis within an appropriate regulatory framework,” said George Parman, spokesperson for Altria. Cannabis thread.

“As a player in this industry, we intend to work with policy makers and regulators to support a transparent, accountable and fair operating environment for the sale of cannabis,” he added.

It remains to be seen what exactly this “right frame” looks like in Altria’s eyes.

Several bills that would reprogram cannabis and allow federal sales have been tabled in both houses of Congress. It was only in the House that cannabis reform was put to a vote and passed. Efforts in the Senate have been blocked by former Republican leaders.

Under Schumer, it seems likely that the Senate will eventually vote on cannabis reform. And along with Altria, Big Tobacco — now also Big Marijuana — is about to take a seat at the table.

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