The maker of Marlboro cigarettes is joining some of the biggest names in beer in exploring the budding cannabis marketplace. Altria Group Inc., which owns Philip Morris USA, is the latest big company to show interest in marijuana. Canadian medical marijuana company Cronos Group Inc. has confirmed talks with Altria about a possible investment, the AP reports. Altria, based in Richmond, Va., is one of the largest cigarette makers in the United States. The company said it had no comment on Cronos' announcement. Altria joins beverage makers like Molson Coors, Constellation Brands, and Heineken, which have already announced moves in the cannabis space.
Other big companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch, and Guinness brewer Diageo haven't acted yet, but have said they're watching closely as the market for marijuana and its extracts evolves. The cannabis market is expected to rapidly grow as legalization expands in the US and social norms change. On Tuesday, conservative Utah became the latest state to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes. Consumers are expected to spend $57 billion per year worldwide on legal cannabis by 2027, according to Arcview Market Research, a cannabis-focused investment firm. In North America, that spending is expected to grow from $9.2 billion in 2017 to $47.3 billion in 2027. (Canada believes its legalization of pot could be a model for the rest of the world.)