Will Big Tobacco Jump on the Pot Market?

By McCarton Ackerman 12/20/12

Cigarette companies may seek to branch out, thanks to marijuana's changing legal status.

Weed could mean big bucks for tobacco
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Will Big Tobacco make way for Big Pot? There has been speculation that tobacco companies, who have faced increasing restrictions in recent years, could soon take advantage of the burgeoning marijuana market. Theoretically, cigarette makers could supply marijuana in Washington and Colorado, where the drug is now legal for personal use in small quantities. Pot remains illegal under federal law, but President Obama said last week that going after individual users of pot won't be a priority. It is still unknown whether the Justice Department will take action against states or businesses that sell weed. But analysts have estimated that a legal pot market could bring hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for schools, health care and basic government functions. Tobacco companies remain tight-lipped on the subject. "We have a practice of not commenting or speculating on future business," said Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro. "Tobacco companies are in the business of manufacturing and marketing tobacco products." Meanwhile, Bryan Hatchell, a spokesman for the second-largest cigarette maker, Reynolds American Inc., makers of Camel and Pall Mall, said they have no intention of adding marijuana to their brand. "Reynolds American has no plans to produce or market marijuana products in either of those states," said Hatchell. "It's not part of our strategy."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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