British tobacco giant Imperial Brands invests in medical marijuana

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tobacco investors in cannabis, British tobacco giant Imperial Brands invests in medical marijuana

British tobacco giant Imperial Brands is among a group of investors taking a stake in a United Kingdom-based medical cannabis startup.

The move is the latest foray by Big Tobacco into the rapidly growing cannabis industry.

Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies, a biotech firm researching cannabis-based medications, closed a Series A funding round with investments from Snoop Dog’s Casa Verde Capital and Imperial Brands Ventures – a subsidiary of Imperial Brands.

In a statement to Marijuana Business Daily, the firms said they are not disclosing the amount invested.

The maneuver is the “most significant move among the global tobacco players in the cannabis industry to date,” Vivien Azer, a senior analyst with Cowen, wrote in her latest cannabis market update.

“The timing of the news is interesting, as it coincides with the FDA’s decision earlier this week to approve GW Pharmaceutical’s cannabis-based therapy, Epidiolex.”

Imperial Brands’ ties to the cannabis sector began in June 2017, Azer noted, when the company added Simon Langelier, chairman of PharmaCielo, a Canadian-based medical cannabis firm, to its board.

Azer wrote that Cowen continues to expect to see more activity in cannabis from global tobacco and alcohol companies.

In February, tobacco titan Alliance One International bought controlling stakes in two Canadian marijuana producers, Canada’s Island Garden and Goldleaf Pharm. Last October, alcohol giant New York-based Constellation Brands agreed to acquire a 9.9% stake in Smiths Falls, Ontario-based Canopy Growth.

More recently, Lifford Wine and Spirits, a major supplier of wine to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, created Lifford Cannabis Solutions in April to help licensed producers market and sell their products.

Lisa Bernard-Kuhn can be reached at