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Big Tobacco Company Invests in Cannabis Research

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Imperial Brands, one of the giants in the tobacco industry invested in the UK cannabis research start-up Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies (OCT).

They said the investment is for the British biotechnology company to further study how cannabis can be used in making medicine. This investment also marks one of the first official financial moves of tobacco companies into the cannabis industry.

One of the world’s largest tobacco companies, Imperial is the maker of Winston and Gauloises cigarettes.

Big Tobacco Company Invests in Cannabis Research - Imperial Brands

On Thursday last week, the company’s subsidiary, Imperial Brands Ventures took an equity stake in the UK based OCT.

They did not disclose the amount to the public they paid for the stake but Business Insider reported that OCT raised nearly $10 million in total from Imperial and other investors.

Another major investor in OCT is Casa Verde Capital, Snoop Dogg’s investment firm.

Imperial’s investment comes a year after the company named Simon Langelier, an expert in medical marijuana to its board of directors. Langlier is also the chairman of the medical cannabis firm PharmaCielo.

Experts believe that this only shows how the huge tobacco companies are trying to branch out from the shrinking market of their industry.

The company’s investment also comes several days after the Food and Drug Administration of U.S. finally gave their go signal to the use of a cannabis-based drug.

A win for research laboratories and cannabis legalization advocates, this move by the FDA is seen as opening the floodgates for more research into the medical properties of cannabis and how the substance can be utilized into beneficial products.

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Big Tobacco Company Invests in Cannabis Research

Although the influx of investments to OCT could be one of the tobacco industry’s strategies to enter the cannabis space, the board of OCT said that the company is strictly a research firm that will focus on the study of therapeutic and medicinal uses of cannabis and how its compounds can be dissected even further to be applied in the medical field.

“Our investment enables Imperial to support OCT’s important research while building a deeper understanding of the medical cannabis market,” Matthew Philips said in an interview.

Philipps is the Chief Development Officer of Imperial Brands.

tobacco industry

While this is historically the first move of Imperial Brand to invest in the cannabis industry, it seems that it is potentially a part of the gradual action plan of the company to become more involved in the cannabis industry as more states and countries worldwide are joining the movement to legalize marijuana.

Imperial Brands was formerly called Imperial Tobacco. They changed the name in 2015 because the executives of the company said that they would like to make the company reflect their more dynamic and brand-focused business strategies.

Some business analysts view the move by the business as a means to shift their goal toward alternative products like electronic cigarettes, while some see their move as a discrete way to prepare their transfer into the cannabis industry.

As of the moment, 9 states have legalized the adult the use of cannabis, including Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and more. The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau has also announced that the adult market for cannabis will be open in their country in October this year.

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What It’s Like Being a Canadian Cannabis Company Awaiting Legalization

Canadian government has taken the time and investment to make their decision. - Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau

Earlier this year, Alliance One International, an American tobacco company also announced that they had bought 75 percent of Island Garden, a PEI-based medical cannabis company in February.


What are your thoughts on Big Tobacco investing in cannabis research? Let us know in the comments below! 

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