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Why Big Tobacco is interested in marijuana

The world’s largest tobacco companies are likely working to get involved in cannabis, experts say. After all, Big Tobacco has had its eye on a legal cannabis market since the Nixon administration.

According to documents obtained under litigation by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), massive tobacco corporations such as Philip Morris have shown interest in the possibility of a burgeoning legal marijuana industry for decades, reports the Daily Caller.

“Since at least 1970, despite fervent denials, three multinational tobacco companies, Philip Morris (PM), British American Tobacco (BAT, including its US subsidiary Brown & Williamson [B&W]), and RJ Reynolds (RJR), all have considered manufacturing cigarettes containing cannabis,” the UCSF researchers concluded.

Marlboro cigarette manufacturers Philip Morris even went so far as to seek federal funds to conduct secret research into marijuana.

“We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed,” stated an unsigned 1970 Philip Morris memo to executives obtained by UCSF’s Center for Tobacco Research & Education. “The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying these needs.”

Philip Morris, now known as Altria, became so enthusiastic over the future of cannabis legalization that they looked into the intellectual property rights for the name “Marley,” which would have given them rights to brand legal pot under noted cannabis enthusiast and reggae legend Bob Marley.

Today tobacco companies flatly deny looking into the future of legal cannabis, although experts believe they are privately examining the market.

“If you’re specifically in the tobacco industry, of course you should be paying great attention,” said Jonathan Caulkins, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz Center and co-director of RAND’s Drug Policy Center, to the Daily Caller. “It would be unfair to your shareholders if you didn’t at least watch with interest and probably should have several analysts working full time trying to think of different scenarios of how this could play out.”

Big Tobacco now hopes to bridge the gap between marijuana through buying out e-cigarette vaporizer companies. In the past three years, tobacco manufacturers such as Altria and Lorillard have acquired e-cig companies Green Smoke and Blu respectively, while Reynolds America has launched its own its own e-cig vaporizer known as Vuse.

“It will be quite possible in the marijuana legalization market, we might move away from combustion-related products and moving heavily into ‘vaping’ based products,” Caulkins told the Caller.

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