Marlboro maker Altria the latest big company to explore pot

TORONTO (AP) — Marijuana is going corporate.

Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. is the latest big company to explore the cannabis market, joining beverage makers like Molson Coors and Heineken. 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.

Late Monday, Cronos Group confirmed talks with Altria about a possible investment. Altria, based in Richmond, Virginia, owns Philip Morris USA, the largest cigarette maker in the United States.

Shares of Cronos Group Inc., based in Toronto, rose 6 percent Tuesday.

Big companies may feel they have little choice. The cannabis market is expected to grow exponentially as recreational and medical marijuana gradually overcome legal and social hurdles. 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

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