Cannabis industry observers are witnessing mainstream investors of all stripes investing in and partnering with the cannabis industry, from hedge fund legends to alcohol giants to biotech companies. There has long been speculation that Big Tobacco would enter the marijuana market once prohibition ended and the theory could become a reality sooner than later as Marijuana Business Daily reported:

The entry of Altria – owner of Marlboro maker Philip Morris USA and an investor in alcohol giant Anheuser-Busch InBev – would be another major milestone for the marijuana sector, coming on the heels of Constellation Brands’ bombshell investment in Canopy Growth last month.

“Cannabis remains illegal under federal law, and we intend to continue to comply with federal law,” Murray Garnick, executive vice president at Altria, said during a fireside chat at the Barclays 2018 Global Consumer Staples Conference.

But the company is also “mindful of the possibility” that cannabis’ legal status may change, he noted. “We’re studying and evaluating market opportunities,” Garnick said.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Big Tobacco is thinking about jumping into the cannabis industry once the United States finally ends cannabis prohibition, but the entry of more and more companies provides both opportunities and obstacles for smaller businesses. It is always going to be difficult to compete with deep-pocketed interests, but the ability to brand as a craft company and forge unique partnerships can allow businesses to find their profitable niche, just as microbreweries have done.