Marlboro (Altria) exploring move into marijuana market

The maker of Marlboro cigarettes is joining some of the biggest names in beer in exploring the budding cannabis marketplace.

Altria Group, which owns Philip Morris USA, is the latest big company to show interest in marijuana. Late Monday, Canadian medical marijuana company Cronos Group confirmed talks with Altria about a possible investment.

Altria, based in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the largest cigarette makers in the United States. The company said it had no comment on Cronos’ announcement.

Altria joins beverage makers like Molson Coors, Constellation Brands and Heineken that already have announced moves in the cannabis space. 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.

Shares of Toronto-based Cronos Group rose 6 percent Tuesday to close at $10.74. Altria shares fell 2 percent to $54.40.

The cannabis market is expected to rapi