Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, spoke to a New York consumer group on Wednesday about how the company can “create a responsible and regulated legalized market in the U.S.,” and take “significant steps to address the historical impact of cannabis criminalization on communities of color.”
On Wednesday, Altria’s CEO Billy Gifford and Sal Mancuso, the company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, spoke during the Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) Conference.
CAGNY is a large nonprofit that hosts events that connect investors, management teams, and the media “dedicated to the consumer industry.” Altria focused their remarks on “Moving Beyond Smoking and advancing our 10-Year Vision (Vision) to responsibly transition adult smokers to a non-combustible future,” Gifford said.
Mancuso said that the company believes that a “federally legalized U.S. market presents a significant opportunity for adjacent, long-term growth,” given the rapidly changing landscape of medical and adult use cannabis laws, and legalization’s “strong support among the American public,” with polls showing that 68% of Americans now back full federal legalization.
(Cannabis Wire has reached out to Altria to learn more about the specifics of the company’s activity around federal cannabis reform in the U.S., and will update this story.)
Cannabis Wire recently broke the news that Altria is registered to lobby on cannabis sales in Virginia, a state where an adult use cannabis legalization bill that has Gov. Ralph Northam’s support is sailing through the legislature. This registration marked the first time the company has lobbied on cannabis in the US, either at the state or federal level.
The company is specifically registered, as of January, to lobby on “issues Related to the Responsible and Equitable Regulation of Cannabis Sales in Virginia for Altria Client Services LLC and its Affiliates — Philip Morris USA Inc., John Middleton Co., U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., and Altria Summit LLC,” according to a Cannabis Wire analysis of lobbying disclosure registrations.
Cannabis Wire also first confirmed Altria’s support for federal cannabis legalization. “Altria supports the federal legalization of cannabis under an appropriate regulatory framework. As a stakeholder in this industry we intend to work with policy makers and regulators in support of a transparent, responsible, and equitable operating environment for the sale of cannabis,” Altria spokesperson George Parman told Cannabis Wire.
“This is essential for both Altria as an industry stakeholder headquartered in the Commonwealth and for our diverse employee base who, as community stakeholders, are dedicated to making Virginia a great place to live and work.”
Altria, which is headquartered in Henrico County, just outside of Richmond, Virginia, is already involved in the cannabis industry through its significant stake in the Canadian cannabis company Cronos Group. That appears to be the driving force behind Altria’s doubling down on cannabis.
“In support of our investment in Cronos and as part of our investment governance, Altria is committed to working with policymakers and stakeholders to create a responsible and regulated legalized market in the U.S.,” Mancuso said during the CAGNY conference on Wednesday.
“We support a comprehensive, federal regulatory framework that advances science, creates quality and safety standards, prevents underage use and importantly, takes significant steps to address the historical impact of cannabis criminalization on communities of color,” Mancuso continued. “We believe that by working with policymakers and stakeholders who share this view, Altria can contribute in a meaningful way to advance efforts toward a legalized federal marketplace, and we’re excited about the U.S. opportunity for our investment in Cronos.”
Cannabis Wire also first reported, in 2019, that Altria was the first major tobacco company to lobby on hemp at the federal level.