In an early show from the tobacco industry which is now embracing the rising popularity of cannabis and declining demand for cigarettes, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies announced that they’re getting into cannabis.
Imperial Brands, makers of Kool, Salem, Winston, and the vapour device ‘blu’ have a venture arm that participated in a Series A fundraising round for Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies, a start-up that is researching medical uses of cannabis. Snoop Dogg’s cannabis-focused venture firm, Casa Verde Capital, contributed $10 million to the financing round.
The UK-based Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies is focused on creating effective drug treatments using cannabinoid compounds. Like other research-stage biotech companies, it’s working on developing intellectual property around these compounds. The investment from Imperial allows the tobacco brand to diversify outside of their controversial products and to support OCT’s research on pain, oncology treatment, inflammation, and gastrointestinal diseases. The startup is concurrently seeking a research partnership, a laboratory in Europe and scientists as well as policymakers for its advisory board.
While recreational weed seems to be the hot talk of North America, the emerging market for cannabis-based drugs is a global affair. In just two years, multiple countries have created new cannabis markets; Germany, Australia, Brazil and Bulgaria to name only a few. However, securing funding for cannabinoid research is still a challenge.
But we can see light at the end of the tunnel and things are progressing nicely. We just saw the first marijuana-derived epilepsy drug get approval from the Food and Drug Administration last week. The FDA’s approval of the GW Pharmaceuticals drug, Epidiolex, presents a massive opportunity for biotech and pharmaceutical companies and should open the doors to more research into the medicinal properties of the incredible cannabis plant.