Cigarette, beer makers invest in cannabis market

The maker of Marlboro cigarettes has just spent $1.8b taking a 45 percent stake a cannabis provider.

Altria Group Inc bought into Cronos group, a medical and recreational marijuana provider on Friday, the Associated Press reports.

The companies' agreement includes a warrant to acquire more shares over the next four years, which would eventually give Altira a 55 percent stake in the company.

It's a big investment, but still only half of what Constellation Brands, the maker of beer Corona, invested into the cannabis market in August.

Constellation spent $4 billion on Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth Corp. It was the largest investment into the cannabis market by a US corporation.

The cannabis market is growing as parts of the world slowly liberalise their laws on use of the drugs. Conservative state Utah legalised marijuana for medicinal use on Tuesday.

New Zealand is soon to have its own conversation around marijuana use, with a referendum planned for before or during the 2020 general election.