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A Major, Chicago-Tied Booze Company Is Priming Up For Weed-Infused Drinks

By Stephen Gossett in News on Oct 31, 2017 4:20PM

Another source of green / Getty Images / Photo: Drew Angerer

One of the titans in the world of beer and liquor has officially jumped into the marijuana business. Constellation Brands—whose beer portfolio includes Corona, Modelo and PacĂ­fico, and whose spirits include Svedka Vodka—announced on Monday that the company has agreed to buy a minority stake in Canadian medical marijuana company Canopy Growth. The end game? Constellation intends to (eventually) make and market cannabis-infused drinks, once the landscape allows, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Constellation, which headquarters its beer division in Chicago, announced it will spend some $245 million Canadian (about $190 million in U.S. dollars) to take 9.9 percent ownership interest. The booze colossus is expected to close the deal during the company's third quarter of fiscal year 2018.

Constellation said in a release that its core alcohol business will remain the company's focus and stressed that it had "no plans to sell any cannabis products in the U.S. or any other market" until the sale of marijuana is fully legal. But the purchase nevertheless signals a clear widening of how alcohol brands approach, and will approach in the future, the windfall market that legalized marijuana could one day represent nationwide, and beyond.

Canopy Growth—which trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol "WEED" (for real)—"has a seasoned leadership team that understands the legal, regulatory and economic landscape for an emerging market that is predicted to become a significant consumer category in the future," the Constellation Brands president and CEO Rob Sands said in a statement. "Our company’s success is the result of our focus on identifying early stage consumer trends, and this is another step in that direction."

Possessing small amounts of recreational marijuana is decriminalized in Illinois, but the effort for full legalization and regulation of recreational weed sales has seen a major push from proponents in Springfield over the last several months. Eight states currently allow the use of recreational marijuana. Legal sale of marijuana climbed to a staggering $6.7 billion last year, according to Arcview Market Research.

Meanwhile, some brewers away from Constellation are already getting crafty with weedy beers: Lagunitas made headlines earlier this year when the brewer unveiled an IPA made with marijuana terpenes, one that had all that legally pesky THC extracted out.