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With the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading the globe, the World Bank expects that the global economy will contract by a staggering 5.2% this year, while Ian Bremmer, President of Eurasia Group, speaks of “the first global economic depression of our lifetimes”. Government rescue measures have already exceeded US$4.5 trillion, and growing by the day, leading to not many people feeling optimistic these days.
However, global headlines make it clear that industries are not being affected equally, that some are finding opportunities, despite the many challenges on the horizon. Among those worst-hit are the airline industry, which is forecasted to incur losses of $250 billion, the hospitality and leisure sector, which in the US alone recorded a 47% loss in jobs, and the brick-and-mortar retail sector, whose losses in the US are estimated to reach $430 billion. There are, however, firms who have been able to use social distancing measures to their advantage. Zoom, for instance, has seen its valuation rise from around $16 billion to $58 billion while sales increased by 169% year-on-year in the three months to April 30, 2020.
Enterprise video communications providers like Zoom are not the only ones who are set to emerge stronger from the status quo. Deloitte found, that with billions worldwide confined to their homes, the financial technology, or fintech, industry is benefiting from increased use of online, especially mobile, channels for viewing and managing finances. Indeed, research Mastercard conducted in the UAE shows that contactless payments in Q1 of this year were 100% higher than during the same quarter in 2019. And it is this ongoing, accelerating shift to cashless payments that makes now
Tobacco giant Altria made a very public splash with its $1.8 billion investment in recreational cannabis in 2019. Since buying in, the company has been much more quietly trying to claim a long-term stake in the marijuana industry by patenting cannabis technology, public records show.
In late February of this year, Altria, the parent company of cigarette brands including Marlboro and Parliament, filed two patent applications for vaporizer devices specifically designed for cannabis, according to United States Patent and Trademark Office filings.
The company is also the current owner on two older vaporizer patents from the same inventor filed earlier and acquired through a sale, a company spokesman said. Those patents also specifically mention cannabis.
The Altria cannabis devices have temperature controls meant to allow consumers to vaporize THC or CBD. The two best-known cannabinoids in marijuana—both of which have specific medical applications, according to recent research—also have different release points.
Altria has long acknowledged that tobacco consumption is declining and has sought to diversify its offerings.
Experts contacted for this article say the patents show how Altria is considering a more direct play in the marijuana market, and may be preparing for a future in which cannabis is a federal Food and Drug Administration-regulated commodity—just like tobacco.
George Parman, an Altria spokesman, declined to discuss the company’s specific plans for entering the cannabis market.
Altria paid $1.8 billion for a 45 percent stake in Cronos Group, a publicly traded company based in Canada, where marijuana is federally legal. So far, Cronos has made only limited incursions into the United States, dabbling in the hemp and CBD markets. Altria still has an option to buy a majority stake in Cronos.