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Why this $40 billion liquor giant is bullish on cannabis

Brian Sozzi

Here comes the cannabis-infused beverages from Corona-maker Constellation Brands.

“We don’t see actual cannabis being infused with beer, but we would see cannabis-based beverages being a big portion of what you will see going forward,” Constellation Brands CEO Bill Newlands tells Yahoo Finance.

“There is a lot of upside to what cannabis could be around the world in the next decade,” Newlands adds.

Newlands will be the first to give his new friends at Canopy Growth a hat tip when those beverages start hitting shelves in the not too distant future.

Constellation Brands spent $4 billion in August 2018 to up its stake in Canopy Growth to 38% from 9.9%. The company received four seats on Canopy’s board of directors — Newlands holds one of those seats.

No cannabis-infused drinks from the partnership have hit the market yet, but they are coming.

“On May 1, we’ll have a building that’s about 197,000 square feet and we’ll then be able to house five bottling lines. About three or four months after May 1, the lines will be running and they’ll be producing beverages,” Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton told Yahoo Finance in February.

Constellation Brands isn’t alone in its interest to tap the surging cannabis space.

Anheuser-Busch InBev set the stage in December 2018 for making a foray into cannabis-infused drinks. The beer maker inked a research partnership with upstart Canadian cannabis producer Tilray.

An Anheuser Busch logo is seen behind a glass case in the brewery's tour center Monday, July 14, 2008, in St. Louis. Anheuser Busch Cos. says it has agreed to a sweetened $52 billion takeover bid from the Belgian brewer Inbev. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The joint venture will see each company invest $50 million to research drinks infused with THC or CBD. THC is the compound that generates psychoactive effects. CBD doesn’t have those properties, but some believe it has health benefits.

Ricardo Marques, group vice president of core and value brands at Anheuser-Busch, declined to comment in an April interview with Yahoo Finance when a cannabis-infused drink would arrive.

No doubt both of these big beverage makers smell potential.

The U.S. market for cannabis- and hemp-infused drinks could grow to over $1.4 billion by 2024, according to food and drink consultancy Zenith Global. Sales for these lines of products only hit $89 million in 2018.

“You have an overwhelming majority of people in this country believing it should be legal and we fully expect it will be legal on the federal level in the not too distant future,” says Newlands.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-host of ‘The First Trade’ at Yahoo Finance. Follow Brian Sozzi him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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