Corona beer is offered for sale at a liquor store on June 7, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Constellation Brands, one of the world's largest wine companies, is the third-largest beer supplier in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Launch of cannabis beverages in Canada could be “big business” for alcohol Goliath

Constellation Brands has their sights on developing marijuana-based beverages for sale in markets around the globe, COO Bill Newlands said.

Cannabis is a “big business,” and Constellation Brands has big aspirations in the space, the alcohol beverage company’s president said this week.

Officials for Constellation Brands (NYSE: STZ) have their sights on developing unique cannabis-based beverages for sale in markets around the globe, as laws allow, Bill Newlands, Constellation’s chief operating officer and newly appointed president told investors Wednesday. Newlands presented as part of the Consumer Analyst Group of New York’s annual conference.

“This is very consistent with what our organization has done historically, which is to identify, meet and stay ahead of evolving consumer trends,” Newlands said, according to a transcript of the presentation obtained via Bloomberg.

Newlands was referencing the nearly $200 million investment┬áVictor, N.Y.-based Constellation made last fall in Canopy Growth Corp., one of Canada’s largest marijuana companies.

“Our goal with this organization is to work collaboratively to both understand the cannabis business but also develop unique cannabis-based beverages that will be available around the world as legalities prove those to be an option,” he said.

First up: Canopy’s homeland of Canada.

“Let me remind all of you, cannabis is going to be legal in Canada starting (this year), and we expect the beverages will be legal soon thereafter,” he said, according to the transcript.

“And let’s keep in mind,” he added, “this is a big business.”

Rattling off the numbers of U.S. states that have legalized the medical use and/or the recreational use of marijuana, Newlands stated that by Constellation’s estimate, cannabis is a $50 billion business in America.

“That’s half the size of the beer business,” he said. “That’s pretty big business.”

Newlands was quick to give the caveat that Constellation has no intention of entering into the U.S. cannabis industry unless cannabis is legal “at all levels of government.”

Canopy Growth and Constellation already have kicked off research-and-development work, The Canadian Press recently reported.

“Cannabis edibles (including cannabis-infused beverages) will not be legal in Canada until 2019,” Caitlin O’Hara, a Canopy Growth spokeswoman said via email to The Cannabist. “That said, we are already preparing for the opportunity to brand and market these products, once federal regulations permit.”

The cannabis industry’s rapid expansion and projected future growth is increasingly attracting interest from well-established, traditional businesses such as Constellation, Scotts Miracle-Gro and, most recently, leaf tobacco merchant Alliance One International. As first reported by New Cannabis Ventures, Alliance One acquired majority stakes in a North Carolina industrial hemp firm that extracts cannabidiol, or CBD, as well as two Canadian marijuana firms.