Imperial Brands
participated through its venture arm in a Series A fundraising round for 
Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies (OCT).
Snoop Dogg’s cannabis-focused venture firm, 
Casa Verde Capital, also
participated in the round.

While OCT did not
publicly disclose the size of the round, sources close to the deal confirmed to
Business Insider that nearly $10 million (R 136 million) was raised.

It’s one of the
first concrete signs that the tobacco industry is embracing cannabis, and
positioning itself for a future with less demand for cigarettes. 

“We are
pleased to be partnering with OCT,” Matthew Phillips, the chief
development officer of Imperial Ventures said in a statement. “Cannabinoid
products have significant potential and our investment enables Imperial to
support OCT’s important research while building a deeper understanding of the
medical cannabis market.” 

The move is a sign
of a larger shift within Imperial, which is behind popular cigarette brands
like Kool, Salem, and Winston. Imperial added a Canadian cannabis executive,
Simon Langelier, to its board last year. The company has also
started moving
beyond cigarettes to focus more on pharmaceuticals,
vaporizers, and other consumer products. 

The UK-based OCT is
researching cannabinoid compounds to test which can be turned into effective
drugs or treatments. Like other research-stage biotech companies, it’s working
on developing intellectual property around these compounds.  

“Funding
research into cannabinoids can be challenging,” Karan Wadhera, the
managing partner of Casa Verde, told Business Insider over the phone.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to support the growth of the medicinal side
of the cannabis industry.”

Wadhera compared
OCT to the more well-known GW Pharmaceuticals, which recently got its
marijuana-based epilepsy drug, Epidiolex, approved by the Food and Drug
Administration. 

The drug uses CBD, a compound found in the cannabis plant
that doesn’t get you high. Wadhera said the FDA’s approval of Epidiolex will
“open the doors” to cutting-edge research on cannabinoids — active
compounds within the marijuana plant — presenting a huge opportunity for
biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

Neil Mahapatra, the
managing partner of Kingsley Capital Partners, a London-based firm that owns
the largest chunk of OCT, told Business Insider in an email that the market for
cannabis-based drugs is “opening up across the world.”

“In the past
two years alone, very significant countries have created new cannabis markets:
Germany, Australia, and Poland to name a few,” Mahapatra said. “And
the growth is almost just beginning: if you look at the size of the alcohol and
pharmaceutical industries now, that’s what the size of the cannabis market
could reach.”

Momentum around
medical marijuana is sweeping the US: Oklahoma, one of the most conservative
states, recently legalised medical marijuana for patients over the
age of 18. 

Source: Business Insider