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Will cigarette companies get into the pot business?

Tobacco companies have been vague when asked whether they plan to manufacture marijuana products for Washington and Colorado. The legal pot market could bring the states hundreds of millions in tax revenues.

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A customer rolls a joint made of half marijuana and half tobacco to smoke inside of Frankie Sports Bar and Grill in Olympia, Washington on December 9. Many wonder if major tobacco companies plan to produce and market marijuana products in Washington and Colorado.

Nick Adams/Reuters

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Will the Marlboro Man light up a joint soon?

The states of Washington and Colorado legalized possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana in the November elections, but it is unclear if any cigarette makers plan to supply either market.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. President Barack Obama indicated last week that going after individual users won't be a priority, but there's no firm indication yet what action the Justice Department might take against states or businesses that participate in the nascent pot market, which has the potential to be large.

For example, analysts have estimated that a legal pot market could bring Washington state hundreds of millions of dollars a year in new tax revenue for schools, health care and basic government functions.

Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro, based in Richmond, Va., was vague when asked about the future intentions of the nation's largest tobacco company.

"We have a practice of not commenting or speculating on future business," Phelps said, adding "tobacco companies are in the business of manufacturing and marketing tobacco products."

Less mysterious was Bryan Hatchell, a spokesman for the second-largest cigarette maker, Reynolds American Inc., maker of Camel and Pall Mall, among many others.

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