Most legal marijuana businesses in Colorado, Washington and Oregon are small mom-and-pop operations. And they are heavily regulated as states are being careful how legal pot is being sold and distributed.
However, it’s already obvious that it must be terribly tempting for Big Tobacco to jump into the burgeoning multi-billion-dollar industry. Its current product — tobacco — is seeing diminishing revenues, at least in the West, thanks to higher taxes, drastically lower smoking rates (from close to 30 percent about 20 years ago to about 18 percent today), the popularity of e-cigs, smoking bans and lots of other factors.
Hah, OK, this quote from the USA Today article cracked me up:
“I think there’s a ton of paranoia that they’re buying up warehouses and signing secret deals,” said Chris Walsh, the editor of Marijuana Business Daily, an industry publication.
However, noted anti-smoking crusader Stanton Glantz recently co-authored a paper that the tobacco industry has had an interest in the marijuana market since the 1970s. And USA Today was nice enough to provide a link to the paper.
According to the paper, published in Milbank Quarterly:
“In many ways, the marijuana market of 2014 resembles the tobacco market before 1880, before cigarettes were mass produced using mechanization and marketed using national brands and modern mass media. Legalizing marijuana opens the market to major corporations, including tobacco companies, which have the financial resources, product design technology to optimize puff-by-puff delivery of a psychoactive drug (nicotine), marketing muscle, and political clout to transform the marijuana market.”
The head of a company that makes hydroponic equipment for marijuana growing agrees that it appears inevitable that Big Tobacco, and possibly the alcohol industry, will try to muscle in on marijuana as more states legalize it.
“We’re a mass-produced society, from the food we eat to the television we watch,” said President and CEO Derek Peterson of Terra Tech, “ultimately, big alcohol or big tobacco is going to come into this space. I just can’t imagine that won’t happen.”
And with the tobacco industry’s involvement, look for many of the same tricks tobacco used to market cigarettes to kids to market marijuana to underaged users. (Yeah, I know, like marijuana really needs to be marketed to teenagers, but you get my drift. E-cig companies have been incredibly — and I mean incredibly — brazen in marketing e-cigs to kids, look for Joe “Rasta” Camel to make a comeback if Big Tobacco gets involved in pot.).