It’s no secret that the legal marijuana industry is growing by leaps and bounds - every day, there is news of a new state legalizing, or making serious plans to legalize, medical or recreational cannabis. And while this is of course a great thing for the industry, and those who want the freedom to recreate or medicate as they see fit, how long will the charm of this mom-and-pop industry remain? With more money to be made from pot all the time, is there a serious threat that Big Tobacco will step in, wanting to take over?
So far, the tobacco industry has kept out of marijuana - mostly because things are still regulated to a state level, and only small industry is allowed to thrive. This has been a blessing in disguise, as so far all of the marijuana cultivators and dispensaries are small, intimate, and unique. But with medical cannabis having a chance of becoming legal, and with the advent of clearly bigger production companies like Marley Naturals coming up, rumors are flying around all the time that Big Tobacco is going to want a piece of the pie very soon.
"I think there's a ton of paranoia that they're buying up warehouses and signing secret deals," Chris Walsh, the editor of Marijuana Business Daily, told USA Today.
However, according to some dredged-up research from the tobacco industry, these rampant fears might not be entirely unfounded.
"Since at least the 1970s, tobacco companies have been interested in marijuana and marijuana legalization as both a potential and a rival product," Rachel Ann Barry, Heikki Hiilamo and Stanton Glantz, who conducted research on the topic, reported in June 2014 in a paper entitled "Waiting for the Opportune Moment: The Tobacco Industry and Marijuana Legalization" published in the Milbank Quarterly, as reported by USA Today. "As public opinion shifted and governments began relaxing laws pertaining to marijuana criminalization, the tobacco companies modified their corporate planning strategies to prepare for future consumer demand. 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."
So far, Altria, who used to be called Phillip-Morris and are still one of the biggest players in the tobacco industry, publicly state that they have no plans to get involved with marijuana.
"We continually evaluate opportunities for portfolio enhancement but focus our efforts on companies and products designed to meet the preferences of adult tobacco consumers and companies where we feel we could add value," stated Richard Smith of RJ Reynolds tobacco in a public address. "None of Reynolds American's operating companies is evaluating entering the U.S. market with commercial brands of marijuana." Experts speculate that the tobacco industry still wants to steer clear until things are 100% legal, as they are not willing to take the risks that smaller start-ups with less to lose are.
While the initial legalization movement was very D.I.Y. and built on the backs of those who were former hippies and radical activists, there’s no getting around the fact that larger companies are stepping in as the movement grows. This is only natural, and supports the healthy progression of medical and recreational marijuana.
"We're a mass-produced society, from the food we eat to the television we watch,"Derek Peterson, who is involved with Terra Tech, one of the current leading marijuana companies, told USA Today. "Ultimately, big alcohol or big tobacco is going to come into this space. I just can't imagine that won't happen."
While we here at Weed Depot support large industry and growth, we also support small businesses. It seems likely that cannabis will go the way of beer because of its beginnings, with both huge growers and producers and small craft cannabis companies sharing the spotlight, and providing different yet essential services. For more info on whether or not Big Tobacco has staked a claim with marijuana, check mjbizwire.com for updates.