Cannabis advocates the billion dollar market but is afraid of big business

Marijuana makes big bucks for states willing to legalize it. This is the message cannabis advocates have been preaching for years, and they take every opportunity to praise it as a selling point.

Some of the latest numbers show that cannabis product sales are set to become one of the largest tax-producing drunkenness markets in the United States. A new study by the Marijuana Policy Project shows that all around $ 7.9 billion in tax revenue has been turned into pot sales since 2014. At the same time, local governments benefited hundreds of thousands of dollars. In other words, when states need a new source of income, legal weed is the way to go.

Photo by Hillary Kladke / Getty Images

While the amount of money being spent on marijuana in this country is impressive, why are proponents so surprised when they see reports showing a surge in pot profits every year? Of course, marijuana sells like crazy. For various reasons, it’s now legal in over half the nation, with 17 of those states allowing it to be sold like beer. People no longer need to visit the black market to buy marijuana – although many still do – leading to a situation where the money once spent on illegal sources has become legal.

There is also the novelty factor associated with the cannabis market. People who may never have used marijuana before (or those who tried it in their teens) tend to go to the legal weed scene because it amuses them to some extent and poses little to no risk with it. They are interested in being “bad” without colliding with the law. They want to hang out with the cool kids. Studies show that more and more people are trying weed for the first time when it’s legal. Canada experienced a massive uprising among first-time marijuana users after launching its legal market a few years ago.

“One of the things … unique to this survey is the number of respondents who said they were using it for the first time,” said Michelle Rotermann, senior analyst in Statistics Canada’s health analytics division. told CBC News in 2019. “So on this case they started in the post-legalization period.”

More users mean more money.

But a few years ago something funny happened to the weeds. The alcohol and tobacco industry began to “pay close attention” to it. Some of these companies even invested a lot of money to get involved. Beverage companies like Constellation Brands (makers of Corona & Modelo) invested billions of dollars to get on the ground floor of Ganja. In the meantime, Molson Coors, Anheuser-Busch and the Boston Beer Company have also moved. Imperial Brands (maker of the Kool and Winston cigarette brands) also stepped in. Last, Marlboro maker Philip Morris said it is watching the pot market to see where it fits in. These big corporations with deep, deep pockets are trying their hand at marijuana in preparation for the federal government to finally legalize it. And that’s something we could see in the next few years.

RELATED: Marlboro Maker is watching the cannabis industry whether you like it or not

Senate Democrats will attempt to legalize marijuana nationally this year. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer plans to “soon” propose comprehensive cannabis reform law. In fact, federal legalization is so close that the alcohol and tobacco industry has formed a national lobby group to influence changes in cannabis policy at the federal level. It’s a development that scared the cannabis people. After years touting the sizeable revenue potential of weed, weed proponents now want weed legalization to take place without capitalism.

Marlboro Maker is watching the cannabis industry whether you like it or notPhoto by Amritanshu Sikdar via Unsplash

“It is a false dichotomy to claim that our only two options are to keep locking people up for marijuana or to roll out a red carpet for large national corporations straight away to break into the market.” wrote Shaleen Title, vice chairwoman of the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition and Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at Ohio State University’s Drug Policy and Enforcement Center.

Interestingly, that’s exactly what Senator Schumer wants to do to stop the alcohol and tobacco industry from getting involved in cannabis. He made this clear when he announced that cannabis reform was a democratic priority. But instead of pushing Congress to create a taxed and regulated national market, proponents want it to slow down and let states find the best way to go. “Legislators should give states the time they need to implement fair policies and, in the meantime, prevent market dominance by Big Tobacco and other bad actors.” Title claims.

It remains to be seen how Schumer plans to legalize marijuana nationwide without allowing any old-fashioned capitalist slaughter to take shape. Although the cannabis scene is divided between those who want justice for decades of brutal drug war tactics and those who just want to sell weed and enjoy profits, it seems unlikely that cannabis will come out alive without being exploited like alcohol and tobacco. It seems even less likely that the cannabis industry will make it through another twenty years without big corporations stepping in and devouring them whole.

I suppose this should be a lesson in “Be Careful What You Ask For”. Weed is becoming legal, and the design will likely mimic the big money ideas the cannabis advocate community has been selling for decades.

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