It has become the modern-day bogeyman of marijuana reform: “Big Weed.” This is the label attached to a perceived threat posed by large corporations that want a share of the legal cannabis market.
The worry is that these companies will morph into something like Big Tobacco, as the largest cigarette manufacturers are collectively known. Marijuana marketing will target children and there will be little concern for the potential negative consequences of legalization. So the thinking goes.
Even many cannabis proponents feel this way. But are they right? Is Big Marijuana really a serious threat to the future of reform?
As a general matter, there really is no answer to these questions, at least not anything conclusive. There is no Big Marijuana as of yet, and it doesn’t appear any such scenario will come to pass in the immediate future. On the other hand, some of these corporations are salivating to join the legal market and may simply be waiting for the first opportunity.
Industry currently made up of small, regional companies
Few if any major national or international businesses have tried to plant a stake in the industry as of yet. Most legal marijuana providers are small or regional companies in states where the drug is allowed for recreation and medicine.
What’s more, Colorado and other such states explicitly ban outside investments in the industry. So while multi-national corporations may want in, their location outside of these states makes that impossible – at least for now.
Will big business enter later?
But what if that changes? Won’t big businesses come swooping in if the rules are loosened in the future? And once legalization spreads, isn’t this inevitable?
The answer to the first question is almost certainly yes. There are many billions of dollars to be had in a post-legalization America, and any company that might be able to get some of that money will have a strong motivation to try.
That said, there are specific reasons not to fear the imminent approach of Big Weed. For one thing, the legal cannabis market is still very new, and that means there are few large corporations prepared to joint it. A massive international bank might be able to infuse Colorado pot businesses with cash once it’s legal to do so, but that bank doesn’t have the know-how to run its own dispensaries.
Restrictions have been put in place
For another thing, no combination of big business will ever make marijuana any more dangerous than it is now. Big Tobacco had a massive lie to sell – and did a tremendous job selling it, at least for many decades. There is no such lie central to the sale of cannabis, unless you count the lies told over the years by the people who want to ban the drug.
What’s more, we have already dealt with Big Tobacco, so we should be much more prepared to deal with Big Weed, if it comes to pass. If providers were to start targeting ads toward minors, for example, there are already laws in place that could stop the ads and punish the advertisers.
Ultimately, Big Marijuana does not pose much of a threat, at least not in the near future. Capitalism is always capable of running amok, especially when drugs are involved, but that doesn’t mean disaster is imminent, and it doesn’t mean it’s inevitable.