In a new paper released by Brookings entitled “Worry about bad marijuana — not Big Marijuana”, John Hudak and Johnathan Rauch talk about the corporatization of the marijuana industry and its impact. The first thing they clarify is that the term “Big Marijuana” itself has no actual meaning. It’s a term that is often used by prohibitionist groups to create a sense of fear and mistrust around the legalization of marijuana. The term insinuates that the marijuana industry is like the notoriously sneaky, uncaring, death-peddling tobacco industry, also called “Big Tobacco”.
The Rise of the Term “Big Marijuana”
The term has caught on as various groups and media outlets have thrown it around. In fact, Project SAM’s (one of the country’s best known prohibitionist groups) motto is: “Preventing Another Big Tobacco.” Other groups such as Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy use the term freely in their tweets to discourage legalization stating, “Recreational marijuana legalization is all about Big Marijuana profits at the expense of public health and safety.” The term is being thrown around so often and easily that even very small companies, such as Colorado-based edible manufacturer Gaia’s Garden, are being referred to as “Big Marijuana” in the Colorado Springs Gazette. The older producers of marijuana have also thrown the term around, as they see the smaller, underground market taken over by a new generation of regulated companies.
“A Catch-All Moniker with No Consistent Meaning”
The truth, according to the paper, is that the term is meaningless. “The term is tossed about so freely and flippantly that it has come to be a catch-all moniker with no consistent meaning, except insofar as it is consistently pejorative.” It suggests “suspicion of or even opposition to the profit motive.” The underground market, has thrived from big profits for years, regardless of prohibition. The growers and sellers within these markets, have had no issues selling to minors or heavy users, so long as they’ve made profits. A safe, legal and regulated industry can only improve public safety. With a regulated industry, marijuana profits are now shared with the state and the public via job opportunities. The profits from marijuana now have the potential to help everyone, not just those in the underground markets.
More Like Alcohol than Tobacco
They conclude that a legal, well-regulated marijuana industry, whether for medical or recreational use, is and will continue to be nothing like the tobacco industry. Instead, according to their analysis, they believe it will be more like the alcohol industry, which is regulated at state levels. Like the alcohol industry, which has proven to be very stable over many years, public and industry behavior are monitored and regulated by state officials and police. Furthermore, the size of the marijuana company should have no significance so long as they abide by the regulations that ensure public safety, product quality, safe and ethical practices and business professionalism. The paper reiterates that policy should be focused on harmful practices instead of industry structure, remaining neutral regarding company size.
Twenty five states have now legalized marijuana and recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Washington and D.C., with many more states creating legislation or voting on the issue this November. Change can be hard for many people, but as the industry grows and the public sees its fears dissolve, we should see the term Big Marijuana dissolve along with it.