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Big Marijuana: The Necessary Evil of Federal Legalization

A pot leaf stands in the foreground of an image of a large grow operation, which will change the future of the marijuana industry.
Photo by Paul Evans

Joint Opinions

Big Marijuana: The Necessary Evil of Federal Legalization

If the United States expects to escape the clutches of prohibition, there is no escaping the advent of Big Marijuana — that monster has already been given life. While some cannabis advocates are working to develop progressive ideas they hope to implement as an alternative business model to the hairy hands of big beasts, sadly, their efforts might never see the light of day.

Not unlike America’s old friends, alcohol, pharmaceuticals and tobacco, once marijuana rises up from the ashes and is commercialized on a national level, it will do so under a cult of its own demons, where it will continue to thrive off an underbelly so despicable that it’ll send pot purists into a rabid fit of nightmarish proportions. To avoid this is an impossibility, yet absolutely necessary.

Although it’s not conceivable for this country to formulate a national marijuana market without encompassing evil, stomach-churning big business philosophies, it’s interesting that the anti-pot crusade has chosen to use this particular peril of capitalism as an argument for why America should disregard its dream of sustaining a legal cannabis commerce altogether.

The most recent response to the idea of Big Marijuana comes from an article written by Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), entitled “If you think Big Tobacco was bad, wait till you get a whiff of Big Marijuana.” The piece, published in a Sunday edition of the Dallas News, suggests that the unforeseen product of nationwide marijuana legalization will be a continued platform focused on luring minorities and the poor into the throes of addiction – all for the sake of fat cat swindlers.

In the face of Big Marijuana, “pot legalization is no longer about a few friends calmly sharing a joint on the weekend in their own living room. Inevitably — and ever so swiftly — it has become about big business and big bucks,” wrote Sabet. “Like Big Tobacco, the large-scale commercialization of marijuana will require consistently high use rates and increasing addiction rates to keep shareholders and investors happy.”

While the point Sabet attempts to make is rooted in some truth, his belief in a legal marijuana market being fueled by mostly pot addicts isn’t an accurate prediction. There’s not enough evidence to suggest that marijuana addiction is real, much less a viable concern for public health. The inception of a nationwide cannabis industry, while it will likely resemble alcohol and tobacco, will undoubtedly sustain itself based on its recreational allure – similar to beer.

Marijuana is simply too different of a substance to be classified under the same vile threat as a product containing the highly-addictive nicotine and embalming fluid.

It would be naïve to think that Big Marijuana will not subliminally coax the youth of America into experimentation before they are legally old enough to purchase it. Yet, unless the industry dictates that cannabis producers introduce addictive properties into their products, the idea of building an economic foundation based on addiction will never work. Again, when prohibition is repealed, once and for all, and a federally regulated industry is established, the marketing masterminds of marijuana will be more successful under a brewing template rather than anything related to Big Tobacco.

Sabet, who is revered as one of legal marijuana’s harshest opposing forces, is hell bent on comparing the future outcome of corporate cannabis to the tobacco industry, yet he agrees that legal marijuana products are less of a detriment to society than tobacco. However, the problem Sabet has with marijuana is unlike tobacco, it gets the user high, which he believes will serve as a stepping stone to the further degradation of modern society.

It’s for this reason that Big Marijuana will likely be structured more in the image of the alcohol industry, which is exactly what most cannabis advocacy groups are working towards. This is because although the tobacco companies may have the ability to use nicotine’s 32 percent risk for dependence to continue peddling cigarettes to dying lung cancer patients, the marijuana industry won’t have the same opportunity – because weed is not even as addictive as alcohol.

While it’s true that no proponent of legal marijuana wants to consider the corruption that will undoubtedly blanket the industry with the commencement of federal legalization, this dark side is simply a necessary evil that serves in the interest of the greater good. Although recreational weed will appear to lose some of its integrity in the beginning, it will resurrect with wings of green and become a veritable economic salvation for the United States, the downfall of the black market marijuana trade, the path to fewer imprisonments and the push law enforcement needs to finally focus on catching the real criminals.

Do you think the rise of Big Marijuana is coming? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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