Will Big Business Legalize Marijuana?
If you have a slightest knowledge of what I usually talk, you probably wouldn’t bet that I am in any way skeptical about legalization of marijuana. But I am.
Not for any of the usual reasons, those used by people that still live in the days of Reefer Madness. No, marijuana is a nice plant with many benefits for the body and the mind if used properly. The problem is not there.
Problem is what will happen when it gets legalized.
When marijuana gets legalized, the new players will jump in the game. The local kid you dial for a small package, the medical dispensers if you are in one of those U.S. states and the coffee-shops if you are lucky enough to live where those are operating, might go into history. As it happened many times before, big corporate business will take over.
As BBC reports, the former Microsoft’s corporate strategy manager Jamen Shively is going to start a new business. He
plans to launch an American chain which is the leader in both recreational and medical cannabis, much like Starbucks is the dominant name in coffee.
“We are planning to build a national and international network of cannabis businesses,” he said.
Now, you might ask, what a guy from IT does in marijuana business? Are there MS Weed and iPot on the horizon? No, there is no hidden connection between weed and software (beside a recreational habit of so many programmers and software designers). The things are much simpler and more obvious.
The projected size of the United States market, once full legalization with regulation exists across the country, estimates somewhere in $200 billion for the United States market and the total worldwide market would be somewhere north of half a trillion dollars.
And Jamen says, he’d be happy if his venture get 40% of it. Gotta admire the unpretentiousness of the guy.
image from Scurzuzu
This might have some serious political consequences. Lawmakers are usually more ready to listen to people with heaps of money invested in something than to people on the streets talking something reasonable. In other words, this kind of operation might take us closer to legalization than we were ever before. Not that one business guy can make it legal, but it might give a significant push. That was the good news.
Still, this IT thing is ruining my own expectations. Somehow, it always seemed logical that when marijuana start being big legal business, it will be either tobacco industry or big pharmaceuticals taking over the game. Or probably both.
For the time being, they surely have enough reasons to keep weed illegal. It’s a huge competition to the dangerous, over-priced drugs they sell. But strategists at those industries are not fools, they know that they can’t keep this sweet moment forever. And, at some point, they will turn side, start growing, branding it and selling.
And then, the pretty dream of legalized weed will shift into nightmare.
You might think that your local supplier-kid is kind of a thug, maybe he even spent some time behind bars… or you may believe the stories about those Dutch coffee-shops being dirty dens of vice and whatnot, but if you want a real mafia, real crime, real addiction-pushers, then you put tobacco and pharmaceutical industries in the story. And that’s the bad news.
photo by Images of Money
At the press conference, Jamen Shively was accompanied by a former president of Mexico, Vincente Fox, who said:
What a difference it makes to have Jamen here sitting at my side instead of Chapo Guzman.
Mr. Guzman is Mexican drug-lord, i.e. the competition. I have no doubts that Chapo is all but a nice guy. Just take a quick look at Wikipedia entry on him and see why he is considered to have surpassed legendary Pablo Escobar and why his head is priced five million USD. But still, it’s hard not to find tobacco and pharmaceutical industries less dangerous.
But big corporate-crime stories aside, what this change in supplier will do for the marijuana market?
Well, there will be Starbucks mentality of weed. Which sounds terrible. But as Starbucks failed to ruin coffee for the whole world, this won’t ruin the weed as well. The other danger is that the new weed will be sprinkled with all the shit they can invent to make it addictive. They do that to tobacco, after all.
But, with a bit of luck, there will be some good stuff around, though you’ll probably have to know where to buy it. Not much different than today then. Except you won’t need to look around and give money while handshaking with a guy on the street. Of course, that’s if the new industry don’t go the regular path of patenting stuff and make weed legal only for themselves and spend half of their profits destroying small independent competition. Which won’t be much of a surprise. We’ll see.