On Thursday, Oct. 24, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the self-professed democratic socialist and longtime independent senator from Vermont, released his ambitious cannabis legalization program.
The program incorporates the now-typical buffet of progressive cannabis policy suggestions: removing the plant from the Controlled Substances Act, developing a robust equity system to address the racist War on Drugs, and expunging criminal records. But Sanders’s program also incorporates a single unorthodox notion: It calls for banning tobacco and cigarette corporations from “participating in the marijuana sector.”
Outlined on the “Legalizing Marijuana” web page on his campaign internet site, Sanders says that a single of his ambitions is to “ensure legalized marijuana does not turn into Huge Tobacco.”
“Big Tobacco is currently targeting the marijuana sector for its income,” the platform states. “As president, Bernie will not enable marijuana to turn into Huge Tobacco.” Rather, he calls for applications to “incentivize marijuana companies to be structured like nonprofits,” with an emphasis on cooperatives that will “create jobs and financial development in neighborhood communities.”
He would also “ban businesses that have produced cancer-causing items or [are] guilty of deceptive marketing” and “institute market place share and franchise caps to avert consolidation and profiteering.”
Sanders’s program to maintain big tobacco corporations out of the cannabis sector tends to make sense: these businesses have currently began creating moves in Canada’s cannabis sector, and the senator is notoriously opposed to elite consolidation at the expense of the typical citizen. Even so, it is not clear if the program would operate — and why it does not also address the threat of the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries.
Why the Threat of Huge Tobacco Is Actual
There is no doubt that Huge Tobacco has styles on the cannabis biz. That threat is, in reality, currently upon us.
Final December, tobacco giant Altria — Virginia-primarily based owner of Philip Morris and Marlboro cigarettes — invested $1.eight billion in Canadian cannabis giant Cronos Group, the Toronto-region licensed producer that final year became the first canna-enterprise to be listed on the NASDAQ. The investment gave Altria a 45% stake in the enterprise, with an selection to raise its stake to 55% more than the subsequent 5 years.
Of course, each businesses waxed optimistic and enthusiastic about the deal. “Altria is the excellent companion for Cronos Group, giving the sources and experience we want to meaningfully accelerate our strategic development,” mentioned Cronos CEO Mike Gorenstein in a statement.
“Investing in Cronos Group as our exclusive companion in the emerging worldwide cannabis category represents an thrilling new development chance for Altria,” echoed Howard Willard, Altria’s CEO, in his personal statement.
The Altira website now states: “Altria Group holds diversified positions across tobacco, alcohol and cannabis.”
And we can anticipate a lot more such news. This July, the Financial Times reported that Imperial Brands, UK-primarily based producer of Davidoff and Gauloises cigarettes, created a huge investment in the cannabis sector with a £75 million deal to take a stake in Vancouver’s Auxly Cannabis Group.
“Diversifying our subsequent generation items portfolio with this investment offers Imperial with additional selections for future development,” mentioned Imperial’s chief improvement officer Matthew Phillips, in the predictable corporate-speak.
And this was not the company’s initial such investment. Final year, Imperial took a little minority stake in British biotech company Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies. The name leaves small doubt what plant its study is focused on.
But What About Huge Pharma & Huge Booze?
But Huge Tobacco is not the only corporate interest poised to descend on the cannabis sector and establish dominance — nor the principal a single.
Surely, when it comes to patenting cannabis items, it is Huge Pharma that has the huge lead. Final year, a study jointly undertaken by Washington, D.C.-primarily based cannabis sector analyst New Frontier Data and London-primarily based cannabis biotechnology firm Grow Biotech named the major applicants for cannabis patents in Canada (exactly where such patents are a lot more offered than elsewhere). Seven of Canada’s major 10 cannabis patent holders had been identified to be main multinational pharmaceutical businesses, such as Ciba-Geigy (a subsidiary of Swiss giant Novartis), New York-based Pfizer Products and the United Kingdom’s GW Pharma.
In March 2013, it was announced that a single of Canada’s top licensed producers had entered a partnership with the national subsidiary of Sandoz (also a wing of Novartis). The deal, hailed as a milestone for the arrival of cannabis in the corporate economy, named for joint study and co-branding by British Columbia’s Tilray and Sandoz Canada.
Huge Booze is also pursuing synergy with Huge Bud.
CNBC reported in August 2018 that the Canadian subsidiary of Molson Coors had entered into a joint venture with the Hydropothecary Corporation, a Quebec licensed producer, to create cannabis-infused drinks for the Canadian market place. Lagunitas, a California beer brewer owned by the Dutch giant Heineken, is currently advertising and marketing a cannabis-infused sparkling water brand called Hi-Fi Hops. Yes, it includes hops like beer, but includes no alcohol — just THC. It is getting marketed in California, exactly where beer now has to compete with legal pot. It appears the booze biz might be adopting an attitude of “If you can not beat ’em, join ’em.”
Practically simultaneously, a single of North America’s major brewers sank $four billion into the continent’s major legal cannabis cultivator. Shares of Ontario-primarily based licensed producer Canopy Development Corp jumped almost 30% immediately after beer giant Constellation Brands announced its investment in the Canadian enterprise.
Soon after years of lobbying against cannabis legalization, each Huge Pharma and the alcohol sector have lately turned about on the query. Final year, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) issued a policy position in support of states’ rights “to establish a legal, effectively-regulated, adult-use cannabis marketplace,” taking a lot of observers by surprise.
The Case for a Tobacco-Cannabis Firewall
Amongst the numerous factors for a legal firewall maintaining Huge Tobacco out of the cannabis sector is the danger of the addictive and carcinogenic items of the former getting conflated with the decidedly safer and friendlier items of the latter in the public thoughts.
This was effectively illustrated in comments this week by the Republican Sen. John Cornyn from Texas. In a speech on the Senate floor ahead of hearings on the overall health impacts of cannabis, Cornyn questioned the push to finish federal cannabis prohibition — and drew a dubious analogy to the tobacco sector.
“There’s no shortage of individuals who claim that marijuana has endless overall health added benefits and can support individuals struggling from all the things from epilepsy to anxiousness to cancer therapies,” Cornyn mentioned. “This reminds me of some of the marketing we saw from the tobacco sector years ago exactly where they truly claimed public overall health added benefits from smoking tobacco, which we know as a matter of reality had been false and that tobacco includes nicotine, an addictive drug, and is implicated with cancers of distinct sorts.”
This in spite of the reality that studies have demonstrated that moderate cannabis use holds no threat of lung harm — in vivid contrast to tobacco. And there is mounting proof of the healthcare efficacy of cannabis for numerous ailments.
So, considerably of the progress that has been created in eroding the cannabis stigma in current years could be reversed via its association with tobacco.
But a lot more importantly, in the struggle between small producers and home cultivators on a single hand and corporate cannabis on the other, the threat does not just come from the tobacco sector. Possibly there’s a case for Sanders’ proposed firewall to be extended to the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries as effectively.
Of course, a lot of of the giants of today’s cannabis landscape have arrived at their dominant position devoid of infusions of capital from these other industries — pointing to a a lot more intractable extended-term dilemma.
Inform US, do you feel cannabis must be sold by big corporations?