No the tobacco giants aren’t going to enter the marijuana trade. But don’t worry: no doubt the marijuana companies will be equally ethical.

Keith is worried that Big Tobacco would invade a legal cannabis market. Well, anything’s possible, but I’d bet against it. I don’t see what they’d bring to the table that would give them a competitive advantage in the pot trade, and I don’t see how entering the pot trade would help their core business.

Tobacco cigarettes, and the folks who sell them, have an evil reputation, even among cigarette smokers. So while the Marlboro brand name has value in the the tobacco market, I’d expect it to be a net negative in the marijuana market.

On the other side of the coin, the last thing the tobacco industry wants is to have people think about cigarettes as part of the wider problem of drug abuse, and for actual and potential cigarette smokers to have to think of themselves as “drug users.” So I’d expect that introducing Marlboro-brand joints would put a dent in the sale of Marlboro-brand cigarettes, and strengthen the political hand of the anti-tobacco forces.

No, I think we can count on developing a set of specialty marijuana companies with the same careful respect for the truth, the same deep concern about their customers’ health, and the same delicacy about interfering with the regulatory process in their business as the tobacco giants display in theirs.

Footnote As to Altriamarijuana.com, no doubt Altria was acting to protect its trademarks. Note that it didn’t create the domain, just acted to take it away from a name-squatter.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

4 thoughts on “Exhale!”

  1. Mark –

    You’ve spent many years studying & trying to formulate sane drug policy; I’ve spent exactly none, so I hope this doesn’t come off as too cheeky. But I am at a loss as to why you think the company that owns the Marlboro brand would put that imprint on any cannabis products they might potentially bring to the market. In this hypothetical, I would instead assume that these products would carry their own brand, specialized for the product line and of course extensively market-researched. It wasn’t that long ago, for instance, that the Kraft food brand was owned by the same outfit that owned Marlboro (among many other cigarette companies). And yet somehow over the years they were mostly able to keep the stink off. Hell, I can’t tell you the number of hippie types I’ve met who “only” smoke American Spirit, notwithstanding the R J Reynolds entanglement.

    1. worn has it Mark, and his comment on American Spirit makes the point. You are underestimating corporate America and overestimating the American consumer.

      Here’s a quiz for everyone: Who makes Night Train, Ripple and Thunderbird, those classic wines of the bowery, usually drunk in paper bags? Answer Ernest and Julio Gallo, maker as well of all those nice middle class table wines with names like Zabaco and Turning Leaf. People generally don’t know that because it’s easy to hide and they hide it to protect their brand.

      Your other questionable assumption is that there are two separate worlds of consumption, when in fact consuming cannabis and tobacco together is quite popular around the world. A number of people in the US go to the trouble to make blunts by hand by digging out a cigar shell and filling it with pot– the tobacco industry could provide that combined cannabis/tobacco product way way more conveniently.

  2. Yes, nicotine is most definitely a drug, and I have learned to embrace it as such. On one hand I never smoke in the morning nor even at work during the day; I simply have no desire to. But AFTER work, if I go out to my favorite dive for Happy Hour, cracking open that first beer and lighting a cigarette is like diving into a pool of cool water. And I smoke Winstons, which have the highest nicotine content of any major brand, so that there is definitely a big BUZZ going on. People say to me, “DaJuan, if you don’t smoke that much, why don’t you just QUIT?” And I respond that for me nicotine is like a recreational drug that I simply ENJOY. I like that fuzzy, woozy buzz that comes with that first cigarette in the evening. And like so many other social smokers, I like the fact that smoking gives one the opportunity to inhale and exhale DRAMATICALLY.

    Sure, I know it’s not good for me. I suppose we could all stop smoking, stop drinking, turn vegetarian, run 20 miles a day, grow dreadlocks and presumably live FOREVER … but what fun would THAT be?

  3. Of course Marlboro-brand joints won’t introduced, for the reasons you list. But that doesn’t mean that the tobacco companies won’t more into the market for legal pot.

    Way back in the 1960s, the tobacco companies trademarked brand names for marijuana cigarettes. When (not if) they get into the business, they will use those brand names for their products. They don’t even need to bother thinking up new names; just use the ones they already have stockpiled.

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