BY: RYAN BOLTON
North America is at a tipping point with legalizing marijuana.
The shove, however, is yet to come because Big Tobacco is sitting around with a dry thumb up its ass.
Big Tobacco is missing the boat. Frankly, in keeping with the boat metaphor, Big Tobacco is in a boat unto itself with no wind in its sails. And it’s on fucking fire.
Allow me to set the scene.
North Americans and Europeans are giving up smoking cigarettes en masse. In the U.S., smoking has dropped to 19% of adults. Now, however, 15 percent of Americans under 40 use electronic smoking devices, Reuters found. Essentially, Big Tobacco is seeing a loss in conventional smokers. Because, er, cigarettes kill you and whatnot. So, Big Tobacco is heavily pushing the vape movement, which is still toxic and delivering high doses of nicotine.
Lobby dollars go a far way, however. So far they’ve convinced people that using an electronic device to get their toxins is better. Or healthier. Yet they still contain chemicals and nicotine. And here’s where Big Tobacco gets it all wrong.
Here’s the quick elevator pitch: Take those millions of dollars in lobby money and put it behind legalizing marijuana. North America is now officially pro-marijuana. It’s at its tipping point to be sure. More than half of Americans are cool with legalizing weed according to a new study from Pew Research Center. Four states have legalized marijuana plus the District of Columbia. Fourteen other U.S. states have taken measures to decriminalize marijuana in various capacities. The Supreme Court in Canada just expanded medical marijuana to also include edibles. It has taken a terribly long time to re-wire decades of anti-marijuana propaganda, but it’s happening. Slowly.
Now why am I arguing on behalf of Big Tobacco like I’m their fucking patsy? I loathe Big Tobacco with a capital L. Smoking-related diseases claim an estimated 443,000 American lives each year, according to the American Lung Association. Smoking costs the United States hundreds of billions of dollars every year. I’d love nothing more than for them to just burn at sea.
If Big Tobacco could pivot to focus on marijuana, the U.S. would legalize it within a year. Hands down. Then, instead of killing hundreds of thousands of Americans annually, they could dispense a drug that, statistically speaking, hasn’t killed anyone. In fact, there are innate health benefits with cannabis. You’ve heard the laundry list of health benefits, including to help control epileptic seizures, slows the progression of Alzheimer’s, and is even being found to help slow some cancers. Sure, it’s not great for you if you’re smoking ad nauseam, of course. Nothing is if you’re smoking it. But it sure as hell is better than smoking cigarettes. Then there’s the other faces. Thousands of people die annually due to drug wars, namely cartels in Mexico that are smuggling the drug. But if weed is legalized cartels and gangs don’t get any of that money. The market shifts. This isn’t to mention the people that won’t be getting killed in grisly gang wars.
That’s where Big Tobacco comes into play. Because, if there’s one thing those corporate asshats like more than killing people, it’s making boatloads of cash off of them before crossing out their names. Colorado is obviously a litmus test for how legalizing marijuana could play out. In its first year of legalizing weed, Colorado made nearly $60 million in tax revenue, according to the New York Times. Yeah, almost $60 million. In one year. For one state.
Big Tobacco has the best long-run performance of all American industries since the beginning of the 20th century. Basically, they are perfectly positioned to run shit. Is this the lifeboat they’re looking for?