Ever since cannabis legalization started taking hold across the United States, advocates have spun a wealth of concerns shrouded in conspiracy theories about how their precious plant would one day be owned by the tobacco companies.
Several fake news stories surfaced years ago suggesting that Marlboro had already jumped into the cannabis game and was selling joints in legal states. None of that was true, of course, but the scenario wasn’t too far-fetched. It turns out Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro, is presently eying the cannabis industry to see where it fits in.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Philip Morris CEO Andre Calantzopoulos said the company was carefully monitoring the cannabis market and watching how regulations unfold. “We are doing all this work and will determine one day what avenues to pursue,” he said. “But our priority is what we’re doing with our smoke-free products, and that’s where I would stay on cannabis.”
Unlike the cannabis industry itself, Philip Morris seems to understand that “smoking” is being phased out by health-conscious individuals and governmental controls. Cigarettes are no longer as prevalent in civil society, forcing tobacco companies to explore smoke-free products for the sake of longevity.
Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is expected to take action soon against the tobacco companies by banning menthol cigarettes. Although tobacco sales are declining, the consumption of these products remains one of the leading causes of health issues. Sure, the anti-tobacco movement is something that’s going to take years to get sorted out, not to mention countless court battles. But this fight is without a doubt one that will be fought to the bitter end. It’s just a matter of time before similar targets are placed on the back of smoked cannabis.
To be fair, the cannabis industry is not all joints and blunts these days. Smokeless products like edibles, oils and beverages are gaining more popularity on the scene. Still, research shows that the average pot consumer still prefers smoking as a primary method of consumption. So we will not likely see a day anytime soon when cannabis companies abandon smokable cannabis products.
Health advocates, however, could eventually step in and make life hard for weed. Some are already on it, saying that smoke is smoke, it’s all unhealthy and could increase the risk of cancer.
“Smoke from marijuana combustion has been shown to contain many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke,” according to a report from the American Lung Association.
Federal lawmakers hope to design a national cannabis policy that prevents Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol from getting involved with cannabis. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said recently that his bill to end federal marijuana prohibition would cater to small businesses, not large corporations.
“We don’t want the big tobacco companies and the big liquor companies to swoop in and take over,” he said.
National cannabis advocates are right there with him. They want to stop this intermingling from happening before it gets out of hand. In a recent article, NORML said the alcohol and tobacco companies have already banded together to create a powerful lobby group to ensure national cannabis policy goes in their favor. “These corporate interests are seeking to swoop in and shape the landscape in a manner that works best for them, not for you,” the organization wrote.
This attitude doesn’t seem to scare Philip Morris. It has actually been dabbling in cannabis for some time. Around five years ago, the company invested in an Israeli cannabis firm called Syque Medical to pursue consumption technologies that are less harmful to the user. It is all part of their “Beyond Nicotine” strategy.
We’re going out on a limb and saying that if Philip Morris is looking beyond smoking to stay better situated in the market, there’s probably a reason for it. Cannabis firms wanting to rise to that level once the U.S. goes entirely legal will need to carry that wisdom and thoughtfulness as they break ground on a whole new way of selling weed. Because rest assured, if it goes legal federally, there will be more regulations to contend with.