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Concern That the Marijuana Industry Will Be Another Big Tobacco

There are legions of marijuana advocates rallying in the United States hell-bent on legalizing the leaf without the industry being controlled by corporate America and its greedy, backbiting principles. While theirs is an admirable sentiment, there does not appear to be much hope of establishing a legal pot market in this country without the unscrupulous influence of major corporations, especially those currently throwing their arms out of socket in the fight to prevent cannabis from becoming a contender.

A national marijuana industry might be possible if regulated similarly to other legal substances like alcohol and tobacco, but to have too much faith in that concept is simply not realistic. Hell would freeze over before Uncle Sam’s congressional dogs would dare repeal prohibition without viciously humping the legs of the mega-marijuana industry. It is for this reason that we should expect legal marijuana in America to one day closely resemble Big Tobacco, an inevitability that has some people, like Samuel T. Wilkinson, resident physician at the Yale School of Medicine, worried that the cannabis industry is destined to have a negative impact on the nation.

In a recent op-ed piece for the Washington Post, Wilkinson wrote that he is concerned about the marijuana industry mimicking the business strategies of Big Tobacco, which includes using aggressive marketing techniques to strengthen its customer base and lobby groups to protect its interests. Wilkinson’s biggest gripe, however, is the advertising of feel-good substances.

Although restrictions have been set on marijuana advertising in legal states, Wilkinson argues that promoting pot through any media outlet could lead to increased consumption rates and result in a myriad of public health problems.

“The formula for success in profiting from a legal drug is simple and has been clearly outlined by Big Tobacco. The marijuana industry is poised to copy this formula, with dire consequences,” he wrote.

Wilkinson believes the United States should subscribe to the philosophies of the Dutch government, where pot has been decriminalized for nearly 40 years, and prohibit marijuana advertising. “The overriding lesson from the Netherlands,” he reflected, is that “commercialization, not decriminalization itself,” leads to increased use.

“If we are intent on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, lessons from the tobacco industry and the Dutch marijuana experiment suggest that we do so in a way that does not pit corporate incentives against the interests of public health,” Wilkinson advised, suggesting that advertisements in all media venues should be banned, or as stringently regulated as allowed by law.

However, that is not the American way: Consider US advertising for alcohol and tobacco, two of the most dangerous recreational substances. And although marijuana may not be completely devoid of potential health risks, worrying that 30-second sales pitches will turn the United States into a nation of stoners is naive.

Will more Americans use marijuana if the government legalizes it? Damn right they will. But there’s very little reason to believe that the cons will outweigh the pros when that happens. It’s been almost a year since Colorado launched recreational pot sales, and as of yet, the state has not been laid to waste by the junkie demons that many naysayers predicted would breed hellfire across the Rocky Mountain State.

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