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Why the “Legal Marijuana = Big Tobacco 2.0” Argument Fails

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Why the “Legal Marijuana = Big Tobacco 2.0” Argument Fails

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At my @RadicalRuss account, I follow a number of anti-marijuana prohibitionist groups. That makes me one of usually about eighty-or-so followers they manage to attract.

I do so in order to keep abreast on their scaremongering talking points that predict the calamitous decline of western civilization if we allow adults to buy, cultivate, and consume cannabis. Not only does it give me a good laugh and a chance to hone my debate chops, but it also provides my followers a chance to troll the hell out of them.

The specter of “Big Marijuana,” a corporate juggernaut hell-bent on manufacturing child drug addicts, is the latest scare from the prohibs. The argument goes like this: there was a predatory tobacco industry that lied about the danger of its products and purposefully marketed to underage consumers in order to addict them young and keep lifelong customers, so why would we allow marijuana to become “Big Tobacco 2.0?”

The argument fails on a number of levels:

There already exists a “Big Marijuana.” It ranges from the closet grower who sells to friends all the way up to the international drug cartels that behead their rivals. This “Big Marijuana” fuels criminal networks, corrupts police and governments, and doesn’t pay a cent in taxes. “Big Tobacco” may have been bad, but Joe Camel never dissolved the Marlboro Man in a vat of acid over trafficking routes.

Legalization is replacing the current “Big Marijuana” with law-abiding businessmen that pay taxes

“Big Tobacco” was forced to lie about the dangers of its product because its product is carcinogenic and highly addictive. Its product made you stink and discolored your teeth. Its product, used over time, is deadly.

Marijuana is none of those things and, when used over time, can actually improve health for some people. (Well, maybe it does make you stink – but I like that smell!)

“Big Tobacco” was forced to market to underage consumers because its product is unattractive to people old enough to consume it. An adult trying his first cigarette will hack and choke and generally never try another, but a teen can be goaded into establishing the habit through peer pressure.

Marijuana is attractive to older consumers, as evidenced by seniors being the fastest-growing market of consumers.

Even if you buy the argument that we must stop “Big Marijuana” from targeting youth by allowing adults to engage in cannabis commerce, that same argument is ignored by the prohibitionists themselves whenever a non-commercial legalization option is brought up.

In 2014, Washington DC was proposing what we call “grow-and-give” legalization – you can grow your own plants and smoke pot and you can give some away to other adults. However, there are no pot shops, no commercial grows, no cannabis commerce whatsoever, aside from the illegal black-market commerce that already existed and is now greatly aided by the legality of possession and growing.

I asked Project SAMUEL head Kevin Sabet if he supported that plan, since there was no “Big Marijuana” aspect to it.

He said, no, because allowing grow-and-give was something DC Council had to do because Congress controls its ability regulate commerce, and the DC Council was then going to try to move ahead with commercial legalization.

This year, Vermont’s legislature has passed a similar “grow-and-give” legalization with no “Big Marijuana” in it. Yet the prohibs at Project SAMUEL and elsewhere opposed it, arguing again that this was just the first step to then legalizing commerce.

So, all that talk about opposing legalization because a “Big Marijuana” will be involved is bullshit, since they oppose legalization even when “Big Marijuana” is not involved, arguing that “grow-and-give” is some sort of gateway policy to “Big Marijuana.”

Well, if we can’t legalize marijuana with commerce, and we can’t legalize marijuana without commerce because it will lead to commerce, then their position is that we must continue punishing adults for marijuana whether they engage in commerce or not.

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