Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Finance, and Little Marijuana

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Yves here. This post is an interesting “be careful what you wish for” warning as far as the legalization of marijuana is concerned.

By Sasha Breger, a lecturer at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and author of the recent book Derivatives and Development. Her research includes global finance, derivatives, social policy, food, and farming. Cross posted from Triple Crisis

Passed in 2012, Colorado’s Amendment 64 legalized the growing and selling of marijuana on a recreational basis. With medical marijuana, recreational marijuana has helped lift the people of Denver out of the Great Recession by inspiring leagues of new small businesses, creating new jobs, boosting commercial real estate values, and increasing state and local tax revenues. It turns out that the local marijuana market is fairly recession-proof and is actually bolstering local resilience to global crisis.

As I’ve watched this novelty unfold over the past couple of years (with considerable delight, to be frank) and witnessed first hand the important benefits for our local economy, I’ve grown increasingly concerned about the possibility of legalization on the federal level. While state level legalization has—for all of its still considerable problems—motivated economic recovery and helped working and middle class folks earn more income, get better jobs and enjoy more robust public services, federal legalization risks these benefits leaking out of local economies into the pockets of Big Business.

As things stand today, the $2.3 billion legal U.S. marijuana market is the domain of small pot shops and grow operations, slightly larger local chains (with a handful of stores), a few inter-state mid-sized retail establishments with outlets in two or more states, and other generally smaller local businesses that provide inputs and services to the marijuana growing and retail firms.

In Colorado, a few different dynamics explain the structure of this highly decentralized and relatively competitive marketplace. First, state regulations work to limit the size of growing and retailing firms by regulating the number of plants that a single firm can grow, the amount of marijuana a single person can purchase and possess, and increases/decreases in firm space and capacity, among other constraints (go to this link and this link for the most recent state laws). Because the state has established residency requirements for marijuana firm ownership and operation, out of state ownership is effectively prohibited.

Second, and perhaps more importantly in the long-run, federal level illegality prevents larger businesses from outside of Colorado from engaging in growing and retailing, and even from providing certain services to Colorado marijuana firms. Federally insured banks, for example, cannot provide banking and financial services to the marijuana industry for fear of incurring federal penalties for violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Federal illegality has meant that Colorado’s pot revenues flow into local credit unions, and will soon support a network of local banking cooperatives.

I’m deeply worried about Colorado’s economic fortunes should federal level legalization occur. I fear that the local and decentralized marketplace will be replaced by a national or even international market governed by large multinational firms that whisk their profits away to other places, degrade product quality, and stymie innovation and employment.  The evolution of the global food system is instructive in thinking about what may happen to pot in a fully legalized world.

Small and innovative firms will be bought out by ever-larger conglomerates seeking to add one more brand to their portfolio. Mass, centralized, industrial pot production will displace local artisanal and craft production. Indeed, rumor has it that Marlboro already attempted to patent the name “Marley” in anticipation of federal legalization. If we’re not careful, you’ll soon be able to buy Marley’s by the case at the Wal-Mart near you. If the Waltons are smart, they’ll probably be shelved right next to the Twinkies. Multinational input providers will displace local garden and hydroponics stores, providing cheap fertilizers and grow equipment at prices with which the mom and pop stores can’t compete. Round-up Ready AK-47 clones from Monsanto, anyone? Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline will patent strains that have been pioneered by Colorado locals to treat various health problems. I can hear the drug commercials now: speak with your doctor to see if Canna is right for you! Don’t forget that the global financial system will also intervene—Visa and Mastercard will take 5% of every pot transaction, Goldman Sachs will develop an exchange-traded Global Marijuana Fund, and maybe we’ll be able to start trading “weed” futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. If the rest of the world goes the way of Uruguay and Jamaica, then we can also look forward to Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland monopolizing the global weed trade and buying up all of the world’s pot storage facilities. Who knows? Perhaps the World Bank will even incorporate weed into structural adjustment programs, and start recommending marijuana exports to developing countries as a way to finance debt repayment.

If the food system is any indication, federal legalization of pot will impoverish vibrant, local marijuana economies. Local economic benefits will leak out to already wealthy and powerful MNCs. In a world where big monopolistic companies rule the formal economy, grey markets like Colorado’s marijuana market provide a safe-haven for small businesses and a stimulus to local economies.

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  1. Paul Tioxon

    Maybe yes, maybe no. 2 relevant examples, the first being the state licensed banks vs the federal National Association banks. The story of the state licensed banks and Savings and Loans that were only operating in very small, local markets with no out of state banks allowed to spread changed radically. There was up until the 1980s 25,000 banks with S&Ls counted among them. Now, less than 8,000 with more disappearing every year. BofA and WellsFargo dominate the Philadelphia region with other behemoths such as PNC, HQ in Pittsburgh and Santander rounding out the Market leaders. Citizens Bank is still tied to Royal Bank of Scottland and is also a market leader. There are not large banks left HQ in the Philadelphia region. Many local recent boutique banks have been closed by the FDIC or forced to merge. So, the big fish eating the little fish theory of pot may come to pass.

    Yet, more relevant to pot is the craft beer industry. All across the nation, but mightily in the City of Brotherly Suds, local brewing is a force of new businesses for on site manufacture in gastro-pubs to larger scale distribution. Larger restaurants are built around their fresh brewed beer. Where once many local brands were brewed and distributed widely, the consolidation of beer as a monopoly industry is a story of homogenization of tasteless crap that can sold 1,000 miles away as cheaply as possible. A perfect case study in corporate America takeover. But, now as if enough is enough, the blows against the empire of corporate crap seems to be announced weekly in the region with another new entrant or news of expansion of a charmingly winner in the midst of explosive growth. This seems to lend itself more readily to pot, with its afficianados of various kinds of highs, fussy consumers with taste buds for the finest and willing to pay for the experience. Think more highly selective organic food vegans with the pot industry ripe for protecting its turf against the Consolidated Amalgamated General Psychedelics, LLC. Latest entry: Saint Benjamin Brewing Co.

    1. MtnLife

      Re: the craft beer industry comparison you are dead on. High volume and quality are incompatible concepts no matter what you are talking about. High volume is similar to industrial agriculture – you harvest all at once when the highest percentage is “ready”. Low volume things are harvested at their peak of readiness. You can guess the approximate size of the grow by looking at a sample the batch if you have enough experience. I was in Colorado this winter and the quality was good to very good but definitely not excellent/amazing. Excellent/amazing is hard to get with more than 50 plants, without which it would be hard to run a commercial business. Very similar to food from an organic 2 acre farm vs a conventional 1000 acre farm.

    2. Cocomaan

      “Yet, more relevant to pot is the craft beer industry.”

      Spot on.

      People who want badly cured weed that may or may not have had mold on it at one time or another will go to WalMart and buy it.

      Folks that want quality product that has been carefully dried and then cured, the first for maximum chlorophyll metabolization, the second being the long wait for the inactive ingredients to become active, will buy from their craft producers.

      Besides, in many states, cannabis won’t be sold at WalMart, just like booze.

    3. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

      What? You’re suggesting that I might prefer to walk four blocks to get a growler of fresh, seasonally brewed custom beer instead of going four blocks the other way and picking up a 6 pack of PBR at Safeway? Okay, granted that the microbrewer down the street likes his hops a little bit more than I do, but otherwise….

      Awesome relevant point and certainly my first thought on reading the article.

    4. Robert Graf

      Another factor is the market itself. the non medical buyers are generally not conformists. They are usually the buy organic, label GMO, barter crowd, etc. They are, in general, anti big corp individuals.

  2. craazyman

    I’d put the Marley’s in display stands next to the Doritos and the frozen pizzas. This post sounds like reefer-madness. I’m not judging, I’m speaking from experience. Sometimes the paranoia would be bad, really bad. I don’t know what it was, maybe an underlying anxiety condition at the time. Pot and Xanax might have been better. I don’t see how this business scales unless society lurches left so far that MMT would be signed into law if congress wasn’t too stoned to show up and vote.

    What about local pot farms selling through local gun shops? That way the stoners can mix it up with the fanatical short hairs with trigger fingers and maybe find some common ground. If you add them together and divide by two you get a laid back dude who’s a good shot but too stoned to really cause problems in society. That’s not bad!

    1. ambrit

      Dear crazy;
      Dude, you are half Right, half Left. The public gun nuts you see are not a representative sample. A large segment of the gun nut cosmos consists of cannabis aficionados. Since the ramping up of the “War on Drugs,” large swaths of the cannabis using population became early pioneers of the militarized social scene.
      On a slightly more philosophical note: what is the main motivation for the abuse of drugs? I said abuse, I do not mean medical usage. (Medicinal brandy anyone?) I contend that it is to escape from reality for a while. Any clear thinking oligarch will do what he or she can to encourage the ever increasing ‘recreational’ usage of drugs. How many revolutions have you heard of that were planned and managed by stoners? So yes crazy, you are right. Stoner gun nuts are, as Richard Pryor noted, Null and Void.

      1. Cocomaan

        Any clear thinking oligarch will do what he or she can to encourage the ever increasing ‘recreational’ usage of drugs.

        Oh please, the drugs are being used right now.

        The powers that be make far FAR more money and power off of the incarcerated masses than the free masses.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          They are making a big mistake denying the free masses their happiness (and ignorant bliss while being looted).

          Luckily, they haven’t messes about with our sports addiction.

          So, though without the ‘grass’ bread, we do have our circuses.

        2. TheCatSaid

          The powers that be make far FAR more money and power off of the incarcerated masses than the free masses.
          Probably true, but maybe someone not involved in the incarceration racket will be attracted to a new business opportunity.
          TPTB is not a single identity.
          Like the rival oligarchs in Ukraine & Russia, including the new Ukrainian prez who’s into chocolate.

      1. Paul Tioxon

        GUNS FOR THE BLIND, because when they shoot, they don’t see color.

        Seriously, I don’t think I can come up with outrageous positions which point to the absurdity of gun advocates, because, well, they are just so far ahead of me in thinking about their position, I now know that I can never catch up. Maybe, Guns For Locked up Convicts, because even gangsters have a right to protect themselves when they live among blood thirsty, violent killers, and the such. The natural rights are given by the creator and can not be violated by the mere laws of man, even in prison.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but one day, we will ban guns and bombs, to all, with or without uniform.

          The biggest purveyor of violence…

          1. jgordon

            Uh no. A reasonably well equipped machine shop and a home chemistry set can produce moderately effective firearms, for anyone with a bit of motivation in that area. I rather doubt there is anything the government or anyone else can do that will decrease the prevalence of firearms in our society, although attempts to ban them outright will dramatically increase the black market for them.

            This is just like being mad that some people drink and drive, so coming up with and passing a Constitutional amendment that bans drinking as a solution. It’s nuts.

  3. Banger

    I generally don’t think cultural issues are usually crucial but in the case of marijuana legalization I think the issue comes as close as it can get to a crucial issue. Why? If we know our history (and few people do) marijuana was made illegal in order to have a way of jailing more latinos and blacks and to particularly target musicians, bohemians, artists and so on–but that’s only part of it. The main reason was to expand the burgeoning police state and the power of little dictators like Harry J. Anslinger who was as disgusting a character than J. Edgar Hoover who similarly was able to turn disinformation and public hysteria against this or that group for his own benefit and desire to wield power. This is the same mentality that dominates Washington today.

    Marijuana legalization would tell the little corrupt dictators in our justice system that we are going to try to reverse the trend towards mass imprisonment and allow people to relieve stress in a better way than alcohol. Stress reduction may be one of the most important issues of our time. Not only does marijuana tend to relieve stress (in some people it increases it–different people react differently) but it has other medicinal properties and it tends to diminish fakery. Terry Southern made that point eloquently in his short story “Red Dirt Marijuana” which I believe is available for download–it explains the reasons why marijuana was illegal–the story was published in 1967. The main character is asked why marijuana (gage) is illegal:

    “I tell you what it is,” he said then, “it’s cause a man see too much when he git high, that’s what. He see right through ever’thing . . . you understan’ what I say?”
    “What the heck are you talkin’ about, C.K.?”
    “Well, maybe you too young to know what I talkin”boutbut I tell you they’s a lotta trickin’ an’ lyin’ go on in the world . . . they’s a lotta ole bull-crap go on in the world . . . well, a man git high, he see right through all them tricks an’ lies, an’ all that ole bull-crap. He see right through there into the truth of it!”

    The full story is available for free here.

    Now let me be clear here–not everyone become hip and enlightened from smoking pot. But the opportunity is there to see things from a different perspective–it’s hard to maintain the same old phony stance when you’re high–though it’s possible and many people can deliberately will themselves to be a-holes when they’re high. The main problem with being high on marijuana occurs when you have to deal with the straight world where encounters with people often depend on distance, status, and fakery. If more people got high there would be less of that and less drive to be hostile–it may seem silly but being mellow would go a long way to solve our collective problems which we seem, at present, almost completely unable to deal with primarily because we live in a world that is increasingly dependent on denial and phoniness.

    For me, as long as I don’t smoke regularly (regular smoking for me tends to blunt the effect), provides a little window into a more realistic look at life perhaps because it relieves stress so that I can see things as they are. The fact is life is beautiful and any agent that is able to remind us of that is a good drug and will enhance society. So, whether it is provided by small business or large corporations, legalization would have a transformative effect because lowering stress would, in my view, provide that needed spark for cultural change without which we will just go on as before.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Wonderful comment and quote, Banger. Life is beautiful, the universe is splendorous and far out too. It’s vital to remain mindful that joy and love thrive in a non-material dimension, more real than the physical plane, which now seems wholly captured by the love of money and its legion of ugly mutations.

      OTOH, the fascists’ drug war is the real plague in society, the foundation of the new slave plantation and global militarization. Afghanistan’s explosion in heroin production is a perfect manifestation, to the point where heroin addiction is now resurging worldwide, providing a perfect profit source for corporate prisons and CIA/mercenary black funds.

      1. Banger

        Also important to understand that the need for opiates is a result of many people being in pain. Heroin is somewhat addictive physically, like tobacco, but the main power of its addiction is that it mimics endorphins which people who have been very stressed from childhood on up can’t produce. When you’rl in physical and psychic pain you seek relief. That’s why people who become addicts come from a background of severe abuse. Others who just try heroin don’t become addicted. For example many people came back from the hell of Vietnam addicted to heroin (about 25%) and of those addicts 95%, after a few years, were drug free.

      2. tim s

        Bingo. It was sickening to read the article that completely failed to note the point that the decriminalization is not about a local economy directly from selling MJ, but is about correcting one of the worst blights in our society, which is the bogus imprisonment and subsequent damage to the prisoners lives and future livelihood as well as their families.

        Of course, the economic damage caused by this war has been extreme in and of itself – but, hey, lets just whine about the potential loss of local profits in no small part due to mass injustice that continues outside of a couple of state’s borders.

        1. Jim Haygood

          ‘is about correcting one of the worst blights in our society, which is the bogus imprisonment and subsequent damage to the prisoners lives’

          Week after week, the ‘police beat’ column in the local free newspaper is filled with minor drug arrests of people who were bothering nobody. A whole infrastructure of judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, prison guards and probation officers feeds off the persecution of these small-time offenders.

          How are these 21st century jailers any different than 19th century slave owners?

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I aim lower.

            Just leave minor traffic violators alone. But budget cuts make that unlikely.

    2. citizendave

      Banger, I enjoyed your comment.

      I learned to smoke in Vietnam, after a friend coached me when he observed I wasn’t inhaling properly. I was in the war mid-’69 to mid-’70 — I heard rumors of heroin, but never ran across any. I was introduced to cocaine in a hospital in Saigon in late May or early June, 1970. The Vietnamese word for MaryJane is “cần sa”. I always imagined it was derived from the Hindi “ganja”. Most of what we could obtain was alleged to be locally grown, but sometimes we were told it was Cambodian Red or otherwise not local. All of it was potent.

      Forty years ago we dreamed of commercialization, longing for the day when we could go into a store and buy Panama Red or Maui Wowie or Acapulco Gold. I imagine global commercialization would follow the pattern of beer, wherein the undiscerning masses find mass produced commodities acceptable, while aficionados and connoisseurs seek out, and are happy to pay for, products made by artisans.

      Monsanto can try to create and enforce a hegemony with patented strains, but we have such a long history of underground cultivation that we may be able to successfully resist their corrupting influence. The Slow Food and Slow Money movements are all about developing alternatives to global industrial food production. Organic artisanal cannabis production should naturally evolve a Slow Cannabis movement in concert, as the agricultural practices and values would be the same.

      To Terry Southern’s story about pot aiding in piercing the veils of illusion, we could amplify that idea to book length. In “My First Summer In The Sierra” John Muir wrote “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” I have perceived the universe that way, seeing the interconnectedness of everything, but usually only after having had a toke or two. It’s not how we usually perceive the universe while engaged in the daily participation with the neoliberal economy. When we discuss the effects of non-medicinal use of cannabis we are talking about observations of empirical and subjective phenomena in an environment in which the stuff is illegal, punishable by forfeiture and imprisonment. Talk about paranoia! We should be paranoid while totally sober, afraid of being falsely accused. When I started smoking in the war it was necessary to be able to sober up at a moment’s notice. After the war, back at home, I think we all tended to think that we hadn’t had enough until we were intoxicated, or “stoned”. Later I learned that a little bit goes a long way. Because of the illegal status, we are deprived of the opportunity to impart our wisdom and experience to each other and to our children, in the form of cultural norms. In this illegal environment, prudence is not taught, as much as it is enforced. Society’s view of the effects marijuana use is skewed because most people, who don’t know how to use it, only hear about the effects of marijuana on people who run afoul of the law and make headlines. Responsible and prudent users, by the millions, are not seen or heard regarding best practices. Many more knowledgeable people would speak out against the drug war, but are no doubt afraid to call attention to themselves as probable users. The silence is prudently self-sustaining.

      Federal legalization, or de-listing from the controlled substances list, would naturally follow widespread common sense understanding of best practices. Don’t have it every day. Use as little as you can to achieve your desired effect. The “high” state of mind is not the illusion, it can be the clear vision of how the universe actually works. The “sober” state is the illusion, as it is the legacy of having crawled only recently out of the primordial ooze in geologic time, and not so long since Galileo and Newton and Einstein. Our everyday sober state of mind is fraught with neoliberal orthodoxy. We have learned a lot, but to some it seems that knowing one thing is equivalent to knowing everything, and their hubris leads to fanaticism, well short of omniscience. To partake of the herb every day to maintain the buzz is to average out or blend the illusion with the clear vision through the veil — or to see the veil for what it is. I like to look at it as climbing a mountain occasionally to get a good look around. But I can’t live at the top of the mountain. Most of us need to live on the valley floor most of the time. Best to have a nice, long rest before climbing the mountain again, the better to see the vista again with “first eyes”.

      In Vino Veritas. In wine truth. In Cannabis Veritas. I tend to say “intoxicated” instead of “high”, but intoxicated tends to mean impaired, rather than subtly influenced. It’s important to maintain a certain perspective. I never thought my fire support base in the war could be overrun, or the house could burn down around me, without my being instantly aware of the situation and able to respond appropriately. (But I do always laugh when I hear the song “I got stoned and I missed it”.) One way to begin to pierce the veil of illusion is to read “Propaganda” by Edward Bernays (available as a PDF). Every day we wake up and participate in adult consensual reality. We re-enact the reality of the previous days because that’s what we know and understand. But we could wake up with a wild hair and do something completely different, quit the job, move out of the apartment, and take off along Adventure Road. The Veil of Illusion contributes to how we think about money, and makes it nearly impossible for some people to comprehend the simple truths described in MMT, for example.

      Many of us believe that extractive capitalism is a hellbound train heading for oblivion on a melting planet, and there seems to be no stopping it. But we could all change the world overnight if we could figure out how to work and live together in a suddenly new reality.

      Some people believe that allowing widespread use of cannabis would rend the precious fabric of reality in everyday life. But that fabric in large part supports the acceleration of the neoliberal hellbound train toward its rendezvous with the abyss. The global corporations probably don’t want to surrender their growing consolidation of political and market power. The global corporations run on dinosaur fuel, and they are the economic dinosaurs of our day and age. Perhaps the little pot growers and users will be like the mammals that ate the dinosaur eggs.

      1. Banger

        Amazing comment!

        So much in it–as for the John Muir quote ++++.

        I’ve been researching stress as a subject and I sense that being high is actually more natural than what most of us experience. The “sober” world view is limited and the main object of sobriety is to be distrustful and self-seeking. Mystical surrender would destroy the career of Western Civilization–but the truth is that without some sort of mysticism whether drug induced or otherwise we are headed towards utter ruin.

    3. TheCatSaid

      This post explains the criminalization of marijuana as having its origins with the Rockefeller oil/chemical/pharmacy empire, to protect its interests.
      Have you come across this? Does the Rockefeller connection fit in with Anslinger or was Anslinger a completely separate operator?

      1. OIFVet

        It is ironic that it was a federal VA employee, my counselor, who recommended that I toke rather than swallow big pharma’s mind numbing pills the government is all so eager to dispense in a great quantity. He saved my sanity. And saved the government a lot of money, which is precisely why I don’t see legalization happening on the federal level. Modern warfare, both economic and military, is a great profit center for big pharma pill pushers.

  4. Mundanomaniac


    “spark for cultural change” … it’s only the individual “individuation” of the “collectiv heritage”
    that can grow together with her kind in society to human culture. The central idea of C.G.Jung. Hasn’t he had a kind of special impact into the psyche of a broad number of american members of rich families or educated middle class?
    I’m waiting for the echo of his spirit in todays american minds since years. After having realized to have met such an individual, I opened my “Banger Archiv” which includes my praise of Yves’ tremendous “tree” reaching high into the truth of tomorrow.

    Murnau, Bavaria,UTC 13:45 Mundanomaniac

    1. Banger

      Thanks — an archive of some of my stuff is strange to see–well hope someone in your area of the world will read it. To be sure Jung was one of my earliest influences who helped me understand my spiritual path. I have his Red Book with his extraordinary art and dialogue with strange forces published a few years back for the first time. Have you seen it?

      1. mundanomaniac

        “the area of the world” … I live in … yes I embrace this area because I must … and your stuff to me is a kind of homespunn medicine for us humans. Thank You, I relized a long awaited resonance.

        Personally my heart is actually drawn into the gyrations of the Saker.

        Your neocons have managed me into becoming aware for a coming -home -feeling under the spirit of this gentle chess player Mr. Putin. It’s a gentle note that draws from his steps. Completely unexspected result of our human alchemie …

        Hanging, as common, wide out of the window …

  5. David Petraitis

    The gentle, reasonable paranoia of the article fits well with the theme on seeds in the UK from yesterday that I posted. The fact is marijuana strains are probably patentable in the US and that will cramp things. IP trumps entrepreneurship and local jobs any day (sad to say…)

  6. BITFU

    I am very troubled and deeply concerned by the racist position advocated by the author of this post.

    The author eschews federal legalization of pot in favor of state’s rights. As cogently articulated in DailyKos, “States’ rights is often used as a crutch when the actual intentions of the speaker are too offensive or unpopular to be stated plainly. More specifically, it is used to shroud racism.” []

    Gee Sasha, sorry that there are urban-people-of-color who also want to partake in the chronic but cannot afford the Hipster-Boulder lifestyle. Are these inconvenient, ethnic people crimping your style?

    And how do you respond—With tolerance? With compassion and understanding?


    Nooooo. Instead you come up with this blather about “State’s Rights” that everyone knows is nothing but a racist attempt to marginalize people of color. Shame on you, Sasha Berger and Yves Smith!
    And now, back in the real world…Libs concerned about the overreach of the Federal Government. Quite the turnabout. It was fun, however, to play my part in the role-reversal by responding with asinine, blanket charges of racism and intolerance. Shame on you, Sasha. Shame on you, Yves.

    1. David Petraitis

      Wow BITFU massive chip on your shoulder.
      “All arguments from states rights are arguments for racism” ???
      Really? a bit totalizing… not?
      That’s misreading and tantamount to what you decry:
      “All [insert ethnic group here] are [insert negative stereotype here].

  7. E.L. Beck

    Once they get a whiff of the profits in these experimental states, corporations will push for national legalization. Once that occurs, the corporations will then leverage their way into this market through regulatory control, pushing for certification that will require enormous fees from small growers/suppliers, but will represent mere pocket change for the corporations. No need for corporations to buy out the start ups, unless one or two of them quickly scale up and take a sizable market share. The tobacco industry, in particular, already has the infrastructure in place to overwhelm the market.

  8. Peter Pan

    Unfortunately, the lack of federal legalization is the basis for which municipalities and counties within Washington state prohibit any form of marijuana business (grower, wholesaler, retailer). So geographically most of Washington state will be “dry” in July 2014 when it becomes legal to sell marijuana.

    For example, there were ten retail marijuana licenses issued by the state in my city but the city prohibits this business because marijuana has not been legalized at the federal level. I guess crapification of the pot business is going to happen regardless of whether or not it’s legalized at the federal level.

    1. Lord Koos

      I live in Washington state as well — I’ve heard that while cities can enact local statutes prohibiting pot, the state of WA has said that counties cannot contradict state law. At the same time, cities like Yakima which has banned pot shops and grows, are happy to receive the tax dollars that will be generated by sales of weed. In Yakima’s case it’s perplexing because that town has some of the worst gang and drug problems east of the Cascades. Perhaps someone on the city council is on the take.

      I would disagree with the premise of this article, that big business will be cornering the market. Unlike other drugs, or alcohol, it is very easy for people to grow high-grade cannabis at home. You don’t need a lab or a still to make it. The problem I see in WA state is that the state seeks to tax it to death — which will only result in the continuation of the current, thriving black market.

  9. Eureka Springs

    My guess would be Colorado’s boom is temporary. Grow operations there are huge already! if bar room and other social conversations are any indication Colorado is exporting now, supplying millions of people in many states. When Southern US States, Jamaica and Mexico legalize… CO growers will all but vanish. The sativa varieties they can grow down south and the cheaper labor make this a sure bet. And of course the newness/fad of it all will calm down…. people will not consume at these rates in Colorado or anywhere else as legalization occurs. If export from Colorado were really controlled (i’m not saying it should be, necessarily) I would guess far more than half of CO growers would go belly up in no time. Small operators are always the first to go. Meanwhile mechanized processing of harvest will further erode that area of employment costs.

    The price of legalization will eliminate millions of jobs in the old pirate industry. Jobs which probably paid an almost living wage… you know triple the minimum wage now, without taxation. Prices are already dropping… with more and more rents involved for those who are running a store and such. People who used to have a little house of their own and a grow room will all have to change their ways. Give up home ownership and fight for a service industry job.

    Hell I can’t find one “hippy” friend who refuses to shop at Wal-mart…. there is NO public will, backed by integrity and action in this country to fight the devolution/crapification/race to lower wages, always, in this country.

    We live in under a neoliberalcon state… Our constitution is designed to do the exact opposite of what this post hopes will be different – this time. Concentrated wealth and mass production are all we know, all we are programmed to maintain. To think for a nano second the big corps model with their owned big government won’t prevail in wiping out the small farmer, processor and retailer is absurd. To think for a minute Americans want quality rather than quantity or super low prices is to ignore…well, everything. We’ve given up on decent affordable health care, bailed out criminal banksters in the trillions, legalized mass surveillance, maintain the largest prison population on earth, continue to mass murder with a 600 billion dollar ‘defense’ budget, and IMF starve people all over the world rather than demand decency among/for ourselves.

    The problems confronting this posters hopes are not just “Big” they are systemic….. we need a new constitution and restoration of rule of law before we can ever have a government on the side of small business.

    Hopefully when all of this calms down most people will be able to grow their own right next to the tomato plants. It’s extraordinarily easy to grow… like a weed! Dried correctly it lasts a year in a jar… and most folks don’t need that much. Hopefully this happens before Marley and Monsanto permanently screw up the genetics.

    1. RUKidding

      What you said! Completely agree. Nice to learn that some citizens are making some money now from legal pot in CO and more power to ’em. Hope they’re save, save, saving bc that rainy day is a-coming sooner or later.

      In California, a lot of the major opposition to the prior legalize pot ballot initiative (a couple years ago) came mainly from the “renegade” pot growers in CA’s north west corridor, which includes famous Humboldt county. There were articles about the local (illegal) pot grower industry, and yes, indeed, they enjoyed a reasonably middle class lifestyle from their (illegal) business, with the usual trappings. They clearly see legalization representing the end of their income & lifestyle as they know it now. I am sympathetic bc I readily agree. There are issues bc, for sure, there is some heavy-duty organized crime stuff going on with MJ growth & production in CA, but for the smaller grower, it’s their business and income.

      Vis the comparison to craft beer: well, yeah, some clever and industrious growers can perhaps transform themselves into craft MJ growers & distributors and continue to thrive and do well for themselves. But I agree that, in the main, eventually most likely BigTobacco and/or BigAlcohol’s gonna muscle in and take over the shebang. And the sheeplike USians – baa baaa baaaa – will go along and think their cheap crappy sh*tty pot that really doesn’t get ’em high will be delighted bc: cheap!

      Like Eureka Springs, most of my formerly “hippy” & politically active friends, are quite happy with the crappification of everything and shop blissfully at Walmart and sing its praises. I was dissed by one such friend for refusing to shop at WalMart bc they thought I “looked down on” the customers – as in, the bulk of the shoppers trend towards what remains of the working class. I’m not so sure the really poor – a growing segment – can even *afford* WalMart these days. Citizens are all good little authoritarians, cleverly brainwashed to be denial about is right in front of their eyes. They’ll all be delighted with cheap GMO pot that really doesn’t get them high.

      Onwards and upwards.

    2. Lord Koos

      If there is real competition from foreign growers of cannabis, that may be bad news for some local operations, but that’s only good news for the end user. I predict it will end up more like the wine industry, where in local shops consumers have inexpensive choices from all over the world, and can spend more if they want the primo stuff. In addition, many people still like to shop locally and support local businesses. Of course the federal government has the option to regulate the amount of imported pot via import taxes, thus propping up the local market.

  10. Bart Fargo

    Am I the only one who laughed at the terms “artisanal” and “craft” being applied to pot production? I mean, I know those are essentially meaningless marketing buzzwords, but still…is it also possible for “boutique” clandestine labs to produce artisanal coke and meth, or does the product have to be all natural? (I do not mean to imply that pot is anywhere near as harmful as those substances)

    1. Cocomaan

      is it also possible for “boutique” clandestine labs to produce artisanal coke and meth,

      I’d say that is almost a certainty.

      Purity of the product is one measure, that is, is it uncut with anything else.

      Another would be process: there are many ways to skin the proverbial cat, but some of them are messier than others. Chemicals of all sorts can be used to produce either drug, but some are more dangerous than others, and have different byproducts after the reaction has taken place.

      1. Bart Fargo

        Good points. Such labs ought to focus their marketing on yuppies, to whom artisanal/craft is a stamp of quality and authenticity rather than just an excuse to charge a premium price.

      2. Lord Koos

        Besides purity, you have to include genetic selection, curing, timing of harvest, etc, all of which strongly affect the quality and style of the end product. Marijuana is already an artisanal product — sites like review and rate the different strains.

    2. Kurt Sperry

      Why would cannabis be different from any other agricultural product in this regard? It can be produced with the same care and painstaking concern for quality as a craft beer or wine or a really great tomato or cheese–or it can be indifferently mass produced like corporate products generally are. Cannabis isn’t a simple chemical compound like cocaine or amphetamine, it is a living plant with many thousands of possible nuanced variations and as such there cannot be a generic cannabis anymore than there can be a generic tomato. The simple minded conflation of cannabis with simple chemical compounds is emblematic of the widespread–and at this point with better information readily available to anyone, willful–ignorance that is one of the principle legacies of the war on drugs.

  11. patrick

    My comments are more about the perpetuation of stereotypes (see some of the comments above for instance).The first thing most folks should do is throw out everything you ‘know’ about cannabis and start over- even if you “smoked it in high school”. There is a large amount of information from just the last 10-15 years easily available. The barrage of pure BS has dominated for decades and the result is, as always, a country full of ‘experts’ who don’t really know anything about the subject. It’s understandable and totally wrong to compare it to alcohol in nearly every respect. Alcohol is the original ‘heavy’ drug and it’s glorified beyond belief. Stoned? Alcohol can lead a person to lose control of what they say and do. A black out. That’s frightening. Have a seat on the fainting couch- here is some truth: smoking weed is more comparable to a cup of green tea or a bungee jump than drinking any amount of booze no matter how much it cost. As far as the economics are concerned, selling cannabis should only require a business license and sales tax. When I get hungry I eat real food and if I want a beer I don’t drink (patronize) coors or bud(weiser). Thanks for Naked Capitalism Ives- I read it every day, preferably (but not required) with a joint!

  12. F. Beard

    Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
    And wine to him whose life is bitter.
    Let him drink and forget his poverty
    And remember his trouble no more.

    Open your mouth for the mute,
    For the rights of all the unfortunate.
    Open your mouth, judge righteously,
    And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
    Proverbs 31:6-9 [bold added]

    The irony is that our sadistic overlords often think they are doing God’s will by blocking the poor’s access to escape from misery. Oh the shock they have coming! Many Progressives too.

  13. F. Beard

    Quit doing pot myself when I learned it turns brain cells brown but to each his own as long as he’s 18.

      1. F. Beard

        Ha, ha! That was my theory! I used to say “Pot damages your brain cells leaving them in place to cause trouble while alcohol outright kills them.”

        I now neither defend nor refute that theory instead trusting in the Lord to heal my brain (as He has done many times already) as needed.

  14. Kurt Sperry

    There is one almost ironclad means of if not avoiding entirely at least providing a viable alternative to the corporate exploitation/crapification of legal recreational cannabis and that is to simply allow adults to grow a reasonable amount for their own personal use so the supply chain can never be captured exclusively by commercial suppliers. There are plenty of common genotypes of potent cannabis that are easily grown even by novice gardeners in their backyards almost anywhere in the US with no more expertise than is required to grow corn or tomatoes. Some heirloom cultivars and landraces even breed true so the grower with these will be wholly independent from outside supply chains if they set aside a couple of plants for seed every few years. In fact, a good litmus test of the seriousness of any proposed legalization or decriminalization regime is whether it allows for the user to grow their own. I’d be highly skeptical of any plan such as that in my own Washington State that doesn’t allow for the consumer to supply themselves and would probably in fact recommend against supporting any plan that doesn’t. As tempting as it may be to support something that immediately frees the cannabis user from most immediate legal peril, this aspect is critically important longer term.

    Having said this there are varieties of cannabis that are impractical to grow outside the tropics either outdoors or indoors under lights and some of the most efficacious and sought after fall into this category and can probably only be grown in Hawaii within the US. These will obviously have to be supplied across state or international borders and as such won’t be legally available to the vast majority of Americans as long as cannabis remains illegal on a federal level.

  15. washunate

    In the words of older young people, lol. Or perhaps, rotflmao.

    Of course legal things can become the domain of Big Business. No matter how bad Big Business is, it’s a heck of a lot better than Big Law Enforcement.

    The last time I checked, A-B Inbev and SAB Miller coexist perfectly nicely with regional companies and microbrews. All without the whole social problem of locking up low income people, black people, and other disadvantaged populations that get the shaft in our two-tiered justice system that is the War on Drugs.

  16. Roland

    Well, of course legal marijuana will get “crapified” just like everything else we touch nowadays.

    But if we can just stop throwing thousands of people into jail on account of the hemp plant, that’s worth the crapification right there.

    Besides, marijuana is easy for the user to grow. It’s not anywhere near as complicated as running a brewery or a vinyard. Not much art required. That’s actually why I doubt pot will get fully legalized–gov’ts and corps. would have too much trouble trying to get their piece of the action.

  17. rob

    marijuana will never be taken over by big corporate anything.They won’t be able to realize the unnatural returns their parasitical lives depend on.
    While the weed these days is better than anything there has been in the past. The processes for this cultivation are being worked out and documented. the strains are being developed. And be it seed or cuttings, these strains and all further hybridizations, will flow evermore.
    And if people don’t want to buy the expensive stuff(which considering the effect x duration makes it effectively cheaper than it used to be),anyone can grow some at home.
    Just because something may not win a prize at the state fair, if it is good, and it is free…. people will be willing to partake.
    So there is no way to create an imposed void of lack of substance, as is now the case with the on-going prohibition.when it is all around, the cops will have a tougher time between what is sanctioned and what isn’t…
    Then even the reality of hemp production in various places will make the ,effort to keep pot from the people even more remote.
    And it doesn’t matter.
    The changing paradigm where the prohibition of marijuana is coming to an end, is the best thing happening in our world these days. Really because what is needed most, is the changing of people’s attitudes.
    The use of marijuana can help people slow down and look around them. This can shatter the illusion of the corporatist governments and their elements of control.
    I agree with some of the comments above on this thread. we could change the world, if only we could change our opinions.
    the power of the weed, is incalculable.The greatest force is us.WE THE PEOPLE.
    we just need to stop believeing all this propaganda.

  18. KTB

    “I fear that the local and decentralized marketplace will be replaced by a national or even international market governed by large multinational firms that whisk their profits away to other places, degrade product quality, and stymie innovation and employment.”

    Umm….isn’t that how our capitalist system works with everything? If you have a problem with large, national firms displacing small, local businesses, then cutting every cost imaginable to increase profits, leading to crappier and crapper products over time, then take aim at the economic system that allows that to happen. The same thing has already happened with retail (Walmart), food production (Monsanto), food processing (Kraft and others), clothing, and on and on and on. This is the completely predictable outcome of capitalism. Why in the world would you expect anything else? I swear, economists are some of the most delusional people on the planet.

  19. digi_owl

    I find myself thinking about community currencies like Bristol pounds, that are used to “region lock” the economic activity rather than having a few large entities siphon them off to some ledger somewhere.

    In a sense it is a more localized variation of tax havens.

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