Source:  MAINst, By Al Lewis June 06 2014

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It’s only a matter of time before Big Tobacco swoops in and takes over the entire marijuana business, according to a new report in a health policy journal titled “Waiting for the Opportune Moment: The Tobacco Industry and Marijuana Legalization.”

“Policymakers and public health advocates must be aware that the tobacco industry or comparable multinational organizations … are prepared to enter the marijuana market with the intention of increasing its already widespread use,” reads the report in the most recent Milbank Quarterly.

 Most entrepreneurs in the legal marijuana business have long seen this day coming. They advocate for federal legalization of the widely used drug, but at the same time, they’re trying to make all the money they can before big corporations take over their businesses.

Tripp Keber, owner of Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, which makes infused marijuana food and beverage products, has been expecting a Big Tobacco takeover this from the beginning.

“Somebody is going to knock on our door,” he said in a 2011 interview, long before recreational marijuana was legal in his company’s headquarters state of Colorado. “It would be a rounding error for a Philip Morris or a U.S. Tobacco. And if you don’t think that they are eying this market, you would be foolish.”

Big tobacco companies – including R.J. Reynolds – have said they have no current no plans to move into the marijuana market. They have always denied they were considering a move into marijuana, according to the Milbank report’s authors, Rachel Ann Barry and Stanton A. Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco, and Heikki Hiilama of the University of Helsinki.

The researchers, however, were able to tap a database of documents that demonstrates othersise. It was established as a result of tobacco litigation. It yielded several documents and found that the major cigarette makers have indeed been looking into the weed business since the late 1960s.

The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library holds more than 80 million pages in which major tobacco companies describe their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific research activities. There are so many pages that researchers are still discovering new material. The Milbank report authors said they gave it “the standard snowball research technique.”

 Here are some of the gems that turned up:
  • “From all I can gather from the literature, from the press, and just living among young people, I can predict that marihuana smoking will have grown to immense proportions within a decade and will probably be legalized,” wrote University of Virginia professor Alfred Burger, in a 1969 memo to a Phillip Morris researcher. “The company that will bring out the first marihuana smoking devices, be it a cigarette or some other form, will capture the market and be in a better position than its competitors to satisfy the legal public demand for such products. I want to suggest, therefore, that you institute immediately a research program on all phases of marihuana.”
  • “Thank you very much for your letter of December 12, 1969 regarding the cannabis smoke analyses ,” reads a memo from the Justice Department to a vice president of research and development at Phillip Morris. “I do not feel that there is any bar to maintaining the confidentiality you request.”
  • “We have information from reliable source that Philip Morris recently applied for and was granted a special permit to grow, cultivate, and make marijuana, extracts,” reads a 1970 internal memo from the American Tobacco Co. “We further understand that the Federal Government supported this application and that Philip Morris urged the State agency people to secrecy.”
  • “The decision to limit the field to that of cannabis-loaded cigarettes is deliberate,” reads an old draft of a plan from the head science officer of British American Tobacco. “Firstly, the smoking of such cigarettes is a natural expansion of current smoking habits which, if a more tolerant attitude were ever taken to cannabis, would be a change in habit comparable to moving over to cigars.”

Big Tobacco will likely roll into the cottage industry of marijuana producers as soon as it’s legal for them to do so under federal law.

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