By Ryan Stoa
You’ve heard of Big Pharma and Big Tobacco. How about Big Marijuana?
The drug’s growing legalization is raising concerns among small-scale marijuana farmers and retailers that the corporatization of weed may be right around the corner.
For example, earlier this year NASDAQ became the first major U.S. stock exchange to list shares of a marijuana production company. And in August, Corona-maker Constellation Brands shocked Wall Street by making a US$3.8 billion investment in a Canadian marijuana producer, sparking a bull market in marijuana stocks industry-wide. Even Coca-Cola is exploring opportunities to get involved.
Corporate and Wall Street interest in weed is only going to increase now that three more states have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana use – bringing the total to 33 – while Canada recently became the second country to allow recreational uses of the drug.
I have studied the marijuana agriculture industry for the past several years, tracing its evolution from black market drug to legal intoxicant. It’s a story I tell in my book, Craft Weed: Family Farming and the Future of the Marijuana Industry.
With all this money pouring in, it’s fair to wonder how legalization will change the marijuana industry itself – and whether it can stay true to its hippie roots.
One of the unintended consequences of the federal prohibition on marijuana in the United States is that legal pot-related businesses have remained rather small.
The American marijuana-farming scene, for example, has been dominated by small outdoor farmers and modest indoor warehouse growers. The alternative -- large, market-share-dominating companies -- would attract the attention of federal authorities.