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I have to admit to having a completely short-sighted stance on the decriminalization of marijuana. I view our "War on Drugs" as a complete and utter failure to everyone except private prison companies. I do not make a distinction between the use of marijuana and alcohol, and think that the Prohibition Era demonstrates that illegality doesn't reduce the usage, just drives it underground and fills up our jails and prisons with those who do not deserve it. I suspect that there are a great deal of Americans who feel the same way I do about it and in the last election, we saw Coloradoans and Washingtonians take the first electoral steps towards sensible drug laws for marijuana.
But, like those Coloradoans and Washingtonians, I never once considered the corporate consequences of legalization. Of course tobacco companies would be clamoring to get in on this, what with the percentage of smokers declining in this country. And of course that means advertising their products, in the same horribly stealthy way to target youth consumers as they did with Joe Camel or vaguely racist demographics, assuming that marijuana usage is higher among minorities. The dangers of legalization are not as a gateway to harder drugs, but as a gateway to corporatization:
It’s already widely rumored that Philip Morris has leased warehouse space in the area. The company denies it, as do its top-tier competitors, but “I’ve heard a lot of talk about it,” says Keith Burdick, a partner at Xcalibur, one of the biggest independent generic-brand tobacco companies in the country. “You’re going to get cigarette companies in here. I’m sure of it,” says John Wickens, a real-estate agent who has sold or leased acres of commercial space to marijuana growers. Peter Bourne, the drug czar under Jimmy Carter, recently told Newsweek that tobacco executives shared their marijuana contingency plans with him.
The alcohol and tobacco industries traditionally get 80 percent of their profits from heavy users, and there’s every reason to believe that marijuana sellers will need the same ratio. That would mean Colorado’s burgeoning pot business could be the basis for a third huge, blood-sucking vice industry, dependent on converting kids and supporting heavy users
That is the real slippery slope.