Big Tobacco Has Been Interested in Marijuana since Early 70s

7 months ago

Earlier as I was researching for a possible news item, I stumbled on this amazing, yet not too surprising, report.

As a fan of F1 I was rather “happy” to read the news that BAT (British American Tobacco) was returning to F1 as a sponsor. The new multi-year sponsorship with McLaren was announced at the presentation of the new 2019 McLaren F1 car. While tobacco sponsorship has been mostly outlawed for F1 — read: most left F1 as sponsors because too many nations have prohibited tobacco advertising and that caused issues in advertising ROI — Philip Morris (Marlboro) has stayed a loyal sponsor of Ferrari nevertheless. The company started last year its “WinningNow” campaign, for the first time being less recognizable a logo/slogan than the Marlboro chevron is. Everyone else has left F1.

Until now.

“We’re extremely proud and excited about this new partnership, further enabling us to accelerate the pace at which we innovate and transform ourselves. It gives us a truly global platform with which to drive greater resonance of our potentially reduced risk products, including our Vype, Vuse and glo brands. Ultimately, innovation and technology will support us in creating a better tomorrow’ for our consumers worldwide.”
Kingsley Wheaton, BAT Chief Marketing Officer

Because BAT and McLaren both refer to the company’s “reduced risk” products, i.e. its vaping brands I wanted to know whether BAT had already made any statements about possibly moving into the cannabis industry. Especially since its largest competitor Altria, parent company of Philip Morris, made a recent large investment in Canadian cannabis company Cronos. Altria has already started selling cannabis containing JUUL e-cigs in Canada even.

It seems that BAT hasn’t yet made any such move though for its ecig and vape products. No cannabis advertising in F1 when the circus lands in Canada this year.

During my research my attention was piqued by an article on the Millbank Memorial Fund: Waiting for the Opportune Moment: The Tobacco Industry and Marijuana Legislation.

The 2014 article presented an extensive research in which the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library was scanned for potential documents around big tobacco and marijuana.

The library now named Truth Tobacco Industry Documents contains all released corporate documents produced during litigations between US States and the seven major tobacco industry organizations. Thus it is a massive trove of insight in thinking and operations of Big Tobacco, its lobbying power, and how it tries to influence the Hill and states. The library was created in 2002.

For the research, the researchers scanned the whole library using the common snowball sampling technique. They searched for the terms “cannabis”, “marijuana”, “reefer”, “weed”, “spliffs”, and “blunts”.

According to their results obtained Big Tobacco has been interested in marijuana since the early 70s.

“While I am opposed to its use, I recognize that it may be legalized in a near future... Thus with these great auspices, we should be in a position to examine:

  1. A potential competition,
  2. A possible product,
  3. At this time, cooperate with the government.”
    George Weissman, Philip Morris President, February 1970

Of course, the early seventies followed after Woodstock, when marijuana had its probably most popular moment in modern history.

“The starting point must be to learn how to produce quantity cigarettes loaded uniformly with a known amount of either ground cannabis or dried and cut cannabis rag.”
Charles Ellis, BAT Adviser on Technical Research, undated

Things didn’t just stop there. Philip Morris even requested a marijuana sample from the Department of Justice for research, complete with the understanding that the whole operation would stay private.“We request that there be no publicity whatsoever,” wrote a Philip Morris executive. The answer? DoJ Srug Science chief Milton Joffre promised to deliver “good quality”.

Woodstock seems to have shocked Big Tobacco more than it would possibly have publicly admitted, but highly experienced executives know how to write good letters:

“We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying these needs.”
Unsigned memorandum distributed to PM top management, early 70s

The 2014 Millbank Memorial Fund closed its research with a scathing recommendation, urging policy makers to prohibit Big Tobacco entering the nascent cannabis industry, based on its abysmal track record and deceptive methods.

“Policymakers and public health advocates must be aware that the tobacco industry or comparable multinational organizations (eg, food and beverage industries) are prepared to enter the marijuana market with the intention of increasing its already widespread use. In order to prevent domination of the market by companies seeking to maximize market size and profits, policymakers should learn from their successes and failures in regulating tobacco.”

Those who want to read the whole report can access it at the Wiley Online Library.

Big Tobacco, having its filthy fingers in any “relaxing money making” product and market it can legally enter... ever since tobacco.



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I have mostly negative thoughts about the possibility of big T entering the J business for reasons as mentioned in the post. Big Ts track record of underhanded methods and ways of advertising it. Just the sheer fact that it was written that he is against the use but sees a profit opportunity scares me for what they would do with the cannabis they put into those canna cigarettes they want to sell. A lot of cigarettes are regarded as quality but are still filled with huge amounts of toxic chemicals that can't be compared to anything else on the world market. If Big T enters the game and they try to get a piece of the cake so to say, then I think it will most likely be a big failure as people are not stupid enough to consume cannabis from Big Ts shelf. The only way they would I belive get around that would be if they put out a paper with the box that contains the whole of the ingridients used to make those canna cigarettes. Then it would go a few ways I belive.

  1. They would put out the list with the ingredients and people would buy. Depending on what's written on those papers. And it would be a success.
  2. People would not buy because of the ingredients and it would be a flop
  3. People would protest the ingredients written there
  4. People would protest that Big Ts is lying about the list of ingridients.

I belive all those 4 things are eligible to happen and will probably happen if Big T enters. Now one of those things would will overdominated the other 3 and Big Ts canna cigarettes would be a success and more Big Ts companies would join in which would most likely be a big catastrophe. Philip might not lie or put toxic chemicals inside but late comers probably would and will to be ahead of the competition by making people addicted to cannabis the same way they did with tabbaco. Which in itself does not contain such addictive and toxic chemicals. Atleast not anywhere near on the scale to the other stuff put inside.

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I would love that you are right.

Sadly though, lots of work to go. The advertising power of those companies is brutally efficient. In a sector which comes with compulsory testing, give their advertising war chest the “healthy product” badge and watch them storm the barn and win.

That’s exactly why we need to be able to keep them out.

Some of the biggest yet unhealthiest brands in the world: Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Marlboro.

None of those products are healthy. Everyone knows they’re not. All of them are addictive and all of them conquered because of massive marketing budgets.

The consumer? They don’t care that much about thinking and doing their homework as we would like.

Already in the new marijuana market is that obvious. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about recent consumer behavior.

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True. All those big companies are nothing more then names. They don't seek products anymore in my opinion. They sell the name. And that's all they are. A name. Nothing more.

Thanks for the informative read. Have you watched Thank you for smoking?