Altria (owner of Philip Morris) has made two moves to get ready to enter the US marijuana market. It registered to lobby on marijuana commercialization in Virginia and has submitted two US patents for cannabis vaporization devices.
According to the report in Cannabis Wire, “Altria supports the federal legalization of cannabis under an appropriate regulatory framework. As a stakeholder in this industry we intend to work with policymakers and regulators in support of a transparent, responsible, and equitable operating environment for the sale of cannabis…” This is exactly the same rhetoric that Altria has used for decades in working to preempt effective public health regulation with pro-industry rules.
The tobacco industry’s interest in the marijuana business. Philip Morris and other tobacco companies have been exploring getting into the cannabis business since the 1970s. The industry’s efforts cooled with the emergence of the War and Drugs that would put them cross-ways with the federal government. Now that cannabis legalization is moving forward with broad public support, Altria, along with other major corporate interests, is moving to lay the foundation to take over the cannabis market.
A particular problem is that the debate to date has been dominated by business interests with public health largely sitting on the sidelines. The current period of policy fluidity has created opportunities for health interests to influence policies and laws that are being put in place for decades to come. But to have such impact, they need to engage.
My basic policy principle: Treat marijuana like tobacco: Legal but discouraged with strong protections for nonusers.
Here are several papers we have published based on this principle that get into policy details, including specific legislative and regulatory language to legalize cannabis within a public health — as opposed to a business — framework:
- A Public Health Framework for Legalized Retail Marijuana Based on the US Experience: Avoiding a New Tobacco Industry
- Marijuana Regulatory Frameworks in Four US States: An Analysis Against a Public Health Standard
- Cannabis Legalization in State Legislatures: Public Health Cannabis Legalization in State Legislatures: Public Health Opportunity and Risk Opportunity and Risk
- Public Health Language for Recreational Cannabis Laws
- Regulating Cannabis Manufacturing: Applying Public Health Best Practices from Tobacco Control
- Conflict of Interest Provisions in State Laws Governing Medical and Adult Use Cannabis
- Civic Engagement in California Cannabis Policy Development
- Lessons from Tobacco for Developing Marijuana Legalization Policy