The rapid growth of the cannabis industry is undeniable. As of 2018, 43 states have legalized some level of marijuana use, and it has been predicted that the recreational cannabis industry will grow from $3.2 billion to $12.5 billion by 2025. Undoubtedly, this will cause massive changes, not only in public opinion, but also in the integrity of the industry as a whole. Now, the question remains: Could the growth in the weed industry lead it to becoming just another version of Big Tobacco?
The American Addiction Center estimates that 9 percent of cannabis users will become emotionally dependent on the drug’s effects. There has been little scientific research that has proven marijuana to be physically addictive.
One major distinguishing factor between the two industries that must be taken into account is the addictive component. Addiction is an incredibly easy way to hook customers into continuing to spend their hard earned money on these businesses, and the American Cancer Society states, “About 2/3 of smokers say they want to quit and about half try to quit each year, but few succeed without help.” In contrast, the American Addiction Center estimates that 9 percent of cannabis users will become emotionally dependent on the drug’s effects. There has been little scientific research that has proven marijuana to be physically addictive. This has led to the conclusion that marijuana users have greater choice when it comes to the products they use, allowing them to filter out corrupt businesses through the free market system.
Another major difference between the two industries is their history. The practice of smoking cigarettes boomed in the early twentieth century as soldiers returned from World War I. While some studies found a link between smoking and poor health, the majority of the results were ignored as cigarettes were considered the epitome of glamour and sophistication. It took decades of scientific research to convince the public of the dangers of smoking tobacco, and this fight continues today.
Cannabis had the opposite problem. It first started gaining traction in the US through the hippie movement in the 1960s, which was associated with the rejection of conventional society and the experimentation in sexuality and drugs. Due to the fact that hippies themselves were often criticized for their dismissal of societal norms, marijuana began gaining a poor reputation.
In addition to this, cannabis became deeply wrapped up in the War on Drugs, which began during Richard Nixon’s presidency in 1971. The War on Drugs was an attempt to associate and criminalise minority groups who were stereotyped to often be in contact with these substances.
It is obvious that these two industries have come from completely different backgrounds and reputations. Effort is still being put towards slowing down Big Tobacco, but the demand for nicotine persists. On the contrary, the marijuana industry has been attempting to convince the public of the drug’s medical benefits and limited health detriments for decades.
Due to this, the cannabis industry could never end up reaching the same status and leeway that Big Tobacco has gotten throughout the twentieth century, as they have only just begun repairing their reputation. Unless a major societal change occurs, the cannabis industry will continue to grow separately from the tobacco industry.