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Sensi Magazine

Sensi Magazine May 2019 - Boston Digital Edition

Apr 30, 2019 01:32AM ● By Amber Orvik


A Quartz report published in early April found that of all the colossal mergers and acquisitions in commercial cannabis, the top three largest shareholders in the global space are….and you may have to brace yourself for the shock of it all…Big Alcohol, Big Tobacco, and Big Pharma. That’s not in the vague sense. That’s a rundown of the top three industries coming in at pole position among all other M+A and brand consolidation movements around the world. As of 2018, the report mentioned US venture capital investment in cannabis companies topped $900 million, and that could double in 2019. 

In other words, stop bitching about “big weed” coming in to kill “craft weed.” As of right now, there is no fight. The fight’s been lost, friends, both while we were watching and while we weren’t. Some could say as far back as the late 1960s, when the cigarette companies would meet in secret top-brass-only cloak-and-dagger meetings surrounded by blood goblets and howling beasts seated before oversized hearths and wearing actual cloaks and daggers. Okay, it was more like a board meetings and internal communications, but whatever, you get the idea (there’s archive of 14 million documents created by tobacco companies about their previously secret internal activities hosted by the UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management, if interested in a deep dive). 

Take for instance this observation by Dr. Alfred Burger, a professor at the University of Virginia, who supervised a chemistry fellowship that focused on organic chemistry related to nicotine (read: how to tinker with tobacco and make a better, more addictive, and profitable product). Dr. Burger wrote to Dr. Robert Ikeda, who managed chemical and biological research at the cigarette giant’s research labs, about a “novel research program” for the forward-looking division of the cigarette giant. 

“From all I can gather from the literature, from the press, and just living among young people, I can predict that marihuana [sic] smoking will have grown to immense proportions within a decade and will probably be legalized. The company that will bring out the first marihuana smoking devices, be it a cigarette or some other form, will capture the market and be in a better position than its competitors to satisfy the legal public demand for such products. I want to suggest, therefore, that you institute immediately a research program on all phases of marihuana.” 

That was decades ago, and Dr. Burger was working on behalf Philip Morris, the giant behind Marlboro cowboy killers. But you may know it by its current name, Altria, the corporation that paid $1.8 billion for a 45 percent stake in Cronos, one of Canada’s monolithic weed producers, at the end of 2018. 

Call it a reminder that the lodestar for avoiding large corporate takeover by former industry foes (and supervillains for that matter) was never really established (see: capitalism, free market), and if we’re not vigilant about the cash grab at the expense of small, independent entities working to get their piece of the pie, the nadir of the craft grass space will have been reached before the industry has even really gotten started. 


Click on the image below to read the MAY 2019 issue of Sensi Magazine — Boston Edition