Tags: Tobacco | Companies | Moving | Pot

Tobacco Companies Considered Moving Into Pot

By Michelle Smith   |   Tuesday, 03 Jun 2014 09:31 PM

Tobacco companies were eyeing the marijuana business long before the current push for legalization, recently unearthed documents reveal. 

The tobacco industry showed interest in pot as early as the late 1960s, according to archived material unveiled in the Milbank Quarterly, a health policy journal.

Among the documents is a hand-written letter from Philip Morris president George Weissman, reports Time. In it he said pot “may legalized in the near future…” and the company should be in a position to examine “a potential competition” and “a possible product.”

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“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,” says a Philip Morris memo.

Other documents show Philip Morris approached the Department of Justice in 1969 asking for marijuana for secret research and in exchange offered to provide the results “on a confidential basis.”

British American Tobacco also conducted confidential research in Britain, which was called “Pot Project,” says the Los Angeles Times. Documents show the company was aiming to produce “cannabis-loaded cigarettes.”

In a 1970 document, British American Tobacco's science adviser explained that such a product was a “natural expansion of current smoking habits” and if pot became legal, the cigarettes would be “a change in habit much like moving to cigars.”

“The starting point must be to learn how to produce in quantity cigarettes loaded uniformly with a known amount of either ground cannabis or dried and cut cannabis rag,” Time says the adviser noted.

Legalization was in the air in the 1970s, and 11 states decriminalized pot between 1973 and 1977. But big tobacco firms lost interest in marijuana during the 1980s, years when President Reagan oversaw a harsh anti-drug crusade.

However, documents show in the 1990s RJ Reynolds' interest was peaked due to false beliefs that a French competitor was producing cigarettes with marijuana.

RJ Reynolds responded by launching a marijuana research program. The company believed it should get better acquainted with pot “in view of the possibility of its future more frequent use in certain European countries,” the LA Times says an internal memo reveals.

Amid the current push for legalization tobacco companies are acting as if they have no interest in joining the marijuana trade. But the LA Times points out companies portrayed similar attitudes in the past even as they were conducting research.

“The tobacco companies may deny even thinking about it, but they have to think about it. It is an opportunity to diversify their business and help benefit shareholders,” Gerry Sullivan, portfolio manager of the Vice Fund told the LA Times.

“That is what management is most likely pursuing in the dark corners of some research lab in Virginia,” he added.

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Tobacco companies were eyeing the marijuana business long before the current push for legalization, recently unearthed documents reveal.
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2014-31-03
 

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