“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,” a piece in the most recent issue of the Milbank Quarterly suggests.
The report said that advocates and policymakers should be prepared to address regulations, such as licensing laws and restrictions to marketing, to prevent “the tobacco industry’s takeover of the market.” It also urges policymakers to study the successes and failures of regulating tobacco in order to craft rules to govern the cannabis industry.
Cannabis professionals regularly speculate that Big Tobacco will, at some point, enter the marijuana market. This speculation has always hinged on the changing of regulations at the federal level.
Representatives from both British American Tobacco and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. said they currently have no plans for expansion into the cannabis market. But the Milbank report – citing recently unearthed documents – found that major cigarette brands began researching cannabis opportunities in the late 1960s and early 1970s despite denying it at the time.
An executive with Philip Morris even asked the Justice Department for samples of marijuana so that it could perform research on the plant. The executive asked the government to keep the request silent. A Justice Department representative reportedly agreed, saying the company could also sidestep the FDA’s review of its plans.
One internal memo from the American Tobacco Co. at the time reports that executives learned Philip Morris was granted a “special permit” to grow and manufacture cannabis extracts. The head science adviser with British American Tobacco even drafted a research plan for cannabis-loaded cigarettes.