Legalised Cannabis’s Corporate Takeover

“For so long the branding and marketing in this space has been all about using the colour green and putting pot leaves on everything”, bemoans Michael Blue, one third of private equity firm Privateer Holdings. “No one is looking at this and treating it like a professional industry.” But all that is about to change. As Seattle prepares to embrace State legislation that will make it part of America’s biggest social experiment since it banned the purveyance of alcohol in the 1920s, the young and market-savvy are busy polishing sales strategies and coining new brands for retail release. Unlike the folkloric pot dealers of the past, however, they’ve ditched the hippie clothes, rasta plaits and ponytails for thousand-dollar suits, business plans, and MBAs. “This industry is not about singing Kumbaya in a drum circle and smoking a few joints”, claims Dr. Kevin Sabet, former drug policy adviser to President Obama. “It’s about businessmen in suits making billions.” He worries that beneath the appetising flow of cannabis tax dollars to under-funded public schools and hospitals, a new Big Tobacco is being created. With exclusive access to his campaign, this report looks at whether the move is an expression of civil liberty, or if the system is slowly going to pot.

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