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It's getting into cannabis. Photo: www.forbes.com

It’s getting into cannabis. Photo: www.forbes.com

The legalisation of cannabis in the United States is at an advanced stage, with eight states and the District of Columbia now permitting cannabis for recreational purposes after ballots in last week’s election approved it in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. It’s expected that the market will grow from $6bn in 2015 to $50bn by 2026. The alcohol industry is taking note of this.

Noo Yawk-based Constellation Brands, the alcohol industry behemoth that owns Corona beer and Svedka vodka, is contemplating producing marijuana-laced drinkies, and other major players in the business would likely follow suit. The CEO, Rob Sands, remarked in an interview with Bloomberg that his company was ?looking at? cannabis and ?There are going to be alcoholic beverages that will also contain cannabis.?

Sands is of the opinion that companies such as his should ?be acutely interested? in the cannabis market because in North America it is expected to be as sizeable as that of the salty snacks sector by 2026. As he put it, ?If there?s a lot of money involved, it?s not going to be left to small Mom-and-Pops.?

It was inevitable

Chris Walsh, Marijuana Business Daily’s editorial director, termed this ?an interesting though not surprising development.? He commented, ?We have been preparing for the day when big alcohol, big tobacco, and big pharma, big you-name-it tries to get involved in this industry.? While President-elect Trump has never expressed an opinion himself, some of his leading allies are against, with Veep-to-be Indiana governor Mike Pence blocking efforts to weaken the state’s marijuana laws and one-time NY mayor Rudy Giuliani and Noo Joizee Governor Chris Christie, both in line for senior cabinet positions, never mind Bridgegate, classed as ?consistently opposed? by the Drug Policy Alliance.

How the alcohol industry feels

The alcohol industry has disapproved of cannabis in the past, seeing it as competition. Brown-Forman, owner of Jack Daniel’s, and Boston Beer Co, owner of Samuel Adams, have been explicit as to the business risk in their annual reports. Arizona’s Wine & Spirits Association stumped up $10,000 for the anti-legalisation campaign there while another two alcohol industry trade groups in Massachusetts donated $75,000.

On the other hand, the management of Lagunitas Brewing, one of the most rapidly-expanding craft beer brewers, with 600 employees, favours cannabis. Legends speaks of the company’s St Patrick’s Day party on Thursday March 17 2005, back when it had only 37 employees. Ron Lindenbusch, Lagunitas’ ?beer weasel? – officially chief marketing officer and the company’s third employee ? organised parties at the brewery at 4:20pm (geddit?) on Thursdays for all comers. Cannabis would be consumed. Lindenbusch found himself being handcuffed by a man who identified himself as an officer of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, causing him to think, ?fuckety-fuck.?

Lagunitas licence to sell alcohol was suspended, imperilling the company, while it was investigated for keeping a ?disorderly house.? In the end, licence suspension lasted only 20 days and there was a zero tolerance probationary period for a year where cannabis was unwelcome at the parties. Owner Tony Magee declared, ?We?re still hippies, just not ragtag hippies.?

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