Tuesday, June 3, 2014

New! Stoner Lights! The History of Tobacco Industry Denials about Marijuana

The LA Times reports that the tobacco industry investigated marijuana-based products in the 1960s and 70s, despite the claims they made at the time that they had no intention of doing so. Researchers found a number of memos and communications, both internal and to the federal government that readied to the tobacco industry for a response should marijuana become legal. The documents are in an archive at UC San Francisco.

H. Wakeham, a vice president in research and development at Phillip Morris, wrote to Milton Joffee at the Department of Justice regarding an agreement in which Phillip Morris would analyze marijuana smoke.
Regarding the confidentiality basis on which we would do the work, we request that there be no publicity whatsoever given to our willingness to perform this work and to receive samples for that purpose. We will provide the results to you on a confidential basis, and request that you do not identify in the form of any public announcement where the work has been done.

At the time, the tobacco industry proclaimed they were not planning on becoming the generic "smokes" industry. They stated in a press release that
Rumors about the cigarette industry's involvement with marijuana are as persistent as they are false.
The press release included follow-up statements from company presidents. Here's what Joseph Cullman III, the Chairman of the Board of Phillip Morris had to say:
The simple fact is that marijuana is an illegal product. As a responsible company we have no interest in anything which is illegal here at Phillip Morris and we have held no discussions nor made any plans concerning the marketing of that product.
But the president of the company recognized "that it may be legalized in the near future and put on one sort of restricted sale." And so, it should be examined as "a potential competitor" or "a possible product."

Now with marijuana legalization looking more likely, the tobacco industry is again saying that they have no intention of getting into marijuana sales. "Our companies have no plans to sell marijuana-based products," David Sylvia told the Times (yeah, he works for Phillip Morris).

If I can offer a bit of snark, maybe they were stoned when they said that. Marijuana seems to be heading toward legalization. And if that's the case, and it becomes legal for adults to enjoy, of course the tobacco industry will get involved. They're not fools.
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