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Big Weed

By Donna Mallard | May 2, 2015

Law Office Management

May 2, 2015

Big Weed

Author and entrepreneur Christian Hageseth writes about his experiences in the marijuana industry.

Once you get past all Christian Hageseth's bombastic boasting in this book, it's rather chilling. It gives you a comprehensive look at what lies ahead in our aborning world of legalized recreational marijuana. Turning this industry over to unstoppable entrepreneurs such as Colorado's Hageseth means the creation of a behemoth to match our $400 billion alcohol industry and our $35 billion tobacco industry. The recreational marijuana market will dwarf our 42 million smokers and 120 million people who drink.

Marijuana is not a harmless substance. Though Hageseth repeatedly voices the mantra that it's not as harmful as alcohol or tobacco (and he's right about that), he completely ignores the fact that marijuana can be addictive. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it. The number goes up to about 17 percent for those who start using young (in their teens) and to 25 to 50 percent for daily users. Just like the alcohol and tobacco industries, the marijuana industry will be built on the backs of its most frequent users, and turning casual users into frequent users will be the marketing strategy that drives the industry, just as with alcohol and tobacco. Hageseth makes no effort to assess the potential harmful consequences of promoting marijuana use to the consuming public, which will fuel the billions of dollars in sales that he foresees.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing states that legalize recreational marijuana will be how to keep it out of the hands of the population under age 18. That's the fastest-growing segment of the new market. Though Hageseth concedes the danger, he's rather cavalier about assessing its magnitude. Here's a typical passage: "But if your kid is toking in the basement with friends, some of the most likely outcomes are that they will watch a ton of movies on Netflix, have a mind-blowing realization, laugh a lot, order in a pizza, clean their entire room, or pass out on the couch." Sounds like fun, but what happens to their brains?

Another excerpt: " 'Look,' I recently told a group of moms, 'say your kids are out for the night. They have a bottle of Jack Daniel's or a bag of weed, and they are going to use one of them. Which would you rather have them do?' "

The reality, of course, is that they're going to use both of them, with potentially disastrous consequences. Researchers have found that multiple-substance use is highly prevalent among U.S. adolescents, with 34.1 percent reporting early use of both alcohol and marijuana. They also found that early use of multiple substances is associated with higher rates of substance-use dependence in young adults.

The barely concealed purpose of Hageseth's boasting is trolling for investors. He will surely find lots of them. His predictions for where the "new marijuana economy" will go are spot on, because it will likely mimic the growth of the alcohol and tobacco economies in that:

Consolidation and corporate penetration are inevitable.

  • Licensing will become tougher and more expensive, favoring early players.

  • Branding of marijuana will cross state lines.

  • Marijuana dosing will become standardized.

  • Federal prohibition will end, and banking and tax laws will change to accommodate the new economy.

Hageseth tells us it's not the money that motivates him but the "joy and love" he derives from turning people on to this wonderful plant. His enterprise is called Green Man Cannabis, twice winner of the Cannabis Cup for growing the best sativa. You can check it out on the Internet, and look at the prices he charges for his joy and love. At 14 bucks a gram (enough for two or three joints), he will gross $20 million this year.

Gerald F. Uelmen is a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, where he teaches a class on drug-abuse law.


Donna Mallard

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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