Business and Government Jonesing for a Hit of Pot Revenues

Last Updated Jun 15, 2011 12:22 PM EDT

As the economy continues to wander around with a glazed look in its eyes, is it really any surprise that businesses and government are turning to marijuana for a fix?

The news that Scotts Miracle-Gro is courting the "medical marijuana" industry should come as no shocker. The only surprise is that the company is willing to say so publicly. Scotts Chief Executive Jim Hagedorn told The Wall Street Journal, "I want to target the pot market. There's no good reason we haven't."

Well, there was up until the Great Recession -- the company didn't need the money. Now things are different, and it doesn't want others bogarting the revenues. (In a great piece of market research, Hagedorn says brand awareness can be seen in the number of times raids on pot-growing operations have turned up Scotts products.) Software companies have started selling inventory, point-of-sale and supply-chain-related software designed for the legal pot vending business.

Put this in your state budget and smoke it
The same argument is undoubtedly being made in state capitals around the nation. Michigan has turned an $8 million profit in the first two years of the state licensing medical marijuana patients and their caregivers. The state sells annual licenses at $100 each. And there is a lot of room to grow. CNN estimates the state's marijuana tax revenues could eventually hit $32 million a year. Nationwide, state pot revenues could hit $7.1 billion. That doesn't include increased revenues from the sales of Doritos, Oreos and Visine eye drops.

Before I go any further let me make it clear that the argument for "medical marijuana" is nothing but a front. I am not disputing that pot has its uses. I've had relatives go through chemo for cancer, and yeah, pot was the only thing that helped. That said, the growth in sales of prescribed pot would require cancer clusters the size of Cleveland. Doctors are finding a very nice revenue source from the office visits to get prescriptions for the stuff.

This is an honorable tradition in the medical field. During Prohibition there was a medical exemption which allowed people to buy liquor. Special prescription books for alcohol were sold and widely used, as this example shows. Drug stores did a booming trade and you could get medically certified rye, whiskey or gin.

I don't care whether the damn stuff is legal or not. (In my home state of Massachusetts they have effectively rendered the point moot. While it is legal to possess small amounts of pot, they have all but eliminated places where you can legally smoke anything.) It would be nice to have this argued out on the facts of the case and not hiding behind a screen of (deserving) cancer patients.

Photo: WikiCommons
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    Constantine von Hoffman is a freelance writer and writing coach. His work has appeared in outlets such as Harvard Business Review, NPR, Sierra magazine, Brandweek, CIO, The Boston Herald, TheStreet.com, CSO, and Boston Magazine.

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