The business of cannabis has rules. Don’t get high on your own supply. Always pass to the left in times of peace. Don’t become the evilest company in the world.
That last one was never really a matter of concern when people sold pot from the trunks of cars. However, with the passage of recreational cannabis use in nine states, and 29 states allowing medical use, the worlds of big bud and big business are about to collide.
Actually — there’s no waiting involved. Monsanto, which is now owned by Bayer — the leading pharma company on the planet and the people behind aspirin — might already have their hands on at least three major cannabis producers.
How Monsanto Made Its Move to Dominate
Hawthorne, a front for the lawn and garden company Miracle-Grow, recently purchased Botanicare, Gravita and General Hydroponics — spending more than $135 million for General Hydroponics. Together, they’re three of the top cannabis producers in the United States.
How that connects to Monsanto? Monsanto has a business agreement with Miracle-Grow. Rather than ceding potential profits to hydroponics companies, Monsanto wants in on the cannabis industry, which deviates from the reason many cultivators and budtenders do what they do — to help others.
And Monsanto’s not shy about their intentions, as a representative for the hydroponics lighting industry shared how Monsanto planned to purchase their company, rather than buy their products to maximize its control of the market at every stage.
You can see what Monsanto is thinking. The cannabis industry is set to explode — dispensaries already bring in $3 billion a year — and create windfall profits for the lawn and garden industry. Plus, it provides the opportunity for Monsanto to pair its pharmaceutical side with its Miracle-Grow partnership. And that is one of the key aspects people are worried about here — genetically modified organism (GMO) weed.
Monsanto and GMO Weed
No one knows what the short- or long-term effects of GMO weed are because there isn’t the research or studies to provide a concrete answer on whether it would impact the psychoactive effects that the cannabinoids in cannabis have on consumers.
And while it’s possible that the food and pharmaceutical giant could approach marijuana from an organic perspective, like many licensed growers, it’s an unlikely expectation based on the mantra many big businesses follow — make money.
That’s the advantage of GMO crops. They endure what organic ones cannot, maximizing outputs and profits. And that opens another series of questions, specifically for patients that use medical marijuana to ease chronic symptoms.
What happens to their costs for medical cannabis? Do they pay more for the organic, non-GMO version because of Monsanto’s efforts to introduce GMOs into the marijuana industry and inflate prices for not only recreational consumers but also patients whose insurance doesn’t cover cannabis?
For many in the industry, that goes against the core values of the weed business.
A High Risk for a High
If big pharma’s push into the cannabis industry seems like something that you’ll hear about today and never again, then take another guess. It’s a real risk when you consider the size, assets and resources of a company like Monsanto.
Monsanto controls the entire world's supply of corn and soy seeds. They’re also the company that gave us Agent Orange, DDT, asbestos and aspartame. And as Monsanto has said: they’ll buy the businesses they want and then do what they want.
In a market that already sees enormous amounts of energy invested in producing specific products at the highest quality possible, the introduction of modification could create even more potent strains than the already-strong commercial cannabis available now.
That could transition into an increased demand for these types of strains, which would feed Monsanto, as well as encourage other pharmaceutical companies to join the cannabis industry, eating away at the small, local dispensaries and cultivators that provide organic, locally-grown weed.
Monsanto has already created at least one genetically modified strain of marijuana, and there is already talk within the commercial cannabis community of limiting GMO plant availability on the commercial market as a means of quality control. This decision would surely bode well for Monsanto.
How to Avoid Big Bud Pharma
The easy answer to, “How can I stop this?” is to avoid buying Monsanto products. However, the harsh reality of that strategy is that Monsanto would not be where they are today if people didn’t buy their products. It is highly likely we will see the company play some role in the cannabis industry.
You have the option to grow your own cannabis for personal use, depending on your state’s laws. It might require a little finesse, and you might not be able to enjoy some of the boutique strains that you can find at dispensaries, but there is a whole different kind of satisfaction that comes with putting in the time and effort to grow your own. If you’re good at it, you can even turn your hobby into a career.
Just don’t become the evilest company in the world.