Is Big Bud the Next Big Pharma? Monsanto Aims to Dominate Commercial Cannabis

Are the worlds of big bud and big business about to collide?

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.

And Monsanto is lying in wait, ready to cash in.

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.

No. 1-7

Do you know what Roundup-ready soybeans are? Hint: it's not a bunch of soybeans on tiny ponies with hats and lassoes. I don't think it would take very much genetic manipulation to make Roundup-ready marijuana.What do you think would happen if a bunch of lobbyists told assorted governors "We have a chemical which will kill marijuana which isn't medically approved by the government. We'd like to spray it around, so that we can produce a safer, more consistent, cheaper product for Americans experiencing physical and psychological pain. We've done lots of tests, and found it to be trouble free, the only collateral damage we can envision is it might kill some of the dandelions on your lawn. We need your permission to spray, and we need to spray so that troublesome wild strains don't contaminate the pure strain we'll be using in the $350 million dollar facility we plan to build in city X, creating 1400 jobs and tax revenue, etc... Buy the way, Since we've already maxed out the donation limit to your individual campaign, what's your favorite superPAC?" Sure, "off-brand" weed will always be available, you never get all the toothpaste out of the tube, but I bet it'll be harder to get.


It won't work in CA, let them try! Weed has been available there for as long as I can remember


Just get your seeds and clones now because if big pharma does get a solid grip on the industry you can bet that they'll lobby government to regulate and/or tax individual producers out of existence (see "home distilling"). Probably something along the lines of "we can't allow strains with unknown potencies and ratios of THC and CBD available in through unregulated growers to cause injury to people striving to treat serious conditions. For God's sake, think of the children!".



I think it's important to make a distinction here between the legal, medical, domestic weed industry, and the illegal weed market. I believe that the majority of weed consumed in the U.S. still comes in via international drug cartels, which are large scale violent criminal enterprises that use murder as a PR tactic.

Philip Carino
Philip Carino

HAHAHAHA big pharmas slowly creeping the weed industry because they know it's gonna put a great competition for a lot of things. Glad to read an article providing us some insights into this as early as now. I find the do not buy their products solution certainly never reliable nor effective regardless of issue so perhaps the other suggestion to grow your own pot where allowed is the best bet. Hey, are there other companies as big as Monsanto aiming at this industry at all? Competition sounds good to me as a solution.