bloomin photo corporate.jpg

The Concerns Of Corporatizing Cannabis Culture

 By Roger Moleskin

October 16th 2018 photo /istock / ajr_images

For its entire existence, cannabis culture has lived on the outskirts of society. A subculture in itself whose influence spreads across all others to varying degrees. Even corporate suits who could never admit to being smokers publicly and are far removed from the core of cannabis culture know at least some of it. But the culture is finding itself in unfamiliar territory with the sweeping legalization reforms and decriminalization. Legalization will lead to corporatizing cannabis culture in our lifetimes, and people are worried that it will never be the same after. Maybe they are right.

Cannabis culture, while fun loving and peaceful overall, is proud. It has always had strong ties to civil rights, personal freedom, and social justice. The bills coming into fruition in states across the nation are citing things like addiction relief and reversing racially disproportionate incarcerations as primary reasons. This strong sense of independence and fighting for what’s right is everything corporate America does not stand for.

There are many ways corporations can change cannabis culture. From a purely economic view, they will copy what they see is successful and drive out the smaller businesses in short order. The profit ceiling for cannabis will be some of the highest in the nation, so they have the incentive and ability to apply the usual scorched earth approach. It can organize and deliver more efficiently, but has none of the character cannabis culture has.

Culturally is where most people will feel it. I grew up New York City, and anyone my age who did can look at Greenwich Village as a perfect example, where the offbeat has become the upscale. Gone are the mom and pop restaurants, counter culture shops, vintage bookstores, and most of the people who frequent them. They have been replaced by business chains, trendy gyms, and transplants whose pockets are deeper than any working class New Yorker can dream of. It’s simply not a place for outcasts anymore.

A similar change will happen with corporate cannabis. A culture that has been built on opposition to the norm will be dressed up in uniform and will make long time members feel like it isn’t theirs anymore. The people who have been fighting misinformation and injustice will suddenly find themselves in the same boat as those who they feel have perpetuated those things. Minorities who were jailed at alarming rates for selling marijuana will find themselves all but locked out of cannabis business ownership, with mostly wealthy white CEOs reaping the lion’s share of profits.

 Some dispensaries that have persevered through black market to legal business will still be there, but most of them are in serious danger of of falling by the wayside of aggressive capitalism. A lot of people will say this is all unfair, and that is a legitimate claim, but who can we blame it on? No one is sure.

And that is what will be most frustrating. It’s quite possible that cannabis culture as we have known it will fade into nostalgia before our very eyes, and there will be no closure without a concrete villain to pin the fault on.

These are just the thoughts of one writer, and maybe they are too cynical. There are always at least two ways of looking at things; it is important to embrace change you can’t control and make the most of it. With that in mind, next time I will look at some of the good things corporatization can bring, and perhaps lessen some of the anxiety that some of us are feelin