Posted: January 14, 2010
Legalized marijuana is right around the corner
It just needs an extreme makeoverBy Thomas Frey
With the hippie generation moving into the seat of power, many of the hard-line arguments for keeping marijuana on the same banned substance lists as heroin and cocaine are fading into the history books.
The challenge all along for those wishing for outright legalization of pot has been that it doesn't exactly fall into the "good for you" category, parents raising small kids are afraid of it, and it would remove a substantial income stream from the very powerful justice system.
With local, state, and federal governments at odds over how to classify it, marijuana has become a rather confusing issue on many levels. Even though marijuana remains banned federally, the Obama administration has decided to end federal raids on pot-sellers in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Indicators clearly point to an outright legalization of marijuana in the near future, but there will be some interesting twists and turns along the way.
Consider the following data points that are now forming clear signposts towards legalization:
•13 states now allow for the legal use of medical marijuana with a doctor's prescription and several others are considering it.
•Attitudes are changing. A recent Gallup poll showed 44 percent of the population supports legalizing marijuana, up from 25 percent in 1995.
•With groups collecting over 200,000 signatures for upcoming ballot issues in 2010, California will be voting on marijuana becoming a taxed and regulated substance similar to cigarettes and alcohol.
•On July 22, 2009, Oakland, CA became the first city in the US to approve a tax on marijuana.
•Pro-legalization groups such as NORML argue that the U.S. has been squandering vast amounts of money and manpower chasing and locking up marijuana users, both of which could be used for more important things.
•Many other consumer groups have begun to side with legalization. In 1997, Consumer Reports issued a statement saying that, "for patients with advanced AIDS and terminal cancer, the apparent benefits some derive from smoking marijuana outweigh any substantiated or even suspected risks."
Marijuana is an industry with proven demand waiting to spring to life. However, the vast majority of people cannot envision it as a respectable industry with most conjuring up images of raucous teen parties, dealing with unsavory drug dealers and smoking reefers. The fact is that most stoners are terrible writers, so the biggest advocates are the worst communicators.
For marijuana to become legal on all levels, the fledgling industry will have to go through an extensive makeover with professional advertising and PR people entering the mix. One person will need to emerge as the voice of the industry, the rock star of pot, a credible authority who makes it onto the TV talk shows and leads the movement. In the end, it will be less about the legalization and much more about the framework established to unleash the opportunity.
•Within 10 years, marijuana will emerge as a staple at most night clubs and parties.
•As part of a rebranding effort, it will no longer be called marijuana, but some other name invented by Madison Avenue.
•After all the hype wears down, it will prove to be a much smaller industry than most have feared or anticipated. While still a lucrative field, the majority of money will be made on ancillary services.
The early-stage opportunity will be to reinvent the industry. The people who shape the industry will also help define the kinds of opportunities that it creates.
With a growing aversion to "smoking," the style and form of marijuana will need to be shifted into edible and drinkable products. The resulting industry will create thousands of new jobs in agriculture, processing plants, transportation, distribution, marketing, advertising, training, certification, regulators and more.
Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker. At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come. His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.