Monday, June 3, 2013

Big Green

Big Green


As the momentum for legalized marijuana picks up, many old time reformers either express fear of or fulminate against Big Green.  What’s so wrong about Big Green?

The goal of marijuana legalization is to turn the plant into an ordinary commodity, possibly with some age limitations on possession.  As such, it would have a customer base in the tens of millions.  Big Green will certainly enter that market.  The economics of scale from large volume production and sales and the power of mass marketing will be irresistible.  Lucky Puffs will be on the shelf next to Millers Lite or Wonder Bread, depending on the model chosen.

In general, Big Green would be mainly good.  One can eat in a McDonald’s or Burger King anywhere in the world, and the meal will be safe and satisfactory, even if neither delicious nor nutritious.  Picky cooks often prefer canned tomatoes to fresh for better flavor and more consistency.  Big Green would certainly better than most of the street-corner weed sold today.  Pot found in Smallville would be as good and as safe as that in a city smoke shop.  And it would surely do to give to the brother-in-law at the Labor Day barbeque.

Big Green would give good value for the money.  People shop at Big Boxes, not to get top quality, but for serviceable clothing at low – or at least reasonable – prices.

The Big is egalitarian; a worker in North Dakota can enjoy orange juice in January without having a king’s resources to maintain his own orangerie.  .  Pineapples in Pennsylvania are a reality, not just ornaments carved on stairway posts.

Big is not an enemy of Best: they coexist.  People buy clothes at Targets just down the street from an exclusive boutique featuring haute coiffure.  New Orleans po’ boy shops are open within smelling distance of some of the world’s leading restaurants.  Most people drive Chevrolets or Toyotas, but Porsche, Ferrari, and Tesla do well also.

Big and Best are not mutually exclusive.  One enjoying a craft ale in an independent brewhouse tonight may buy a case of Bud for a football watching party tomorrow.  A taste for prime rib does not preclude a Whataburger lunch.

Even Organic has profited from Big.  Many supermarkets, thriving on Big, have added extensive selections of organic foods.  While Big still pays their bills, Organic attracts an additional group of shoppers, and provides a greater profit margin from those it attracts.

What will Big Green do to the marijuana market?  Will it become just another commodity?

Varieties are already available to suit climate and soil conditions anywhere in the United States.  As farmers adopt marijuana as a crop, growing methods will approximate those used for other crops: large fields, computerized irrigation, mechanical (even GPS-controlled tillage, and current fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide methods.  Mechanical means for harvesting, trimming, and drying should soon follow.  Big Green should be everywhere and at a price (excluding taxes) in the range of those of tomatoes or broccoli.

Lovers of fine bud or those who need a particular mix of active components should also thrive in a Big Green world.  The best predictive analogy is the market for drinking alcohol.  In the worlds of malt beverages, wines, and distilled spirits, Big and Best both thrive.

Big Whiskey has always thrived on uniformity and consistency.  One bottle of Jim Beam looks and tastes just like any other and is exactly as strong.  But contrast Jim Beam or random vodka to single malt scotch or fine brandies.  These small-batch, craft-made drinks succeed by being different and individual.  And their prices reflect their individuality.  More recently, boutique distillers have appeared in this country.  Texas (with limestone-infused waters like Kentucky) now has at least three small premium bourbon distillers.

Wine probably shows the Big/Best distinction most clearly.  Supermarket shelves are full of Two-buck Chuck and Yellowtail Shiraz, but even the smallest wine shop will baffle even the knowledgeable by the variety of its choices and the subtleties between them.  My brother-in-law drank zinfandel in a box, but I have friends who argue about which bottle to spend a thousand dollars on.

Big Beer has dominated since the repeal of Prohibition.  Budweiser and Millers have dominated the tongues and stomachs of Americans for eighty years.  But home brewing has a long tradition: Obama is not the first President to make his own beer in the White House.  Over the last thirty years or so, craft brewers and stand-alone ale houses have sprung up all across the country.  Some, like Sam Adams and Anchor Steam have gotten large, but most remain small and develop devoted followings.

Big Green is sure to follow legalization, but it will be accompanied by Best Green.  In the supermarket, Lucky Puffs will share shelves with organic varietals.  GNC will sell generic MedaGreen, but the pharmacies will have specific medical breeds and blends with individual ratios of cannabanoids, even those made to order.

In the near future, as you walk down the street to your specialty Bud Botique, take time to give a friendly wave to Joe’s Pot Shop as you pass.

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