Keith Humphreys is worried that Big Tobacco would invade a legal cannabis market. Well, anything’s possible, but I’d bet against it. I don’t see what they’d bring to the table that would give them a competitive advantage in the pot trade, and I don’t see how entering the pot trade would help their core business.

Tobacco cigarettes, and the folks who sell them, have an evil reputation, even among cigarette smokers. So while the Marlboro brand name has value in the the tobacco market, I’d expect it to be a net negative in the marijuana market.

On the other side of the coin, the last thing the tobacco industry wants is to have people think about cigarettes as part of the wider problem of drug abuse, and for actual and potential cigarette smokers to have to think of themselves as “drug users.” So I’d expect that introducing Marlboro-brand joints would put a dent in the same of Marlboro-brand cigarettes, and strengthen the political hand of the anti-tobacco forces.

No, I think we can count on developing a set of specialty marijuana companies with the same careful respect for the truth, the same deep concern about their customers’ health, and the same delicacy about interfering with the regulatory process in their business as the tobacco giants display in theirs.

Footnote As to, no doubt Altria was acting to protect its trademarks. Note that it didn’t create the domain, just acted to take it away from a name-squatter.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.