The line between consumer safety and consumer choice is a difficult analysis for businesses and government regulators alike. At what point does the use and promotion of a substance have a negative effect on the “general welfare” of society the U.S. government upholds under the Constitution?
In the case of “Canna Cola,” for which marketing firm Diavolo Brands plans to market the THC-infused soda to Colorado consumers under the state’s medical marijuana provision, the line bends too far from consumer safety. A broadly-advertised soda containing an incapacitating substance ought to receive tighter oversight.
The first dimension is the role of marijuana as medicine. In 2001, Colorado created a registry system for marijuana that was legalized and regulated for medicinal purposes only. Legally then, the market for marijuana consists only of those with pressing need for care.
Marketing marijuana products as trendy and recreational is akin to promoting sleep aid medicine as an important part of every meal. There is no legal justification to combine medicine with recreation or personal necessity. Medicinal marketing should focus on maintaining overall health and well-being, not developing a relationship with a product.
Beyond medicine, momentum to legalize recreational marijuana use is building. On this level, the marketing for Canna Cola goes too far. While debates rage about marijuana’s addictive potential, the short term impacts of marijuana use include “impaired coordination” and “distorted perceptions,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Due to potential harm to non-users, it is in the interest of government to regulate the drug. Other substances in this same category, including cigarettes, receive tight restrictions on marketing. FDA approval of hard-line warning labels on cigarette products last year affirms this principle.
Consumers must be fully aware of the psychological effects that can bring about social harm. The “Brownie Law” passed by the Senate last year essentially forbade the marketing of drug-infused sweets. Marketing must remain honest to the essence of the product and its risks if societal harm is at stake. Ensuring responsible business practice ensures both fairer competition, development of more effective products, and appropriate consumer use of potentially dangerous substances.
As an industry, the makers of Canna Cola must exercise great care in managing and overseeing their supply chain. Beyond the intrinsic debates about marijuana’s medicinal status and social harms, the circumstances of the drug’s origins and distribution make its marketing and use inadvisable.
Drug Science, a marijuana advocacy group, concedes that up to 10,889 metric tons of marijuana arrive in the United States via foreign smuggling every year. Even with the highest recognized estimate of 21,865 metric tons of total annual supply, cross-border smuggling accounts for more than half of the marijuana within the country.
While not an absolute reason against marketing marijuana products, the expansion of the legal marijuana market must proceed with extreme caution. Illegal foreign smugglers who obey no legal frameworks and pay no taxes offer a cheaper supply than medicinal growers.
Facilitating demand and increasing supply serves not to help the legal domestic supply chain but to increase security risks to the United States and its Latin American allies. Honest business practice and government enforcement must accompany a growing marijuana market.
Canna Cola’s campaign to promote a THC-infused soda is harmful to the principles of medicine, social utility and national security. With careful regulation and good practice, the strength of business and the safety of marijuana users will advance the strength of American society and law.
Pearce Edwards is a sophomore political science and history double major from Albuquerque, N.M.