Superstorm Sandy. The fiscal cliff. Twinkiecide. Talk about sounding the alarm. Lately, events have been so ominous that a person could be persuaded that the Mayans were on to something, apocalypse-wise.
Still, during this Thanksgiving week, we do have something new to be thankful for -- massively thankful, in fact. Particularly apt for the sweet-potato-based holiday, this gift comes to us via the earth: it’s an agricultural miracle! Not only will it be a windfall for our economy, moving us off that cliff through new tax revenues that could go to hospitals and schools, it will also take the strain off our prison and judicial systems, improve the general health of the populace, lower the number of drunk drivers on the road, and end gang violence from Mexican drug cartels. Incidentally, it might save the the advertising business.
Packaging, design, marketing, publishing -- the sky’s the limit. (At the very least, think of all those fans and lights to be sold!)
It starts with C and has a B and stands for cool. Yup, it’s cannabis, man -- aka, the marijuana stimulus package, coming soon to a state near you.
Sadly, since Nov. 6, we’ve been so collectively obsessed with the wayward babes of the Petrashian scandals or photoshopping tiny coffins for the Twinkie (and it looks like curtains, at this stage) that aside from a few giggly, embarrassed newscasters dancing around announcing the news, we haven’t taken time to think about the economic aftermath of bold ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington that legalized the recreational use of marijuana. And it’s not just for Democrats: in the mile-high state, more people voted for marijuana legalization than for Obama’s reelection. In addition, Massachusetts approved the use of medical marijuana, joining the wave of 17 other states.
Obviously, it’s not your pothead father’s ganja anymore. We’re not talking Amsterdam, or old-fashioned head shops, bongs, or Cheech-and-Chong-style low-tech stoners. Rather, the future belongs to Ganjapreneurs who are getting into sophisticated gourmet items, like marijuana-laced candy, olive oil, ice creams, and chocolate truffles. (It’s the thing itself and the munchy -- in one! And these are much more expensive goodies than Twinkies!)
There are also marijuana-medicated beverages and capsules in various strains that could be marketed like the range of ales that microbrewers sell. In all, more than 25,000 different products can be made from the crop, not to mention all the hemp-related fodder that could reinvigorate the automotive and stand-up comedy industries.
The big unknown, still, is how quickly the federal government will allow a regulated marijuana market to take shape. At this point, however, it’s inevitable -- and then banks will free up money to make loans and the biz will grow exponentially. One study predicted that the roughly $2 billion medical marijuana industry could reach $9 billion by 2016. Think of the opportunity that pot in all its legal permutations could present for Big Tobacco, for instance.
Ironically, given a little pot production, companies that in this country are now uniformly despised as merchants of death could rehabilitate their images. They’re already set up for manufacturing, distribution, packaging, and marketing. That would also mean massive infusions of advertising money into the media, (and perhaps huge print initiatives could make magazine publishing viable again.) If the advertising is regulated differently, these new pot products might even allow the tobacco companies to get their names back on TV.
Which reminds me of a certain scene in the pilot episode of “Mad Men” involving a fictional Lee Garner Jr. and the actual cigarette brand, Lucky Strikes. After the Surgeon General’s rumblings on the danger of tobacco, the companies were no longer allowed to make health claims in their ads. This resulted in a very tense, smoke filled conference room scene between Don Draper and the Sterling Cooper crew and Garner and his father.
After a few false starts, our starched and Brylcreemed hero saved the day by coming up with the phrase “It’s toasted.” (Which the brand had actually used in 1911.) Garner Sr. pointed out that every cigarette brand was toasted. Don responded that that was beside the point. Working his patented magic on the room, he then explained the meaning of advertising: “Advertising is based on one thing,” he said. “Happiness. The smell of a new car, the freedom from fear, that massive billboard on the side of the road that screams that whatever you’re doing, it’s okay,” he said. “You are okay.”
And now, in the midst of all of this apocalypse, we need to hear “You are okay” more than ever. We’re not toast. Rather, we’re toasted.