SPOKANE (WASHINGTON) (TIP): The states of Washington and Colorado legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in the November elections, but it is unclear if any cigarette makers plan to supply either market. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. President Barack Obama indicated last week that going after individual users won’t be a priority, but there’s no firm indication yet what action the justice department might take against states or businesses that participate in the nascent pot market, which has the potential to be large.
For example, analysts have estimated that a legal pot market could bring Washington state hundreds of millions of dollars a year in new tax revenue. Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro, was vague when asked about the future intentions of the nation’s largest tobacco company. “We have a practice of not commenting or speculating on future business,” he said. Bryan Hatchell, a spokesman for the second-largest cigarette maker, Reynolds American Inc, said, “It’s not part of our strategy.” But if major tobacco companies are not going to supply the new markets, it appears there are some ready to step in. The Washington State Liquor Control Board is receiving plenty of applications from people who want to be certified to be able to grow pot legally.