On Tuesday the 21st of January the news went viral that Philip Morris revealed that they will soon launch a new range of Marlboro cannabis cigarettes. The news heralded the arrival of 'Marlboro M’, the product with which Philip Morris want to participate in the rapidly growing North American cannabis industry. Apparently this news item is a hoax.
On Tuesday the 21st of January the news went viral that Philip Morris revealed that they will soon launch a new range of Marlboro cannabis cigarettes. The news heralded the arrival of ‘Marlboro M’, the product with which Philip Morris want to participate in the rapidly growing North American cannabis industry. Apparently this news item is a hoax. But is this a hoax that is almost too good to be false?
The story was originally posted by the satirical website Abril Uno (Spanish for April 1, also known as April Fool’s Day). The article reveals that the Vice-President of Marketing for Philip Morris, Serafin Norcik, clarified this week that the company has already been looking at the possibilities for entering the cannabis market for a few years, and that this process gained momentum once Colorado and Washington made it known that they were legalizing recreational (as well as medicinal) use of cannabis. The result would be Marlboro M; cannabis cigarettes which will be sold in official cannabis retail points in Colorado and (later this year) also in Washington, according to this fake story. But looking at the history of the ‘Big Tabacco’, as this billion-euro industry is also named, this story is actually not far from reality.
To say that Philip Morris has been looking at the cannabis market for a few years is actually true. In fact, they have been following the market for a lot longer than just a few years. In 1993 and 1994, strong rumours were already circulating that the parent company of Marlboro was considering cannabis cigarettes. Although the company vehemently denied this, they did make an attempt to trademark the name ‘Marley’, which was successful in France despite protests from Rita Marley and the estate of her late husband.
“It’s high time for a Marley!” apparently has nothing to do with Bob
Philip Morris stated that the name had nothing to do with the famous singer and cannabis legend Bob Marley. Even after a potential slogan (which Philip Morris had also attempted to trademark) was leaked – “It’s high time for a Marley!” – a PM spokesman gave a laconic reaction: “I can assure you that my principals did not adopt and register the mark ‘Marley’ with a Bob Marley in mind, or with any other Marley, like the famous Dickens character by that surname. Consumers just would not associate a ‘Marley’ tobacco product with Bob Marley.” A disingenuous reaction, especially given that at the same moment, cannabis legalization was a frequently discussed topic in Europe. That ‘Marley’ is, marketing-wise, an interesting name for a company wanting to participate in the cannabis industry needs no explanation.
“Marijuana street jargon” names trademarked since 1976
The interest of ‘Big Tobacco’ in cannabis, actually goes much further back in time. From the report of a brainstorming session organized in 1976 by the Lorillard Tobacco Companies (who manufacture, among others, Kent cigarettes) it is clear that the business was already exploring the possibilities concerning cannabis and cigarettes. In the same year, a report was commissioned by Brown & Williamson (who produce Barclay and other cigarettes) which also covered cannabis. What is also remarkable about this almost 40 year old document is the revelation on pages 66 and 67 that various tobacco firms had already trademarked product names “taken directly from marijuana street jargon”, which were being used on little-known products but could be switched to cannabis products if and when the opportunity arose to market them legally.
It seems more than likely that the tobacco industry has long been concerned with the analysis of the cannabis market. As a result, they are so well prepared that releasing a cannabis cigarette brand is in line with the expectations. So, there is a realistic chance that this hoax will become reality some day soon.