Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jan 2013
Source: Tribune-Democrat, The (Johnstown, PA)
Copyright: 2013 The Tribune-Democrat
Author: Nicholas K. Geranios, the Associated Press


SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Will the Marlboro Man light up a joint

The states of Washington and Colorado legalized possession of small
amounts of recreational 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 month 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 for schools, health care and basic government functions.

Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro,
based in Richmond, Va., 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," Phelps said, adding "tobacco companies are in the business
of manufacturing and marketing tobacco products."

Less mysterious was Bryan Hatchell, a spokesman for the second-largest
cigarette maker, Reynolds American Inc., maker of Camel and Pall Mall,
among many others.

"Reynolds American has no plans to produce or market marijuana
products in either of those states," Hatchell 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, even though the agency is not yet soliciting such
applications. Agency spokesman Brian Smith said Tuesday that some
applications so far have come from people who have long been growing
marijuana when it was against state law.

"We're getting a lot of interest from people that want to be
producers," Smith said. "Some say they have been growing it illegally
until now."

Indoor growing operations appear to be the most productive and secure
for marijuana, Smith said.

"But we could have outdoor grows in eastern Washington," he

Since no state had previously legalized marijuana possession,
Washington must invent a production system from the ground up, Smith
said. Colorado did have a licensed system for growing medical
marijuana, but that was very tightly regulated and probably more
stringent than Washington needs, Smith said.

"We don't need to get to the level of oversight Colorado has in
medical marijuana," he said.

Washington's new law decriminalizes possession of up to an ounce of
pot for people older than 21. But selling marijuana remains illegal
for now. The initiative gave the state a year to come up with a system
of state-licensed growers, processors and retail stores, with the
marijuana taxed 25 percent at each stage.

In Colorado, a 24-member task force began work on pot regulations last
month. The state's Department of Revenue must adopt the regulations by
July, with sales possible by year's end. 
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