Monsanto Marijuana Legalization Hoax Debunked

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 by

I was surprised recently to hear that Monsanto is paying me to legalize marijuana for them. It’s not true, of course, but I seem to have been ensnared in the great Monsantijuana Legalization Hoax that has been circulating for the past six or so years: This legend holds that, in a nutshell: “Legalization is a Monsanto plot to take over the world with GMO marijuana.” Having now been ensnared in this vast spider’s web conspiracy theory, decided to investigate one of the most pernicious hoaxes to haunt the legalization movement.

Article by Chris Conrad

Rumor status: False. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a genotype created by engineering a organism’s DNA, as opposed to seed selection and selective breeding, which is how all cannabis strains were developed. We first heard of it in 2010 being circulated to smear California’s Proposition 19 legalization initiative. It was debunked by both High Times magazine and Snopes Urban Legends. Then, right on schedule, just as California prepares to vote on Prop 64 the zombie of anti-legalization hoaxes has been resurrected.

Monsanto even addresses the story on its website: “Monsanto has not and is not working on GMO marijuana. This allegation is an Internet rumor.” But of course that is not likely to quell the frenzy.

People who spread the rumor may point to an article on the conspiracy website “” as a source, in a long and threadbare patchwork of information stitched into a flimsy veil of speculation. None of its premises proved true. Monsanto is not writing legalization initiatives, Uruguay uses only a naturally occurring gene pattern to identify marijuana, and there currently is no such thing  as “GMO” marijuana.

Start with the basic premise: “GMO marijuana.” The story was originally devised as a harmless prank “news item” that unexpectedly went viral.

So, where does the construct go from there?  GMO hoaxers allege that billionaire George Soros has secretly conspired for decades with Monsanto to destroy medical marijuana … by writing and bankrolling adult use marijuana legalization ballot measures. The facts show otherwise. Soros largely bankrolled California’s Prop 215 that decriminalized cultivation and use of medical marijuana in 1996, so if he is trying to undermine medical cannabis, he would not have done that, he should have made it so people had to buy their medical marijuana from Monsanto but it didn’t happen that way.

Later the rumor transformed to being that Soros secretly “wrote and funded California’s Prop 19 initiative to hand over the marijuana market to Monsanto.” Big problems with those claims: We were personally in the room when the funding was announced for Prop 215 and also when Lee was drafting and financing the Prop 19 campaign. Nobody was there from Monsanto. Prop 19 was written and personally funded by Richard Lee — long time cannabis legalization activist, medical marijuana provider and founder of Oaksterdam University, the academy that to this day trains professionals for socially responsible business activities in the cannabis industry. That initiative lost, in part, because it was on the ballot in an off-year election cycle and, while Lee had hoped Soros would help fund the 2010 effort, Soros declined and only put a small amount of money into a TV ad campaign to test messaging in preparation for the successful 2012 legalization campaign in Colorado.

California’s newest initiative, Prop 64, was originally promoted by, a website that promotes and caters to medical marijuana businesses, the family of the late social justice philanthropist Peter Lewis, another major funder of Prop 215 and other legalization efforts, and Facebook co-founder Sean Parker, who made a small donation to Prop 19 and has helped fund other criminal justice reform efforts.

“This is baloney,” summarizes Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML. “First of all, George Soros is not a donor to the AUMA campaign.  He’s no longer giving money to marijuana initiatives because he feels the movement has strong enough legs of its own to stand on. Secondly, neither Monsanto nor any other major international corporation is going to touch marijuana until it’s legal under federal law.”

Prop 64 has won endorsements and backing from legalization groups like the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and non-cannabis groups like the NAACP, ACLUand California Democratic Party. None of these has ties to Monsanto, unless you count being included in this hoax. Soros has been the world’s largest funder to legalization efforts and has more recently funded an independent political action campaign, Drug Policy Action, to support the political work of reforming drug policy. (Editor’s note: This is where Mr. Conrad was squeezed into the hoax, he supports Prop 64 and occasionally consults with DPAction.)

Incidentally, neither Soros, Lewis, Parker nor any of the groups actually funding Prop 64 has investments in or expressed any interest in getting into the marijuana business — except for, whose nefarious business plan is to create more independent cannabusinesses and sell them advertising.


Look at the subplots. What is Monsanto’s link to Uruguay? WhenPresident Pepe Mujica’s legalized marijuana, a Monsanto consultant pointed out a naturally occurring genetic marker that distinguishes low-THC industrial hemp from high-THC marijuana. It’s not a GMO, it’s like testing human DNA to see if a you are predisposed to a genetic condition.

Then there is this: A Swiss company, Bayer (Aspirin) has made offers to buy, among many other acquisitions, Monsanto and also a small British company, GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes a cannabis based medication. So Swiss plus multinational plus British equals California, in conspiracy math.

“Skunkman” David Watson and Robert Connell Clarke, two well known cannabis breeders, get pulled into the hoax at this point. They spent decades breeding and crossbreeding connoisseur cannabis strains, so when GW Pharmaceuticals decided to develop a plant-based medicine that company bought access to those strains. Bayer does not yet own GW and there is no connection to Monsanto.

Another logical fallacy in the claim is that Monsanto is uniquely ill suited to get into the marijuana business as long as it is illegal under federal law. The Cole Memo, which governs the current US policy, specifically makes illegal “trafficking across state lines” a targeted activity. As a global industry, anything Monsanto does with cannabis could trigger its being put out of business, its assets seized and the company and its operators prosecuted under US conspiracy law. Corporate investors aren’t keen on that prospect.

Look at the initiative. Prop 64 legalizes marijuana retroactively, releases people from prison, expunges their criminal records, invites them back into the cannabis industry and funds medical research, youth programs and environmental clean up. It will require businesses to be started by State citizens, prevents large scale production for five years to give the smaller underground growers an advantage and has strong anti-monopoly provisions. It allows people to grow marijuana at home without  license and share weed and seeds with friends. It has a special license for small breeders to develop new strains. It has a special license for cannabis microbusinesses to promote small companies. It protects Prop 215 medical marijuana rights nine times in its text and allows people to share cannabis with friends. Nothing that benefits Monsanto.

So the clincher for many hoaxers goes, “If it’s not true, why didn’t the initiative specifically include anti-GMO language?” Maybe because California law doesn’t let initiatives mix issues, so the initiative might have ended tied up in court. Maybe because an effort to simply label GMO products lost handily the last time it was on the ballot, let alone try to ban them. Or — wait for it — maybe it’s because Prop 64 is a legalization initiative, not a GMO initiative!

To review: The product does not exist, Monsanto is not tied to the initiatives and Prop 64 would noy create a GMO monopoly if passed. That doesn’t leave much of a conspiracy. Monsanto is, however, one of the most deeply hated companies in the world, so tying its name to anything causes a visceral reptilian yet emotional response that makes people reject logic. So it’s an easy way to use bad information undermine a good cause.

Also consider that this hoax is typically foisted either by people who make a living selling conspiracy theories and books about them and by people who already sell marijuana in a semi-licit, under-the-table market and fear competing in Prop 64’s quality controlled, over the counter economy.

Look to the ballot. The point is that Prop 64 will be good for California, so don’t be distracted by this Monsanto nonsense. This is our best and perhaps our only shot to legalize marijuana for adult use, so don’t be fooled:




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