On the Colbert Report last night Patrick Kennedy, from Project SAM, said he opposes marijuana legalization because it could lead to “Big Marijuana.” Basically his organization argues we should keep marijuana illegal because legalization might possibly lead to some large marijuana corporations which will occasionally use questionable business practices.

What I find some deeply irritating about this argument is that it completely ignores the current situation under pot prohibition. There already is a “Big Marijuana,” it is large multiple national criminal organization. Marijuana is a huge revenue source for cartels in Mexico. It dominate drug seizures at the Mexico-USA border.

The current black market Big Marijuana is using the revenue to pay for murderous gangs and hit squads. The profits are used to help finance activities like kidnapping and extortion. The illegal money has fueled a fight that has killed over 50,000 people.

While you might not be the biggest fan of MillersCoors beers or some of their ad campaigns, they are clearly infinitely better than Sinaloa cartel. I’ve never heard of MillersCoors fighting open gun battles against InBev over control of the beer market, or beheading elected officials to stay in business. The kind of reprehensible behavior which once existed in the illegal alcohol business ended with the repeal of that prohibition.

Secondly, there is no reason the legal marijuana industry can’t be well behaved corporate citizens. If we want to assure there is no marijuana advertizing directed at children, we can write specific regulations to address these concerns. As a society we have gotten very good at placing restrictions on tobacco and similar rules could be placed on marijuana. We can shape a legal industry however we want using smart regulation, instead of leaving it in the hands of criminal organizations.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy