The Coca-Cola Company is the largest soft drink company in the world. And billionaire Warren Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway is Coca-Cola’s largest investor, with a $19.5 billion stake in the company. Known to be a savvy investor, one might think Buffett would be excited about Coca-Cola exploring business opportunities in the rapidly expanding cannabidiol (CBD) market. But instead, Buffett thinks it would be best for the beverage producer to stay away from cannabis entirely. Not because it would be a bad business strategy. But because cannabis would ruin Coca-Cola’s “wholesome image.”
Billionaire Investor Thinks CBD Would Ruin Coke’s Reputation
Warren Buffett can afford to drink anything he wants. He could sip on $200 per liter “raw water” all day, bottles of Dom with every meal. But in the same way that Donald Trump loves hamberders, Warren Buffett loves Coca-Cola.
Apparently, Buffett drinks five cans of Coke every day—a habit that has got to raise some health concerns among his doctors.
But what’s concerning Buffett is the idea that his cherished soft drink brand would get into the weed game. Speaking with Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger on Fox Business News, Buffett said “it would be a mistake for Coca-Cola to get into the marijuana—cannabis business.”
“They have a wholesome image and that would be detrimental to it,” Buffett said.
Are They Kidding?
It’s hard to imagine how something like cannabidiol—basically the trendiest health, wellness and beauty product on the market right now—could negatively impact the reputation of a company like Coca-Cola. Besides, public attitudes on marijuana have shifted so dramatically over the past few years that now a majority of Americans support some form of legalizing it. And an even larger percentage say they have no “moral issue” with cannabis consumption.
Furthermore, hemp is now legal in the U.S. And that means that CBD sourced from hemp is also legal. (Some states, however, still have laws on the books against it.) And as soon as companies start making USDA-approved CBD “dietary supplements,” you’ll be able to buy CBD oils, edibles and beverages just about everywhere. For many people, that’s already the reality.
Considering analysts’ projections of the exploding market in CBD, Coca-Cola getting into the cannabis business makes economic sense. It’s also not a problem legally, especially for a company as massive as Coca-Cola.
Yet 88-year-old Warren Buffett’s weird hangups about Coca-Cola’s “wholesomeness” and cannabis’ noxiousness are likely keeping the beverage giant out of a market that competitors like Constellation Brands and Molson Coors are already pursuing. Maybe they were behind the rumored talks between Aurora Cannabis and Coca-Cola that fell apart—if they ever happened at all—last September.
Here’s How Wholesome Coca-Cola Is
Then again, all of that is taking Buffett’s opinions at face value. But what if Coca-Cola wasn’t that wholesome to begin with. Over its more than 100-year history, Coca-Cola has been involved in some fairly heinous stuff.
Since 2000, criticisms of the company’s business practices, its environmental impact, animal testing and employee discrimination have only grown. The company itself has been the subject of multiple lawsuits stemming from its alleged use of paramilitary death squads to execute striking workers at its Colombian bottling plants to its investments and operations in apartheid South Africa.
The point is that if Coca-Cola has managed to maintain a “wholesome image,” the reality beneath the veil is anything but.
Today, marijuana legalization is associated with social justice, economic opportunity, health, medicine and recreation. So maybe embracing cannabis could actually help make Coca-Cola more wholesome—at least a little bit.