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Special Interests Lobby Against Marijuana

A red sign slashes through a pot leaf is carried by lobbiests with special interests in anti-marijuana laws.


Special Interests Lobby Against Marijuana

It’s no secret that alcohol and pharmaceutical companies have supported anti-marijuana organizations. The California Beer & Beverage Distributors donating to a committee set up to prevent marijuana from being legalized and taxed is just one example. These days it seems like the pharmaceutical industry is grabbing the headlines more than the booze ones, though.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report more Americans now die from painkillers than from heroin and cocaine combined. And those drug business folks are not joking around when it comes to money — in 2011, the United States made $6.2 billion in revenue from alcohol sales and the country accounts for almost half of the global pharmaceutical market with $340 billion in annual sales — but money isn’t the only thing the pharmaceutical industry has. They have a Kennedy.

The then-U.S. congressman for Rhode Island Patrick Kennedy had a few rehab visits after crashing his car into a barricade in 2006. It was later revealed he had been abusing prescription drugs, including the painkiller OxyContin, and he then went on to work mental health and substance abuse more into his political agenda.

Last February Kennedy spoke to over 2,000 opponents at the annual Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America convention, which is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the country, and the event’s sponsor was Purdue Pharma — the manufacturer of OxyContin.

Other people who have spouted anti-marijuana rhetoric and are linked to the pharmaceutical industry include Dr. Herbert Kleber of Columbia University. He has been quoted in places such as NPR saying marijuana may cause wide-ranging addiction and public health issues and he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for it to be legalized. Kleber has been in substance abuse research for over 35 years. His writing has been cited by the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police in its opposition to marijuana legalization and has been published by the American Psychiatric Association in the organization’s statement warning against marijuana for medicinal uses.

And then there’s psychiatry associate professor at Harvard Medical School Dr. A. Eden Evins who is on the board of an anti-marijuana advocacy group called Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which is fronted by Patrick Kennedy. She participated in a commentary on marijuana legalization for the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The publication found that her financial relationships required a disclosure statement, according to Vice. Evins said as of November 2012, she was a consultant for Pfizer and had received grant and research support from them. Pfizer owns a company that manufactures opioids and is aiming to establish Remoxy as a competitor to OxyContin.

Prescription opioids, a line of pain-relieving medications derived from the opium poppy or produced synthetically, are the most dangerous drugs abused in America — more than 16,000 deaths annually linked to opioid addiction and overdose. Meanwhile, the death count associated with marijuana remains zero.

With all the information about marijuana’s ability help with pain and other symptoms associated with a number of medical conditions including cancer and epilepsy, it makes sense that pharmaceutical companies would be trying so hard to skew the truth in order to keep their profits high. But, as more and more people discover the reality of cannabis’ healing components and share their powerful experiences, nothing any company can say will be able to obscure the facts.

Do you use cannabis instead of prescription pills to manage your condition? Tell us about your experiences.

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