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Surprise! Big Pharma, Alcohol Fund Anti-Legalization Drives

Bill Weinberg

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Adderall and Weed: Learn More About the Combo

Who do you think is pouring money into the campaigns against the legalization initiatives that will go before the voters in five states next month?

Well, an Oct. 22 exposé in the Guardian has confirmed what we already knew. 

In August, the pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics became the biggest donor to the campaign to defeat Arizona’s Proposition 205, making a $500,000 donation to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (ARDP). In making the donation, Insys cited concerns for child safety. But the Guardian points out the delicious irony: Insys manufactures Subsysa prescription painkiller derived from fentanyl—a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. And the Phoenix New Times adds that Insys is under investigation in four states, including Arizona, for marketing practices related to Subsys that have allegedly resulted in patient deaths.

The Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association also became a major donor to the No on 205 effort when it gave $10,000 to ARDP. And the Beer Distributors PAC recently donated $25,000 to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, thereby becoming the commonwealth’s third-largest backer of the opposition to the Question 4 legalization measure. 

Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories, makers of OxyContin and Vicodin, respectively, are among the largest contributors to the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), one of the biggest opponents of legal cannabis, spent nearly $19 million on lobbying in 2015.

The Guardian writes that child safety is a legitimate concern as states legalize cannabis. In Colorado, child emergency room visits for cannabis intoxication have increased to 2.3 per 100,000 kids aged 10 and under since legalization in 2014—up from from 1.2 per 100,000 kids before that. But accidental ingestion of pharmaceuticals sends about 318 per 100,000 kids aged five years and under to the emergency room nationwide, according to government figures. The frequency of hospital visits from kids accidentally taking narcotic painkillers jumped 225 percent between 2004 and 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

We noted WikiLeaks revelations earlier this year that the alcohol industry’s trade association was lobbying Congress to crack down on “marijuana-impaired driving” in states that have legalized. It is hard to resist the conclusion that Big Pharma and booze are trying to protect their market share against an innocuous herb that anyone can grow on his or her windowsill.

“We’ve definitely seen a more active opposition from the pharma industry,” Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance told the Guardian. “Research conducted by myself and others shows that medical cannabis patients are substituting cannabis for pharmaceuticals at a very high rate, and for alcohol at a pretty high rate as well.” 

Related: Why Is Big Pharma Funding the Fight Against Legal Weed? 

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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