The most recent polls show that 59% of adults are in favor of marijuana legalization in general and 93% support medical marijuana. With this much public support, what’s impeding the progress of policy here in the United States? You would think that an issue that garners this much bipartisan support, would be a top priority for politicians to address, right? Wrong. Turns out there are some forces that speak a lot louder than the constituents who elected these public servants and those voices have a lot of dough to throw at the process. Here are the top three hurdles to legalization:
Big Pharma is a Big Hurdle
Have you ever heard of Insys Therapeutics? Well, they are the perfect example of Big Pharma lobbying to keep the masses addicted to lining Big Pharma’s pockets. In 2016, Insys Therapeutics spent half a million dollars fighting cannabis legalization in Arizona through donations to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy.
Turns out, the very same company that was fighting legalization tooth and toenail, received approval from the DEA for the creation of a synthetic marijuana this year! Surprise, surprise! Their opposition held no other reasoning than protecting their financial interest in producing an exclusive drug.
It’s worth noting that this is the same pharmaceutical company that produces fentanyl, a powerful opioid painkiller
Another reason for this company to fear and fight cannabis legalization- cannabis has been shown to be a huge help in weaning patients off of painkillers. Let’s not get it twisted though. This altruistic corporate machine states that they are only opposing the legalization measure in Arizona “because it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children.” (Yeah, right.) They undermined their own point in a recent disclosure to the Securities and Exchange Commission:
Legalization of marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids in the United States could significantly limit the commercial success of any dronabinol product candidate. … If marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids were legalized in the United States, the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.
Big Booze Hates Big Bud
Surprised by this one? You shouldn’t be. Because cannabis is a safer alternative to alcohol, it stands to reason that folks given the choice will opt for cannabis over booze and thus losing money for this $475 billion a year industry. In Arizona alone, the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association contributed $35k to fight legalization! In Massachusetts, The Beer Distributor’s PAC contributed another $25k in the battle! Big Booze’s role in fighting legalization came into full light last year with the advent of the Wikileaks DNC email fiasco. A POLITICO Huddle issue from May 2016 featured a paid advertisement from the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America outlining their “party line” on legalization:
A message from Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America: While neutral on the issue of legalization, WSWA believes states that legalize marijuana need to ensure appropriate and effective regulations are enacted to protect the public from the dangers associated with the abuse and misuse of marijuana.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal marijuana while Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and D.C. have legalized possession and recreational use. In the years since the state legalized medicinal use, Colorado law enforcement officials have documented a significant increase in traffic fatalities in which drivers tested positive for marijuana.
Congress should fully fund Section 4008 of the FAST Act (PL 114-94) in the FY 2017 Appropriations process to document the prevalence of marijuana impaired driving, outline impairment standards and determine driving impairment detection methods.
Interesting that this particular industry has chosen to tackle inebriated driving so aggressively at this juncture given their long and sordid history with the subject, don’t you think? Numerous SEC filings would contradict this sudden concern for public safety and redirect it to the real issue- the bottom line.
The Boston Beer Company, the parent company of Sam Adams, told investors in its 10-K filing that laws that allow the “sale and distribution of marijuana” could “adversely impact the demand” for beer.
The Brown-Forman Company, maker of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Finlandia Vodka, similarly warned in its 10-K filing that “consumer preferences and purchases may shift due to a host of factors, many of which are difficult to predict, including … the potential legalization of marijuana use on a more widespread basis within the United States, and changes in travel, leisure, dining, gifting, entertaining, and beverage consumption trends.”
You’d think our law enforcement officials should be diverting their time and resources to keeping us safe, right? So what’s with all the focus on marijuana, a plant that has NEVER killed a soul? You guessed it, folks! Money! It all boils back down to the almighty dollar. During the Reagan administration, police departments began to be encouraged and emboldened to seize and sell property associated with drug busts, including marijuana. The drug seizes significantly add to departmental bottom lines!
According to Justice Department data, law enforcement agencies collected approximately $1 billion from marijuana arrests alone between 2002 and 2012!
This doesn’t even take into account the state and federal funds these departments receive to increase their drug enforcement arrests. We have incentivized pot arrests to a point where departments are afraid to lose those funds. They’ve come to depend on them. Despite reports that legalization will cut crimes, police unions, and associations still funneled over $150k into fighting legalization in California alone!
If you are looking to use your activism strategically to fight back against cannabis prohibition, break out your pens and start writing your representatives. Call and protest! Do what you have to do to fight back against these special interests and their greedy, bottom-line-exclusive actions! Let’s ensure the voices of the people are heard and not the tainted money of corporate greed.