The REAL Reason Marijuana’s Illegal
In a story that could come from the corrupt political drama “House of Cards,” some of America’s largest pharmaceutical companies seem to be striking backroom deals to keep marijuana illegal.
My previous statement may sound like a bit much. It may sound like the ramblings of someone who’s watched one too many YouTube conspiracy videos. It may sound like the ravings of an anti-government radical. Let me assure you that’s not the case at all.
Over the last several years, more and more information has come to light on powerful academic researchers who’re on the pharmaceutical industry’s payroll. Even more alarming is how opposed to medical marijuana these doctors and scientists are.
Now, this on its own is nothing. Some medical experts disagree that marijuana has medical benefits? So what? What is alarming, however, is when you consider their vocal anti-marijuana views in light of the funding and support they receive from opioid painkiller manufactures.
Find specific examples below and, believe me, there are lots of them.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine
Dr. Stuart Gitlow, the president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), and Dr. Mark Kraus, a board member, are both on the payroll of companies heavy invested in keeping medical marijuana illegal.
Dr. Gitlow is not only on the board of directors for Project SAM, an organization devoted to keeping medical marijuana illegal, but he is also a visible and sensational critic of marijuana’s medical benefits. He once stated in USA Today, “There’s no benefit to marijuana. It’s simply that people want the freedom to be stoned. That’s all it is” (The Nation).
Guess where Dr. Gitlow derives a majority of his money? That’s right, companies that manufacture opioid painkillers. Gitlow is the Medical Director for Orexo, a company that makes a Suboxone like “opioid substitute” that’s also know for its abuse potential.
Dr. Mark Kraus, the ASAM board member mentioned above, is also on the payroll of Big Pharma. In 2012, Dr. Kraus fought the legalization of medical marijuana in Connecticut. Although he was ultimately unsuccessful, Kraus was a vocal opponent of legalizing marijuana in any form. Perhaps that’s because he’s worked for the Reckitt Benckiser Group. Reckitt Benckiser is the manufacturer of the opioid Nurofen. Dr. Kraus also has tied to Pfizer, which makes narcotic analgesics with both morphine and oxycodone.
Dr. Herbert Kleber
Dr. Kleber is a professor and scientist from Columbia University. He’s also a vocal opponent of medical marijuana. He’s used his academic reach to decry marijuana on CBS, NPR, and CNBC. He’s quick to warn anyone listening of the numerous abuse and addiction issues that any form of marijuana, medical or recreational, presents.
Dr. Kleber’s testimonials have been far reaching indeed. The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police used some of his writing in their opposition to medical marijuana. So did the American Psychiatric Association in their official statement against medical marijuana.
Fair enough, right? Dr. Kleber believes that marijuana presents no significant medical benefits. He’s a doctor and probably knows more about the subject than I do.
What’s interesting is when you consider some of the companies that Kleber has worked for. He’s been a consultant to numerous opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, Alkermes, and the Reckitt Benckiser Group (it seems like Reckitt Benckiser has quite a few public faces on their payroll).
Purdue Pharma is famous for introducing OxyContin to the American public. They’re also famous for launching a “misleading” marketing campaign aimed at making the public believe that OxyContin was safe and non-habit forming. Alkermes is the primary company producing a new opioid called Zohydro. Zohydro is a stronger version of the blockbuster opioid Vicodin.
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Dr. A. Eden Evins
Lest we think all the opioid advocates in academia are men, let’s take a look at Dr. A. Eden Evins. Dr. Evins is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. She’s a longtime and vocal opponent of any form of marijuana legalization. She’s also on Project SAM’s board of directors.
Dr. Evin’s has received grant and researcher support from Forum (formally EnVivo Pharmaceuticals), GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer. Additionally, Dr. Evin’s has served as a consultant for both Pfier and DLA Piper.
These painkiller manufacturers are largely responsible for the current opioid epidemic America’s found itself in.
As if all of the above information weren’t enough, there are also a number of anti-medical marijuana groups with general ties to the pharmaceutical industry and specific ties to opioid manufacturers.
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids receives large donations annually from Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories (the company which developed Vicodin). Both these companies are among the organization’s primary donors.
Although the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids haven’t publicly endorsed opioid painkillers as safe, it’s naïve to think this pharmaceutical money comes with no strings attached.
The Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (also known as the CADCA) = has tied to Purdue Pharma. The infamous company is one of the CADCA’s biggest donors. Another large donor is Alkermes, makers of Zohydro.
The CADCA campaigns aggressively against medical and recreational marijuana. Although it’s understandable for them to advocate against recreational marijuana, you can’t help but wonder about their stance on medical grade pot.
What about their stance on prescription drug abuse? Here’s where things get interesting. The CADCA takes a soft stance approach to painkiller abuse. They’ve called for more educational programs aimed at informing adolescents on the dangers of opioid abuse. While that’s an admirable step, it’s a far cry from their harsh condemnation of medical marijuana.
And then there’s Project SAM. Project SAM was founded in 2013 by Patrick Kennedy, of the famous family, who struggled with addiction to opioids most of his life. His response? Form an anti-marijuana organization which receives major funding and support from the pharmaceutical industry.
We’re in Need of a Rational Approach
We are! The United States is in desperate need of a rational approach to both medical marijuana and painkiller abuse prevention. That is to say, we’re in need of an unbiased and untethered view of the benefits and drawbacks of medical marijuana. We’re also in need of doctors, scientists, researchers, and academics who’re free of all corporate ties.
If by some small blessing that were to occur, if the US were to find reasonable proponents and critics of both medical marijuana and prescription drug reform, then we’d avoid situations like these.
So, what is the solution? How do we find these types of impartial opinions? Unfortunately, I’m not sure. I’m not a policymaker or a medical professional. I’m a man in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse who finds the corporate state of healthcare, be it pharmaceutical or otherwise, appalling.
I think the first step to any meaningful reform is through both politicians and medical advocates cutting ties with the business world. I realize that every project needs funding, be it a scientific project or a social services one. However, when corporate America comes to save the day, well, there’s always a price tag attached.