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Who Is Responsible For Preventing Federal Marijuana Reform?

By Roger Moleskin

August 23rd 201 photo/istock/madsci

Many people wonder how, in the face all overwhelming evidence to the contrary and most people not believing the lies, that marijuana is still classified as a drug with no benefits and high addiction rates. While it’s true that the government tends to move slowly on law reform, one might think that there are other, unseen forces at work, and they would be right. Hands down, the most prominent opponent of true cannabis reform is the pharmaceutical industry, who spend tens of millions of dollars every year to promote manufactured drugs, misinformation, and lobbying to prevent anything from cutting into their bottom line.

There have been several ‘spikes’ in opioid addiction across the country, the first of which was in 1991. This was the first time there was a large increase in opioid prescriptions, and in the defense of prescribers, they were given assurances by the companies that the risk of opioid addiction was low. This was, of course, an outright lie, and worked because it was the first time synthetic opioids were used in mass and as far as the prescribers knew, it was uncharted territory that had promise.

Fast forward to 2013,  and the latest spike explodes into a full epidemic across the country. Unlike previous spikes, which were mostly due to heroin overdoses, this was the first to see the majority of overdoses from prescriptions. The increase in fentanyl deaths has been linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl (not diverted medical fentanyl) used to replace or adulterate other drugs of abuse.
Yet despite all the knowledge about opioids and marijuana learned in those 20 years, the laws remain the same.

 The U.S. Center For Disease Control issued comprehensive guidelines on how to mitigate the crisis and find other, safer means of coping with chronic pains - cannabis was deemed to be the best alternative through rigorous scientific study. These guidelines are fought every step of the way by the pharmaceutical industry. Some recent examples of this include
$500,000 to Arizona’s anti-legalization drive, which made them the state’s largest anti-marijuana lobbying group. Also, $250,000 to the Campaign For a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, an anti-legalization group, making them the third largest anti-marijuana lobby group in that state.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, considered one of marijuana’s biggest opponents, spent nearly $19 million on lobbying in 2015.

Despite these measures, the industry is fighting a losing battle; In states that have legalized medical cannabis, opioid overdose rates have already dropped by an average of 25%; Legalization proponents in California have raised nearly $18m, compared to the opposition’s $250,000 in fundraising; and the government-funded health insurance program that subsidizes prescription drug costs continues to drop, and, would drop by $470m annually if medical marijuana were legalized nationally.
This is only a small part of how far the pharmaceutical industry has gone to keep their profits at the expense of the lives of American citizens.

This is a classic David vs Goliath scenario. Big Pharma and its bottomless pockets are finding out that the one weapon they have is becoming ineffective against the plain truth that a record number of Americans are seeing for the first time. Medical marijuana is without question the best alternative to prescription painkillers - it is safe, cheap, non-addictive, and easily accessible.

 It’s unfortunate that it took so much death and hardship for this to happen, but when even big money is failing to uphold the status quo, you can bet that change is on the horizon.