A recent article in The Nation has exposed the lobbying efforts of large pharmaceutical companies and producers of highly addictive prescription opiates who are seeking to block any proposed reforms of cannabis laws on both the Federal and State level.
People in the United States, a country in which painkillers are routinely overprescribed, now consume more than 84 percent of the entire worldwide supply of oxycodone and almost 100 percent of hydrocodone opioids. In Kentucky, to take just one example, about one in fourteen people is misusing prescription painkillers, and nearly 1,000 Kentucky residents are dying every year.The article continues, focusing upon a group that calls itself Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA) and its blatant conflict of interest.
CADCA and the other groups leading the fight against relaxing marijuana laws, including the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (formerly the Partnership for a Drug-Free America), derive a significant portion of their budget from opioid manufacturers and other pharmaceutical companies. According to critics, this funding has shaped the organization's policy goals: CADCA takes a softer approach toward prescription-drug abuse, limiting its advocacy to a call for more educational programs, and has failed to join the efforts to change prescription guidelines in order to curb abuse. In contrast, CADCA and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids have adopted a hard-line approach to marijuana, opposing even limited legalization and supporting increased police powers.
Follow me past the Orange Gnocci for more on this blatant conflict of interest.
The Nation obtained a confidential financial disclosure from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids showing that the group's largest donors include Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, and Abbott Laboratories, maker of the opioid Vicodin. CADCA also counts Purdue Pharma as a major supporter, as well as Alkermes, the maker of a powerful and extremely controversial new painkiller called Zohydrol. The drug, which was released to the public in March, has sparked a nationwide protest, since Zohydrol is reportedly ten times stronger than OxyContin.Let's be clear that there has not been a single death associated with cannabis usage. There certainly is an issue of about 9% of the public being predisposed to being psychologically (thought not physically) addicted like one would with opiates or even alcohol. So why are these companies so interested in a non-lethal substance like cannabis?
The groups’ approach to marijuana contrasts sharply with their attitude toward prescription-drug abuse.
The Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997, a program directed by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, was created through CADCA’s advocacy. That law now allocates over $90 million a year to community organizations dedicated to reducing drug abuse. Records show that CADCA has received more than $2.5 million in annual federal funding in recent years.These companies couldn't care less about the decreased abuse of their drugs.
Prescription drugs are another story. In this realm, both CADCA and the Partnership favor educational campaigns and limited pill-monitoring programs—measures that experts on painkiller addiction say are insufficient to deal with the burgeoning problem.
In some cases, both CADCA and the Partnership have directly promoted certain opioids. In 2010, Marcia Lee Taylor, the Partnership’s chief lobbyist, signed on to a letter with Will Rowe of the American Pain Foundation asking the Office of National Drug Control Policy to continue Medicaid reimbursements for so-called “tamper-proof” opioids, which cannot be crushed or snorted but can still be abused to deadly effect.It likely comes as little surprise to those who are accustomed to dealing with pharmaceutical companies, but their moral compass would make a stereotypical drug dealer envious:
Prescription-drug manufacturers like Purdue Pharma, which made more than $27 billion in revenues from OxyContin alone since 1996, have faced ethical problems in the past. In 2007, Purdue Pharma and its top executives paid $634.5 million in fines for deceptive marketing that played down the addictive properties of OxyContin. Also that same year, the company agreed to pay $19.5 million to twenty-six states and the District of Columbia to settle claims that it illegally encouraged doctors to overprescribe the drug. But the company’s influence over anti-drug advocacy is less known.And yet, these very groups are aggressively promoting "Reefer Madness" logic. One would think this gentleman was referring to heroin or some of the prescription opiates instead of cannabis when he states:
Instead, he argues, law enforcement agencies oppose legalizing marijuana because its use is inherently dangerous: “One try and it can ruin your life.”The sad truth is that many young adults become addicted to opiate pain killers and when they are no longer able to obtain them because the refills end, or they are not able to afford it, they switch to heroin. Talk about a gateway drug.
What's truly sad is that when groups like New Approach Oregon receives support from non-profit think tanks like Drug Policy Alliance, people like Kevin Sabet of Project SAM complain about the influence of out-of-state money, and they do so with a straight face. Looking at the funding list of groups like Partnership for a Drug Free America, the precursor to Partnership for Drug Free Kids, reads like a Who's Who for Alcohol, Tobacco, and Pharmaceutical Companies. It's appalling.
Please spread the word about the conflict of interest many of these groups have when they advocate against the ending of the prohibition of cannabis. The War on Drugs is a train wreck, and states should be able to decide to end their participation in it.