As more U.S. states legalise marijuana, special interest groups that have a financial stake in the fight have been pushing back under the guise of fighting drug abuse.
Last week, The Nation published an interesting look at who’s driving the fight against the legalization of marijuana.
Pharmaceutical companies that make billions off painkillers and police unions are two big heavy hitters in the fight against marijuana legalization. They throw their monetary support behind groups that fight legislation that would legalise pot — even medical marijuana — and lobby Congress.
From The Nation:
It’s more than a little odd that [the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America] 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 organisation’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.
It may seem counterintuitive that an anti-drug group would take a soft approach towards prescription drug abuse considering the rising number of people who are abusing painkillers and other pills. Prescription drugs kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined, and painkillers have been linked to a rise in heroin abuse. Marijuana is still used more widely, but it’s not addictive in most people and isn’t linked to deaths.
Legalizing marijuana could, however, hurt the bottom line of drug companies that make money off drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin. Medical marijuana could be a less-addictive alternative to treating lower-level pain that might otherwise be treated with prescription painkillers.
Police unions are also fighting legalization. As the author of The Nation article pointed out on Republic Report, local police departments have become dependent on federal funding from the war on drugs, which includes marijuana. Police unions have also lobbied for harsher penalties for marijuana-related crimes.
While some groups are lobbying to legalise pot, others are lobbying against powerful painkillers coming into the drug market. Their motives may not always be pure, though.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has sought to block the approval of the powerful and controversial new painkiller Zohydro, has a daughter who is the CEO of competing drug company Mylan Inc. The company is also a major campaign contributor.
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