Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

Opioid Maker Donates to Help Halt Marijuana Legalization in Arizona

As if fentanyl's public relations aren't bad enough.



Anti-marijuana advocates attacking pushes toward legalization often deliberately villainize capitalism in their efforts. They warn that the demand for legal weed will lead to the rise of "big marijuana," which they compare to "big tobacco" and other large corporations that have earned the ire of a decent-sized chunk of the citizenry. The argument doesn't seem to be working, if polls are any indication, but it looks like that's what organizations like Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) are going to use to oppose initiatives on the ballot this fall in several states.

Coincidentally, you know who else pisses off average Americans? "Big pharma." In actuality, the anger should be directed at both the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government. As we've learned from the $600 EpiPen scandal, it's the government's role in protecting medical monopolies that helps drive up prices.

Here's where things get awkward for organizations like SAM. A pharmaceutical company based out of Arizona has donated $500,000 to the effort to oppose a marijuana legalization effort in that state. Let's make it even more awkward. The drug manufacturer, Insys Therapeutics Inc, produces a cancer pain relief spray with an active ingredient that's currently high profile in the drug wars: fentanyl.

Fentanyl is the opioid driving the latest of the drug war panics, heightened by Prince's recent death. Even as criminal justice reformers are attempting to reduce or eliminate drug-related federal mandatory minimum sentences, lawmakers are trying to enhance sentences for fentanyl-related crimes.

Steven Nelson at U.S. News and World Report noted the donation and researched Insys' offerings. Subsys is the only drug they have on the market right now, but they do have an interesting past:

From 2011 through at least last year, Insys also sold a second product: a generic equivalent to Marinol, a synthetic version of the cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which the Food and Drug Administration allows for treatment of cancer and HIV-related symptoms like nausea and loss of appetite, which cannabis advocates say the raw plant material can treat without a corporate middleman. Insys said in its August filing it has no plans to resume those sales.

The end result of all of this is that it's the pro-marijuana side now claiming that big industry is trying to thwart the will of the public and influence the vote. The head of the pro-initiative group in Arizona said the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (the anti-legalization group) is now "tainted" by the donation. The anti-legalization group told Stevens they're keeping the money with the argument that Insys is at least based out of Arizona, unlike some of the donors who are giving money to pass the initiative.

Obviously, this means that Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy are openly embracing their opposition to legalization of marijuana as a protectionist defense of entrenched business interests, and not because of any sort of public health reasons. This probably doesn't come as a surprise to many. But citizens should know that this sort of attitude that blocks alternative treatment options is exactly why the EpiPens are so expensive.

Read more about the donation here. Current polls in Arizona have legalization support up by 10 percentage points, but there's also a significant number of undecided voters who could change the outcome.

NEXT: Why Hillary Clinton Refuses to Say Whether Merrick Garland Will Be Her SCOTUS Pick

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  1. You can’t legalize marijuana. There’s too much money in it.

    1. This is all America’s fault.

  2. Humanity almost never fails to disappoint me. I’m going to have to stop feeling guilty for being cynical.

  3. By far the worst effects of fentanyl abuse are Alice Bowie’s comments here on Hit’n’Run.

    1. You sure that just isn’t some sort of congenital brain damage?

      1. There’s plenty of evidence that his mom drank while he was in utero, but he’s admitted to the fentanyl usage. To be fair he uses it to deal with the discomfort of shitting into a bag through a hole in his side.

  4. “”tainted” by the donation.”

    No, let’s keep out eye on the ball.

    The donation is powerful evidence – pretty much conclusive evidence – that Arizona’s marijuana laws can be used by drug companies to suppress competition.

    Even if these prohibitionists return the donation, their cause will still be tainted, because the fact that the donation was ever made at all is objective evidence of the nature and effect of the drug laws, and returning the money won’t change that reality.

    I focus on this because otherwise we’re in for a Kabuki cycle of outrage where the prohibitionists are pressed to return the donation, and they finally do, and the media moves on because the story is “over.”

    But the story isn’t outrage kabuki politics, the story is “this is the true, evil nature of the law that the voters are asked to oppose.”

    1. keep *our* eye on the ball.

  5. RE: Opioid Maker Donates to Help Halt Marijuana Legalization in Arizona
    Anti-marijuana advocates attacking pushes toward legalization often deliberately villainize capitalism in their efforts. They warn that the demand for legal weed will lead to the rise of “big marijuana,” which they compare to “big tobacco” and other large corporations that have earned the ire of a decent-sized chunk of the citizenry

    Oh no!
    Not that!
    Allowing the little people to raise above their socio-economic status by investing and starting MJ companies so they will grow into huge corporations is not what this country about. It is about keeping the status quo so our enlightened ruling elitist filth and their cronies stay rich and powerful. Having the lowly plebian class advancing from their appointed stations in our society will only throw our beloved socialist slave state into a chaotic typhoon of capitalism, opportunity and monetary freedom for people who were rightfully kept down for the sake of The State. Such foul and nefarious activities of investing and business building will only be welcomed with scorn, ridicule and contempt with our fellow socialist states as Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela. One can only imagine the shame that will be placed at the door of our obvious betters enslaving us all when that happens. Therefore, let us all condemn and halt any silly notions of legalizing MJ for the sake of our ruling elitist turds, their cronies, and the collective.

  6. Are they idiots? Marijuana is THE gateway drug to fentanyl, the government told me so. They should be supporting legalization!

    Oh wait. It’s only the ILLEGALITY of conventional marijuana that is a gateway to more illegal activity, not the MJ itself.

    Never mind.

  7. Yeah but my great-grandfather was told the 17th Amendment would stop special interests from controlling the government’s legislative apparatus. So this can’t be true.

  8. Do a story about the DEA putting kratom on the Schedule 1 list. Why? Because the pharma companies want to take its alkaloids, slightly modify them, and patent them as drugs!

  9. What is it Americans and their fricken moral panics about seemingly everything?

    Scratch the panics and cui bono.

    Fentanyl now? I seem to recall being prescribed some after my ACL surgery.

    No issues up here over it.

    1. The children. Epidemic. Change. We can do better. Every year X number of people are Y because of Z. We’re all in this together.


    2. Canadians!! Canadians!!

      Canadians are taking over our commentariat! Close the electronic border! Keep those hockey-loving electrons out!

      Ban the ‘Eh’!

  10. The headline should be “Drug Dealers Funding Opposition to Legalization”.

    1. “Drug Dealers fund Drug War to Boost their Profits”

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