With so much revenue potential in recreational weed, you might ask yourself who is funding the the fight against pot legalization? Imagine this scenario, if you will…
So… let’s say your last name is Kennedy. And yes, you’re one of those Kennedys. They call you Patrick and you’re a congressman from Rhode Island. And let’s just say that one night in 2006, you crash your car into a barricade on Capitol Hill, bringing to light the fact that you have a major prescription drug abuse problem. What do you do?
A: While brandishing a bottle of Oxy-Cotin yell “Screw this! Uncle Teddy got off when he killed his secretary while driving wasted! Nobody messes with a Kennedy when it’s time to get his party on!”
B: Quietly fade from public life and live off the enormous amount of money you already have.
C: Go to rehab. Then make substance abuse a cornerstone of your political agenda by forming an “advocacy group” called SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) and barnstorm the country opposing the state and federal efforts to legalize weed.
The correct answer would be “C”.
“There is nothing more inconsistent with trying to improve mental health and reduce substance abuse disorders in this country than to legalize a third drug”, he told the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, (CADCA) last February. But as usual with Washington, when you scratch the surface, you find something different underneath. It seems the CADCA Convention had a rather unusual sponsor, Purdue Pharma, the makers of Oxy-Cotin. So you have a former addict, sponsored by a pharmaceutical company that made his preferred addiction, talking to an anti-drug organization about keeping pot illegal. Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?
Two of the main groups lobbying hard to keep marijuana a Schedule I narcotic, right up there with heroin, are CADCA and The Partnership for Drug Free Kids, once known as The Partnership for a Drug Free America, of “this is your brain on drugs” fame. Both of these “advocacy groups” are staunchly opposed to any relaxing of marijuana restrictions. After a recent poking around by the website “The Nation”, it was found that both the Partnership and CADCA, aside from the public money it receives, have large corporate sponsors that include Purdue Pharma, makers of Oxy-Cotin, Abbott Laboratories, makers of the opioid Vicodin, as well as Alkermes, makers of the powerful and controversial new pain killer Zohydrol (reportedly ten times stronger than Oxy-Cotin).
CADCA has gone on record saying that “corporate donations in no way affect policy decisions.” Anyone who believes that hasn’t lived in America for the last 40 years. Both of these anti drug groups we conspicuously silent when legislation was introduced to crack down heavily on painkiller abuse, including Zohydrol. And yet, last May, CADCA heavily lobbied Congress to fight a bill which would de-fund the war on marijuana. On top of that, the board for Patrick Kennedy’s SAM is loaded with conflicts of interest. Head spokesman Ben Cort, runs a drug treatment center in Aurora Colorado. He stands to lose big if judges quit sending him marijuana customers who prefer treatment to jail. Dr. Sam Gitlow sits on SAM’s board of directors and is also president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. It seems rather unusual that he is also the medical director for the company Orexo, makers of Zubsolv, an opioid substitute that is abused for recreational purposes.
It’s no secret that each of these large corporations stand to lose significant profits if marijuana is recognized for its pain reduction qualities. These corporations hide behind the public health and safety argument, all the while lining their pockets with profits from drugs much more dangerous than cannabis. But they aren’t the only ones who stand to lose money if legalization spreads.
Law enforcement is able to augment their budgets with asset forfeiture from drug related arrests. Under the Reagan administration’s 1984 Omnibus Crime Bill, local law enforcement can confiscate property they believe was acquired through or used in the commission of a drug offense. This includes houses, cars and virtually anything contained within them, whether or not their owners are convicted of (or even charged with) a crime. This has turned into a sacred cash cow for the justice community.
According to one ACLU report, asset forfeiture receipts went from $27.2 million in 1985 to $425.5 million in 2001. The private assets and goods seized during the 1990s alone was valued at more than $5 billion. That’s $5,000,000,000! Local departments are going to be hesitant to let money like that disappear. And marijuana is the easiest arrest to keep the funds coming. And they pass along a share of the cash to Washington to keep cannabis as dangerous as heroin.
And of course, the private prison industry is going to fight anything that reduces inmate populations. The two biggest companies, Corrections Corporation of America and The Geo Group Inc., run 131 private, for profit prisons. Total revenue for both companies for 2011 was over $13 billion. Having less inmates would be bad for business. That’s why they spent over $19 million on lobbying expenditures and gave almost $4 million to political campaigns. It is safe to assume that most of that money went towards keeping the inmates coming. Again, illegal marijuana is still the easiest path.
The alcohol industry doesn’t want anything cutting into your party budget either. Rep. Lamar Smith, a republican from Texas, took to the media recently with a fear mongering tirade about the increased use of marijuana by virtually everybody and calls for rigorous enforcement of marijuana laws nationwide. Meanwhile he was pocketing over $20,000 from various liquor and beer industry groups. Although, to be fair, some companies, mainly smaller micro-breweries, have made statements that they are pro-pot.
So regardless of recent trends in legalization, there are still powerful forces working against the removal of prohibition. You can tell them by their self righteous cries of protecting us, and especially the children. You can also tell them by the bulge in their bank accounts. At the end of the day, it’s really about money and protecting ones bottom line.