It’s a cliffhanger as Election Day is upon us. Five states – Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and California get to vote on Proposition 205.
Already passed by four states, the measure will allow people aged 21 and older to be in possession of one ounce of marijuana at any time, and grow up to six plants for their own recreational use. But big money is fighting back. Signs of the Times looked into the funding of anti marijuana legalization campaigns.
Scare the kids:
Last month, a wave of television ads hit the state of Arizona, complete with ominous sound tracks and scare tactics, warning against marijuana edibles looking like candy. The advertisements paint a bleak future for Arizona’s children if voters approve Proposition 205.
Insys Therapeutics became the largest donor to Arizona’s anti-legalization drive contributing $500,000. What’s its motivation? The company also manufactures Subsys, a prescription painkiller derived from fentanyl the synthetic opioid that is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
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The tables are turning
In Colorado where marijuana has been legalized, children landing in hospital because of marijuana intoxication increased from 1.2 to 2.3 per 100,000 kids under the age of 10 since legalization in 2014. Sounds scary, but let’s look at the other side of the story.
Accidental ingestion of pharmaceuticals landed 318 per 100,000 kids aged five and under in the emergency room. The frequency of hospitalization of kids accidentally taking narcotic painkillers have increased 225% between 2004 and 2014 according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Currently 25 states allow for marijuana to be used as a medicine, and the market will account for $6.7bn in sales this year, according to ArcView Group a research company.
Painkillers kill less people
Research conducted by Amanda Reiman, manager of marijuana law and policy at the Drug Policy Alliance shows medical cannabis patients are substituting cannabis for pharmaceuticals at a very high rate. Alcohol is also being replaced by cannabis at a pretty high rate. This means Big Pharma and alcohol manufacturers are losing revenue and that is why these groups have quietly been backing anti-marijuana efforts across the country.
Apart from Insys, the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association made one of the most generous contributions to the anti-legalization campaign: $10,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. The Beer Distributors PAC donated $25,000 to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts putting it 3rd on the list of sponsors opposing recreational marijuana.
Big Pharma on cannabis
Pharmaceutical companies are seeing the effects of their medicines being replaced by a herb in their bottom line. According to a 2014 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association opioid overdoses dropped by 25% in states where medical marijuana were legalized in comparison to states where it is still prohibited. The study further implies people are using medical cannabis to treat pain rather than opioid painkillers, or they might be taking lower dosages.
If money talks, the battle might be lost already despite marijuana sales reaching $996m in 2015 in Colorado alone, raking in $135m in tax revenue.
Investors and special interest groups have begun to flex their money muscles too as lobbyists start to battle on equal footing with their counterparts in the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries.
The final say lies with the people next month. And don’t go away, there is definitely more coming. As so many people has said lately, we are living in interesting times!