Fentanyl-Maker Donates to Anti-Marijuana Legalization Campaign

September 9th 2016

A drug company that produces fentanyl, a potent painkiller at least 50 times stronger than morphine, donated $500,000 to a campaign fighting marijuana legalization in Arizona, campaign finance records show. To some legalization advocates, the contribution represents a conflict of interest.

fentanylYouTube/The National - youtube.com

Insys Therapeutics, which is currently under investigation by federal and state law enforcement for its marketing practices, said it donated to the opposition group Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy out of concern over the safety of cannabis. It is one of the largest contributions to an anti-legalization campaign ever, The Washington Post reports.

Why are marijuana advocates questioning the motive behind the drug company's donation?

marijuana-plantFlickr/Alex B - flickr.com

An increasing number of Americans are replacing prescription drugs — particularly painkillers — with marijuana. In states where medical marijuana is legal, there are 1,826 fewer painkiller prescriptions on average, as ATTN: previously reported. Ingredients in cannabis have proven effective at treating chronic and neuropathic pain with few side effects and no risk of fatal overdose. Meanwhile, more than 14,000 Americans died from prescription painkiller overdoses in 2014 alone.

In essence, some believe that drug companies feel threatened by marijuana legalization — and they consider Insys Therapeutic's contribution a smoking gun in that respect.

"Accepting this money undermines everything that marijuana prohibitionists say about their desire to protect public health," Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell told ATTN:. "It's difficult to understand how people who profit from selling a drug like fentanyl can keep a straight face while arguing that marijuana is just too dangerous to legalize."

Arizona is one of six states that are expected to vote on recreational marijuana legalization initiatives in November. An additional six are expected to vote on medical marijuana legalization initiatives. It's unclear why Insys Therapeutic would target Arizona's initiative, but the company sent a statement to the Post:

"[Insys] has joined a broad alliance of elected officials, health care organizations and business leaders in opposing Prop. 205 because it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children. Insys firmly believes in the potential clinical benefits of cannabinoids. Like many in the healthcare community, we hope that patients will have the opportunity to benefit from these potential products once clinical trials demonstrate their safe and effective use."

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