Go Figure: Anti-Marijuana "Experts" Are Paid By Pharmaceutical Companies

January 2nd 2015

In retrospect, 2014 has already been called the year of marijuana, with public support for legalization at an all time high. 2015 bodes similarly well there's a good chance that New York might join the ranks of Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia in setting up a recreational market for its residents. However, new research has discovered that many of the prominent anti-marijuana doctors attempting to stymie such efforts, such as Dr. Herbert Kleber of Columbia University and Dr. A. Eden Evins of Harvard Medical School, have strong financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.

As VICE News reported

Kleber has impeccable academic credentials, and has been quoted in the press and in academic publications warning against the use of marijuana, which he stresses may cause wide-ranging addiction and public health issues. But when he's writing anti-pot opinion pieces for CBS News, or being quoted by NPR and CNBC, what's left unsaid is that Kleber has served as a paid consultant to leading prescription drug companies, including Purdue Pharma (the maker of OxyContin), Reckitt Benckiser (the producer of a painkiller called Nurofen), and Alkermes (the producer of a powerful new opioid called Zohydro).

Notably, when Evins participated in a commentary on marijuana legalization for the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the publication found that her financial relationships required a disclosure statement, which noted that as of November 2012, she was a "consultant for Pfizer and DLA Piper and has received grant/research support from Envivo, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer." Pfizer has moved aggressively into the $7.3 billion painkiller market. In 2011, the company acquired King Pharmaceuticals (the makers of several opioid products) and is currently working to introduce Remoxy, an OxyContin competitor.

These pharmaceutical companies have good reason to oppose the legalization of marijuana, since marijuana is often prescribed as a substitute to painkillers. A recent survey from California found that 92 percent of patients who used marijuana said it alleviates their chronic pain, migraines, and arthritis. Another study from JAMA Internal Medicine also found "there was about a 25% lower rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths on average after implementation of a medical marijuana law" from 1999 to 2010.

Steph Sherer, the executive director of Americans for Safe Access, recently spoke to Attn, explaining why many people prefer medical cannabis: "[they] find they are intolerant of the side-effects of prescription drugs that treat their ailments," she said. "Research has shown that in states with medical marijuana programs there has been a reduction in suicide rates and overdose deaths from opiates. Because it is simultaneously a pain killer, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective agent, a single dose of marijuana can replace a handful of pharmaceuticals."

One of the ways to combat these anti-marijuana voices is to conduct more research into the positive effects of medical marijuana. However, the federal government's policies on marijuana end up stalling many marijuana research initiatives, mainly due to marijuana's classification as a Schedule I controlled substance.

As states continue to legalize medical marijuana, the drug's classification as one of the most dangerous drugs of all drug schedules, being grouped with substances such as heroin and LSD, seems absurd. In fact, 18 congressmen have pushed for Obama to loosen federal regulations on marijuana, which he could accomplish by asking the attorney general to amend the Controlled Substances Act. The President, however, has responded by stating that a classification change should be the work of Congress.

To ask your Congressional member to act, reach them at (202) 224-3121. 

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