• October 19, 2020

Following the Anti-Cannabis Money

 Following the Anti-Cannabis Money

Though a new year has come, the same marijuana myths have weaseled their way into conversations about proposed legislation in New York that would establish a legal cannabis industry there. We’re here to shine a light on the truth and dismiss the rhetoric for Fake News.   

One of the New York legislation’s greatest opponents is Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-marijuana group founded by former Rep. Patrick Kennedy and others who established themselves in the wake of an opioid crisis created by their own actions. That’s right, the same people who created the opioid epidemic are now opposing marijuana legalization as stories surface of a 6-8 percent decrease in daily opioid use in legal marijuana states. 

In the past, The News Station has reviewed some anti-cannabis propaganda that is laughably easy to spot. For example, the insistence that consuming cannabis turns the user’s tongue green. While these fake news stories are generally benign enough to ignore, or write several unforgiving articles about, a question begins to surface after seeing so many regurgitated inaccuracies — who is continuing to fund anti-cannabis campaigns? Let’s take a deeper look at  the aforementioned Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Last April, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy sent New York legislators a letter on behalf of Smart Approaches to Marijuana regarding potential cannabis legalization in the state. Much of Kennedy’s opposition to legalizing is related to marijuana myths that have been thoroughly debunked. To summarize Kennedy’s objections, he insists that cannabis companies are harming children, communities of color, and negatively impacting the opioid epidemic. Shortly after sending the letter, Smart Approaches to Marijuana began a series entitled, “Big Marijuana, Big Money, Big Politics.” This campaign was created in an attempt to further the insinuation that to legalize cannabis is to prioritize profit over people.   

Most recently, SAM announced that it would be ramping up efforts to help local residents block weed businesses from operating in their cities, such as in Illinois, Michigan, and California. What SAM leaves out of this is that its founder, Patrick Kennedy, has made his money in the pharmaceutical industry. Once the industry was outed for causing America’s opioid crisis, Kennedy switched to making his money off of addiction itself by evolving into the drug rehabilitation industry. That’s right. First Kennedy made money off of selling people opioids, and then he made his money off of drug rehabilitation. It’s diabolical.  

This sounds sensational, so allow us to explain. By adhering to Smart Approaches to Marijuana’s own advice to #FollowTheMoney, one can easily find a mountain of irony. This group has repeatedly falsely tried to connect the opioid epidemic to marijuana legalization, but this argument crumbles when we take their own advice and #FollowTheMoney. 

In a scathing report by POLITICO, former Rep. Kennedy is exposed for profiting from opioid-addiction firms. Kennedy served as the CEO of the behavioral health nonprofit Kennedy Forum, which is funded in part by major drug makers and addiction-treatment companies, according to POLITICO. He received more than $1.1 million in total compensation from the organization over two years, the report adds. 

The connections between Big Pharma, former Rep. Kennedy, and Smart Approaches to Marijuana regarding the cannabis legalization conversation is concerning, if not alarming. As the global body of cannabis research continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly clear that despite the insistence that the industry is making the opioid epidemic worse, in reality marijuana is taking a bite out of the crisis. Even the federal reigns on the cannabis conversation are loosening. In January, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) said it is conducting a review of treatment approaches to the two health conditions, with a particular focus on alternatives to opioids. In states that have legalized medical cannabis, opioid prescription rates are dropping, and several studies have concluded that the presence of a legal cannabis market curbs the desire and use of opioids

Sadly, this is only one of many anti-cannabis campaigns whose roots can be traced back to bad actors in the pharmaceutical industry. The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America and other notable anti-cannabis organizations, including the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (formerly the Partnership for a Drug-Free America), “derive a significant portion of their budget from opioid manufacturers and other pharmaceutical companies,” according to an investigation by journalist Lee Fang.

Despite the opposition, and their increasingly obvious ties to companies who lose profit when legalized cannabis enters the market, it seems New York Gov. Cuomo will continue to fight for a legal market in New York. Gov. Cuomo is currently on a nation-wide tour to evaluate the successes and failures of states that have already legalized cannabis. He says the goal is to ensure that New York has “the best bill and the best system when we pass it, and I want to pass it by April 1.”

Marijuana will be legalized across the country. Most people see through the racket established by SAM to raise funds on the back of the opioid crisis. But we must remain vigilant in calling SAM and others out for their exploitation of a serious epidemic simply to line their own pockets. Kennedy and his pharma cohorts were the ones to get this country hooked on opioids. Cannabis is only helping to reverse the damage. It’s understandable why they don’t want that secret to get out. But it’s out now, so let’s all do our part to spread the word. 

Penelope Komes

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