Over 58% of Americans support marijuana legalization, yet candidates still aren’t rushing to Federally legalize. Unfortunately, three major industries just might be to blame. Alcohol, corrections, and pharmaceutical lobbies are paying top dollar to prevent marijuana reform for as long as they can.
Here’s how these industries are scamming the public.
65% of Democrats currently favor marijuana reform. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not one of them.
An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics found that Wasserman Schultz has received over $330,568 in campaign contributions since 2006. During the 2015-2016 fundraising period, Beer, Wine, and Liquor represented her fifth largest campaign backer. The industry has contributed $18,500 thus far.
Back in 2014, she was one of a group of democrats that voted against the state’s right to choose on whether or not they allow medical marijuana programs.
After facing criticism from medical marijuana groups and activists, Wasserman Schultz has recently claimed that she supports medical marijuana. As she explains in an interview with New York Times Magazine:
“I don’t oppose the use of medical marijuana. I just don’t think we should legalize more mind-altering substances if we want to make it less likely that people travel down the path toward using drugs. We have had a resurgence of drug use instead of a decline. There is a huge heroin epidemic.”
NYT Magazine reporter Ana Marie Cox calls her out on that one. Cox states: “Heroin addiction often starts with prescribed painkillers. Pill mills were a problem in Florida, but the state didn’t make prescribing opiates illegal.”
In response, Schultz, again, makes another ambiguous statement conflating marijuana with heroin use. “There is a difference between opiates and marijuana.”
When Cox presses further on what shaped Schultz’s opinions on the marijuana issue, she explains that her opinions on drug use were “formed by my personal experience both as a mom and as someone who grew up really bothered by the drug culture that surrounded my childhood — not mine personally. I grew up in suburbia.”
Umm… So… Congresswoman, what is your concern about marijuana exactly? That any marijuana user will turn into rampant heroin addicts which then surround your quiet suburban home?
Schultz has recently come under fire for her asinine comments about cannabis, but she’s not the only politician accepting cash from the booze industry. Ten years ago, the beer lobby contributed $10,000 to knocking down California’s Proposition 19, which would have legalized recreational marijuana in the state.
Overall, alcohol lobbies have contributed more than $17 million to federal candidates since 2014.
Why any candidate would vote against marijuana reform bills and rake in the dough from a substance known to cause over 80,000 deaths annually is beyond ridiculous. Perhaps candidates that accept large contributions from big alcohol are either in denial about the harmful impacts of the intoxicant or are more interested in attaining personal political aspirations than reducing the extreme social harms of alcohol additions and the war on drugs.
Big Law Enforcement
Private Prison Corporations
Private prison lobbies may be one of the most disgusting things about the United States. What is perhaps even more disgusting is that even amidst all of the public outcry for criminal justice reform, 2016 candidates are still accepting major dollars from the prison industry.
Rubio is also weak on marijuana reform. In a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Rubio stated; “I think we need to enforce our federal laws.” He also explained that states “have their rights. But they don’t have a right to write federal policy as well.”
Between 2000 and 2012, privatized corrections corporations have spent more than $32 million in federal lobbying and campaign contributions. Companies like the Corrections Corporation of America function through creating contracts with individual states, requiring that the state fill a minimum number of beds each year. If the state does not meet these requirements, the state can be held accountable for breech of contract.
This process incentivizes arrests. Cannabis reform has the potential to cause a huge shake-up in this industry. With some states still slapping out harsh felony sentences for possession of even minor amounts of marijuana, Federal legalization would automatically reduce the number of bodies placed in private prison beds. This hits the prison industry hard where it hurts the most: their pocketbooks.
The ability of lobbying money to outweigh huge swaths of public support cannot be better exemplified than in the case of California’s Proposition 19. Coupled with donations from the beer industry, one police union lobbyist has been largely held responsible for defeating California’s Prop 19 nearly six years ago.
That man is John Lovell. A 2012 investigation by Republic Report reviled that Lovell’s firm was paid over $386,350 by the California Police Chief’s Association among several others. Lovell also helped police departments apply for drug war grants from the Federal government.
According to the same report, California police departments in Northern California were awarded $550,000 in grants to help pay for overtime and new officer training for a NorCal Marijuana Eradication Team. Lovell helped them achieve this.
Keep in mind that this is in a state where prisons were so overcrowded the Supreme Court needed to intervene to address the issue. In 2011, the state was ordered to reduce it’s total inmate population by 137.5%. California’s inmate population did not dip below the maximum number January of last year.
Police departments around the country still apply for Federal grants to support drug enforcement and marijuana eradication teams each year. In the case of California, the money paid by police associations to lobbyists enabled them to kill a bill that once had brought more voters to the polls than the gubernatorial race. Further, the special interests of police unions continues to allow for criminal prosecution of non-violent marijuana offenders.
When you talk about money in politics, the pharmaceutical industry is one of the primary players. Nearly every 2016 candidate has received some form of cash from this giant industry. Hilary Clinton has taken the most money thus far, receiving a whopping $112,251 in campaign contributions.
But, direct campaign contributions isn’t the primary mechanism behind big pharma’s effort to squander the marijuana movement. In a 2014 piece published in The Nation, journalist Brian Fang reveals that pharmaceutical companies are behind some of the largest anti-weed campaigns out there.
Patrick Kennedy’s Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), theCommunity Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA), and Partnership for Drug Free Kids all take money from large pharmaceutical corporations.
In fact, CADCA’s annual convention in 2014 was sponsored by Perdue Pharma, the manufacturer of opioid pain reliever OxyContin. There are 16,000 overdose deaths from prescription opioids each year.
The Nation also found that the largest donors to Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (formerly Partnership for a Drug-Free America) comes from Perdue Parma and Abbot Laboratories. Abbot Laboratories is the manufacturer of another famous opioid, Vicodin.
As for Project SAM, Fang points out that several board members of the organization have underlying economic interests in keeping marijuana illegal. Dr. Stuart Gitlow, for example, is the medical director at Orexo. Orexo is a pharmaceutical company that has recently created a drug that serves to replace opioid pain relievers.
So, why are all of these major painkiller producers backing these anti-marijuana organizations? It’s because they stand a lot to lose. As most marijuana users already know, weed can take away a headache or ease pain all with a few simple puffs. Marijuana also has considerably less harmful side-effects and less addictive capacity than prescription opioids.
Cannabis prohibition has been a source of economic prosperity to a small few at the risk of the many. Millions of dollars have been spent, thousands of people have been locked up, and countless innocent patients have died due all due to the criminalization of one simple plant.
To drop some wisdom from Lester Freamon of HBOs The Wire:
“You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money, and you don’t know where the f*ck it’s gonna take you.”
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