This anti-weed member of the Kennedy family cashes in on opioid-addiction
His opposition to medical cannabis might have to do with his financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.
Former Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy, a prominent voice in addiction treatment advocacy, has made more than $1 million from salaries and equity in companies looking to cash in on the Trump administration’s budget for addressing the opioid crisis.
While the former Rhode Island congressman and member of the Kennedy family hung up his post as a congressman in 2011, he’s remained a politically prominent figure and even served on President Trump’s opioid commission. Along with Kennedy on the commission were Governors Chris Christie, Charlie Baker, and Roy Cooper, along with Professor Bertha Madras and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Despite evidence and widespread support for marijuana to be considered as a tool to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, those on the commission’s opinions about marijuana legalization span from apprehension to outright opposition.
In Kennedy’s case, his opposition to marijuana may have to do with his financial ties to companies that could see a dip in profits should marijuana be embraced as an alternative treatment for opioid use disorders.
Kennedy, for example, held a position as the CEO of the Kennedy Forum, a non-profit meant to support behavioral health initiatives (including combating addiction), which receives funding from major drug manufacturers and addiction-treatment businesses. But the type of addiction treatment that the Kennedy Forum supports are known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which doesn’t include marijuana.
Medication-assisted treatments include drugs like Suboxone and methadone, which are widely used and supported in the medical community, but also highly criticized by many experts. Research has shown these drugs to be effective in helping those with opioid use disorders get off of, and stay off of, opioids like heroin. However, they’re also opioids themselves, and often shackle patients to clinics for many years where these drugs are dispensed, which require patients to return frequently and at inconvenient hours of the day.
Between 2014 and 2016, according to Politico, Kennedy received over $1.1 million in payments from the Kennedy Forum, which specifically bolsters medication-assisted treatments.
He’s also on the boards of eight corporations—from which he earns director fees and holds equity—that are seeking to profit from the Trump administration’s opioid crisis response budget. This doesn’t include any provisions for cannabis. Many of these companies are invested in medication-assisted treatments and drugs for opioid use disorders.
These companies include CleanSlate Centers, Axial Healthcare, Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, and InteraXon.
Kennedy, who profits from the government’s spending on these drugs and programs, has pushed his lawmaking colleagues to allocate more money for these types of addiction and mental health programs.
While Kennedy personally benefits from this spending, his efforts have also benefited many seeking certain medication-assisted treatments for addiction and mental health issues. Kennedy had a meeting with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, this past November, for example, and successfully convinced him to support legislation that requires insurers to cover healthcare costs related to mental illnesses and addiction.
However, those who prefer to use marijuana as a treatment for opioid use disorders will not see any benefit from Kennedy’s advocacy.
“Do you agree with the proposition that exposing more of our youth to this damaging new chemical, THC, that is higher potency than it’s ever been and is coming in more strains and forms and foods and drinks and everything else—do you think that’s a smart thing for our country’s future?” Said Kennedy to USA Today’s North Jersey website. “If we’ve learned anything from Purdue Pharma it’s that when there’s money at stake to market an addictive product they’re going to keep marketing until they can market no more.” Said Kennedy in his argument against supporting “Big Marijuana.”
Companies like Janssen, a pharmaceutical company that is currently being sued alongside Purdue Pharma for their role in proliferating the opioid crisis, has admitted to donating small amounts of money to the Kennedy Forum.