Tuesday, September 13, 2016

UPDATED WITH RESULTS: Hypocrisy About Marijuana - Arizona Edition

UPDATE NOVEMBER 12, 2016: Voters in Arizona rejected Prop 205 by 52-48% margin. Although legalization or medicinal use ballot measures passed in four other states, Arizona did not follow the legalization trend.

ORIGINAL POST: The lede from The Intercept story by Lee Fang tells the story:
Pharmaceutical executives who recently made a major donation to an anti-marijuana legalization campaign claimed they were doing so out of concern for the safety of children — but their investor filings reveal that pot poses a direct threat to their plans to cash in on a synthetic cannabis product they have developed.
Arizona has Prop 205 on the November ballot to legalize possession and consumption of marijuana for those 21 years of age and older. Polling done on August 6, 2016 showed approval of the measure up 10%. With this polling in the public domain, on August 31, 2016 the pharmaceutical company Insys gave $500,000 to a group called "Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy" which opposes approval of Prop 205. By so doing Insys became their single largest contributor.

Not coincidentally, Insys manufactures the Subsys, a delivery system for the drug fentanyl, marketed to physicians as cancer pain reliever. Fentanyl is an synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Fentanyl is the painkiller on which Prince overdosed.

All of this information has been widely reported.

The story The Intercept and Lee Fang broke is more interesting. It turns out Insys has another product in their developmental pipeline:
Insys is currently developing a product called the Dronabinol Oral Solution, a drug that uses a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to alleviate chemotherapy-caused nausea and vomiting. In an early filing related to the dronabinol drug, assessing market concerns and competition, Insys filed a disclosure statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission stating plainly that legal marijuana is a direct threat to their product line:  
'Legalization of marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids in the United States could significantly limit the commercial success of any dronabinol product candidate. … If marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids were legalized in the United States, the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.'
The truth is Insys wants to defeat Prop 205 for competitive reasons. The whole charade is rich with dark irony. Big Pharma is now funding anti-marijuana campaigns to market competing drugs with the same active ingredient in marijuana - THC, or in fentayl's case, opium. What Big Pharma wants is to continue a virtual monopoly, charging prices with impunity rather than compete in a regulated market. This lays bare the fallacy that marijuana is somehow more dangerous than widely prescribed drugs.

In Texas, as I have written before, here, here and here, arrest and criminal prosecution of possession of a small amount of marijuana can result in life altering consequences. De-criminalization, or simply using laws currently on the Texas books, could change this. Big Pharama recognizes the challenge to this emerging market and is overtly challenging de-criminalization for money reasons, not public health reasons.

Are you paying attention Texas?

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