August 22, 2018

Big Pharma vs. Recreational Cannabis

August 22, 2018
The cannabis industry struggles with Big Pharma.

By Heather Ritchie

For the last several years, the pharmaceutical industry has fought against the legalization of cannabis. Many may think the federal government is the number one enemy, but big pharma may supersede or at least reign near the top of the list of organizations, government officials, and people campaigning against the legalization of cannabis.

The problem with the drug industry is that they don’t disagree with the overwhelming amount of research that illustrates cannabis’s healing powers. They want to bottle the secret cure and sell it. Legalizing recreational cannabis gets the medicine to the people first without involving pricey insurance and even pricier medicine.

Notable scientists and researchers are discovering proof that cannabis is unique to any other plants because of the number of therapeutic benefits that its many cannabinoids have. Its known to inhibit cancerous tumor growth and treats anxiety, PTSD, nausea, and many other conditions and symptoms.

The Arizona Campaign

In 2016, an Arizona-based company, Insys Therapeutics donated $500,000 to the group opposing the recreational cannabis initiative in Arizona. Apparently, it’s the most significant individual donation ever made in the history of anti-cannabis legalization campaigns. Insys manufactures the fentanyl-based painkiller spray, Subsys that’s highly addictive and approved for use with cancer patients.

Just before voting for Proposition 205 began, advertisements played on television describing the troubles that the legalization of recreational cannabis would bring to Arizona residents and their children. They painted the picture that Colorado’s legalization of cannabis brought danger to children in the form of cannabis edibles that resembled candy too much.

The campaign against legalizing recreational cannabis claimed that the herb was a danger to children and a public health problem. It successfully stopped the recreational cannabis initiative.

FDA-Approved Synthetic Cannabinoids

In reality, they’re just eliminating the competition so that they can market their products made from synthetic cannabis compounds on the medical side. This theory was proven when the DEA approved Insys to develop synthetic cannabis medicines and launch their cannabinoid Syndros. Syndros treats aid patients with loss of appetite and nausea in cancer patients. It’s the first liquid Dronabinol that’s FDA-approved.

Major pharmaceutical providers are a concern for the recreational supporters who hope to make cannabis available to everyone. Once it’s manufactured by big pharma, the expense of these products will increase exponentially, and everyday citizens won’t be able to afford the medicine that many desperately need. Small businesses can’t afford a battle with the pharmaceutical industry.

Cannabis legalization is sweeping the nation, leaving Arizona as the only state that rejected legalization. Big Pharma’s campaign to squash cannabis initiatives seems hypocritical and downright unethical considering the products that they are pushing. Especially since research is proving that cannabis is a less expensive and safer alternative medicine with proven therapeutic benefits.


Cannabis activists are angry that Insys so vehemently argued against recreational legalization only to turn around and market the same treatments that they deemed dangerous to children and public health. They also actively play a part in the opioid crisis further pushing their products like Fentanyl. Apparently, they care more about making money than helping people with safe and viable treatments.

Mason Tvert, of the Marijuana Policy Project, was quoted as saying, “It’s pretty absurd that federal law considers marijuana to have no medical value, but allows for the development of the synthetic versions of the same substance.”

Cannabis businesses continue to struggle with laws that are contradictory, banking issues, struggles with law enforcement, and many other problems. Many hope that since the recreational cannabis market is so large that it will remain separate from Big Pharma in general. However, aggressive campaigns like the one in Arizona illustrate that this may not be the case and that there could be major skirmishes between the two markets in the future.


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