• by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel September 24, 2016

    C1_8734_r_xThose of us involved in the marijuana legalization movement have long assumed that those companies that produce and sell competing products — especially alcohol and tobacco — were working behind the scenes to try to maintain marijuana prohibition and to protect their duopoly for legal recreational drugs. These industries have lobbyists who regularly work with state and federal elected officials to keep legal marijuana off the market.

    But we now see the pharmaceutical companies are also getting directly involved in political efforts to maintain marijuana prohibition, worried that legal marijuana will undermine their bottom line.

    Pharmaceutical company joins the war on marijuana smokers.

    Recently, we saw the first direct evidence that pharmaceutical companies are now working to defeat marijuana legalization efforts, acknowledging that their intent is to protect their market in synthetic opioid drugs.

    Earlier this month, Insys Therapeutics Inc., an Arizona-based company, donated $500,000 to a group calling itself Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, a newly formed organization established to try to defeat Proposition 205, the marijuana legalization voter initiative that will appear on the ballot this November in that state.

    Insys currently markets just one product, Subsys, a sublingual fentanyl spray, a synthetic opioid far more potent than heroin (fentanyl is the drug found in Prince’s system following his death in April). “Insys Therapeutics made $62 million in net revenue on Subsys fentanyl sales in the first quarter of this year, representing 100 percent of the company’s earnings,” according to The Washington Post. “The CDC has implicated the drug in a ‘surge’ of overdose deaths in several states in recent years.”

    Survey data compiled from medical marijuana patients show that subjects often reduce their use of prescription drug therapies — particularly opioids — when they have legal access to cannabis. According to a 2015 RAND Corp. study, opiate-related abuse and mortality is lower in jurisdictions that permit medical cannabis access, compared to those that outlaw the plant.

    Insys has come under scrutiny of law enforcement. According to The Washington Post, a number of states are currently investigating Insys for illegally paying physicians to prescribe their drug in situations in which it was inappropriate. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming the company’s “desire for increased profits led it to disregard patients’ health and pushed addictive opioids for non-FDA approved purposes.”

    The smoking gun.

    When the company first made its half-million dollar contribution to the group opposing the Arizona legalization initiative — the largest single contribution to the group by a factor of four — the company claimed that its reason for opposing the voter initiative was “because it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens and particularly its children.”

    But when the company filed a legally required disclosure statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it acknowledged to shareholders that it was making the donation because it feared a decline in the sales of its powerful opioid product and that of a second drug it is developing: Dranabinol, a synthetic cannabinoid. Synthetic cannibinoid is a blanket term for an artificial version of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the active compound in the marijuana plant — intended to alleviate chemotherapy-caused nausea and vomiting. The company concedes that the scientific literature has confirmed the benefits of natural marijuana over synthetic THC:

    “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 Arizona Republic reported that the company, while publicly claiming to have kids’ best interests in mind, is clearly more concerned with ways to “protect its own bottom line.”

    And the company has good reason for that fear. Recently published studies have found that states that provide for the legal use of medical marijuana had a 25 percent decline in opioid prescriptions. Another recent study from Columbia University found the implementation of medical marijuana programs is associated with a decrease in the prevalence of opioids detected among fatally injured drivers, based on a review of 69,000 fatalities in 18 states, according to data published in the American Journal of Public Health. Where legal marijuana is available, people use far fewer opioid drugs.

    So we now have direct evidence that this pharmaceutical company in Arizona is spending large amounts of money to avoid having to compete with legal marijuana, in order to protect its market share for an addictive and dangerous synthetic opioid and a synthetic form of THC, at the expense of public health.

    This is not the first instance of pharmaceutical companies pouring money into the “war on drugs.” In 2014, The Nation published an article revealing that the makers of Oxycontin and Vicodin were two of the largest contributors to The Partnership for Drug Free Kids and the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, two groups that oppose marijuana legalization and support continued prohibition.

    Insys will certainly not be the last pharmaceutical company caught putting company profits ahead of concern for public health, but it is the first instance we have seen where a company was caught with its hands in the cookie jar, opposing a marijuana legalization initiative purely for reasons of corporate greed.

    Tobacco and alcohol companies have long opposed legal marijuana.

    It is understandable that recreational and pharmaceutical industries would not wish to compete with legal marijuana. By any measure, their products are far more dangerous and far more addictive.

    Overdose Deaths.

    For comparison purposes, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, excessive alcohol use results in approximately 88,000 deaths per year in this country. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco smoking results in more than 480,000 deaths each year in this country, about 1,300 people each day.

    A 2014 study by Johns Hopkins University found that states that legalized medical marijuana saw a 25 percent decline in overdose deaths from prescription drugs.

    Marijuana has never caused an overdose death in the history of mankind. According to a recent report from the World Health Organization, one would have to smoke “between 238 and 1,113 joints a day – or at least 10 joints an hour, for 24 hours straight – before overdose would become a realistic concern” for marijuana.

    Addictive potential.

    While one can develop a dependence on marijuana smoking, the threat of dependence with marijuana is far less than with either alcohol or tobacco. Here is what the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine concluded in regard to cannabis’ potential dependence liability, in the context of other controlled substances:

    “In summary, although few marijuana users develop dependence, some do. But they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana drug dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs.”

    Here are their dependence ratings:

    Tobacco: 32 percent (proportion of users who ever become dependent)
    Heroin: 23 percent
    Cocaine: 17 percent
    Alcohol: 15 percent
    Anxiolytics/sedatives: 9 percent
    Marijuana/hashish: 9 percent

    So if one is electing to use a recreational drug, marijuana is clearly the safest alternative. And if one is using an opioid drug for pain, they should experiment with marijuana as a substitute for the more dangerous and addictive opioids. For many, it is an effective and far less dangerous alternative.


    Keith Stroup is a Washington, D.C. public-interest attorney who founded NORML in 1970.

    This column was first published in ATTN.com.



  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator August 5, 2015

    NORML Nation Membership Drive Logo Launch
    The NORML Nation Membership Drive went live this morning, and will run until August 12th!

    Click HERE to go the the NORML Nation Membership Drive page, where you can join the NORML Nation and fight for legalization in 2016!

    NORML has big things planned for the 2016 election season, and we need more grassroots volunteers to help us fight for cannabis legalization!

    We’re working with multiple partners in the cannabis industry to build NORML’s ranks. The goal of this membership drive is to add 1,000 new members to NORML! We’re offering three ways to participate:

    NORML Nation Membership Tiers 1

    If you’re already NORML Chapter Leader or Member, you can earn money for your local NORML Chapter through the NORML Nation Chapter Contest! The top three chapters with the most referrals to the NORML Nation will earn $1,000, $500, and $250!

    Thank you in advance for helping us make this a successful membership drive. You can help us reach our goal by encouraging others to become members of NORML and to donate to our work. You can also join the NORML Nation Membership Drive Facebook event, and invite your friends!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator July 29, 2015

    UPDATE: Join the NORML Nation HERE!

    Hello NORML Supporters!

    NORML has big things planned for the 2016 election season, and we need more grassroots volunteers to help us fight for cannabis legalization!

    That’s why we’re announcing the NORML Nation Membership Drive, taking place from August 5th to August 12th!

    We’re working with multiple partners in the cannabis industry to build NORML’s ranks. The goal of this membership drive is to add 1,000 new members to NORML! We’re offering three ways to participate:

    $25 Donor Package

    • Green “I Leaf NORML” Shirt (New design!)
    • Merchandise from Hemp Wick, Weed Maps, Mass Roots, and more!


    $50 Supporter Package

    • Limited Edition NORML NationLE Shirt Preview Shirt (Only available in this drive!)
    • Complimentary issue of Freedom Leaf Magazine
    • Everything in the Donor Package


    $100 Advocate Package

    • 30% off 1 month of 420 Goody Box
    • Weed Maps T-shirt (For the first 250 Advocate members)
    • Free Vape Pen from Spliffin with Cartridge Purchase
    • Buy 1 Get 1 Half Off 8th from Preferred Organic Therapy
    • Everything in the Donor and Supporter Packages


    In addition to all of the cool merchandise you will get with becoming a member of the NORML Nation, we are also going to help all new members get connected with their local NORML chapters! The best part about being a NORML member is getting involved in your local area to push for marijuana law reform. We’re also holding a contest for our local chapters, by offering monetary grants to the chapters that refer the most people to National NORML!

    The NORML Nation Membership Drive starts next Wednesday, August 5th and goes for a week, until August 12th. The 2016 election season is right around the corner, so this is the perfect time to get involved with cannabis legalization and support NORML!

    Stay tuned for more updates about the NORML Nation Membership Drive!

    UPDATE: Join the NORML Nation HERE!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator July 24, 2015

    SpliffinAnother one of our great NORML Business Network Partners is Spliffin!

    Spliffin manufacturers solvent-free concentrates and vaporizers. Spliffin products are engineered for discretion, convenience, and dependability. They provide consumers with a safe and clean alternative to smoking. Spliffin uses only locally grown California varieties of cannabis that are free of pesticides and herbicides. Spliffin concentrates are produced through a state-of-the-art manufacturing process that extracts and condenses marijuana’s psychoactive and medicinally active elements into a concentrated form.

    Beyond quality, sophistication, and exceptional craftsmanship, Spliffin is building community and cultivating a lifestyle movement. Spliffin is also a founding member of the NORML Business Network and a financial supporter of NORML’s legalization efforts!

    Check out Spliffin.com for amazing vape products and to help support the NORML Business Network!

    DISCLOSURE: This post is provided as a service of the NORML Business Network,  which works to create mutually beneficial partnerships with marijuana-related businesses that seek to use their enterprise as a positive example of corporate social responsibility. Spliffin is a proud member of the NORML Business Network. To learn more about our Network partners, or to become a member, please visit here.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator July 21, 2015

    The Associated Press recently highlighted public and industry 420 Food Safety Logoconcerns regarding the use of herbicides and pesticides in the commercial cannabis operations.

    Understandably, many commercial growers, producers, and wholesalers have numerous questions about good agricultural practices, food safety, and quality management systems.

    420 Food Safety, a NORML Business Network Partner, assists cannabis businesses with those important questions!

    420 Food Safety’s President and CEO is a certified Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) auditor through the American Society for Quality (ASQ) with extensive experience in food safety and quality management. 420 Food Safety helps companies make food safety and quality systems work from seed to sale.

    420 Food Safety offers:

    • Consulting in safety and quality management from seed to sale
    • Training on safety and quality management systems
    • Help with HACCP MJ Planning and practice
    • Help with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Planning

    Right now, 420 Food Safety is promoting their “Food Safety Helpdesk”.  For just $50, an organization can get 30 minutes of top-grade consulting on quality and safety management systems for their business!

    To learn more about 420 Food Safety and their great services, visit their website! 420FoodSafety.com

    DISCLOSURE: This post is provided as a service of the NORML Business Network, which works to create mutually beneficial partnerships with marijuana-related businesses that seek to use their enterprise as a positive example of corporate social responsibility. 420 Food Safety is a proud member of the NORML Business Network. To learn more about our Network partners, or to become a member, please visit here.


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