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Surprised?: Anti-Marijuana Experts Are Being Paid By Big Pharma

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As more unbiased journalism comes to the forefront, the eyes of Americans are bound to be opened to the harsh truths of how our government functions, how corporations function and how very important individuals live their lives. The hard-working people at VICE have been at the forefront of this type of journalism and in one of their reports, they found enough information to claim what most marijuana proponents have known for years and that is that a majority of anti-mariuana “academics” are being paid for their services by major pharmaceutical companies. Specifically, VICE found that many of the researchers have been on the payroll of leading pharmaceutical firms with products that could be easily replaced by using marijuana.

The VICE article was originally published last year and points to how anti-pot groups and organizations turn to certain “academic researchers to claim that policymakers should avoid relaxing restrictions around marijuana…Just as drug company-funded research has become incredibly controversial in recent years, forcing major medical schools and journals to institute strict disclosure requirements, could there be a conflict of interest issue in the pot debate?”

One example in the article is Dr. Herbert Kleber of Columbia University. Kleber has been quoted in the press and in academic publications warning against the use of marijuana. What most don’t know is that Kleber has served as a paid consultant to leading prescription drug companies, including Purdue Pharma (the maker of OxyContin), Reckitt Benckiser (the producer of a painkiller called Nurofen), and Alkermes (the producer of a powerful new opioid called Zohydro). So is Kleber’s financial relationship with drug firms a conflict of interest? The opioid painkiller industry is a multibillion business that also causes about 16,000 deaths a year, while there is no scientific proof that anybody has overdosed from cannabis.

Other possible examples of this conflict of interest include Dr. A. Eden Evins, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She’s on the board of anti-marijuana advocacy group Project SAM. When she participated in a commentary on marijuana legalization for the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, it was found that as of November 2012, she was a “consultant for Pfizer and DLA Piper and has received grant/research support from Envivo, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer.”

Dr. Mark L. Kraus runs a private practice and is a board member to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. In 2012, he submitted testimony in opposition to a medical marijuana law in Connecticut. According to financial disclosures, just a year before his anti-pot activism began, Kraus served on the scientific advisory panel for painkiller companies Pfizer and Reckitt Benckiser.

Individual academics aren’t the only ones. According to VICE writer Lee Fang, “many of the largest anti-pot advocacy groups, including the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions for America, has relied on significant funding from painkiller companies, including Purdue Pharma and Alkermes. Pharmaceutical-funded anti-drug groups like the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and CADCA use their budget to obsess over weed while paying lip-service to the much bigger drug problem in America of over-prescribed opioids.”

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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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