As with every pending change in the American legislative world, any shifts to the status quo will bring out those who are for and against an issue, including the lobbying dollars of high-profile companies and individuals. In the case of legalizing cannabis, which is presently moving to ballot boxes across America, as more and more supporters of cannabis legalization step forward so too do those in opposition.
In the last several months, numerous special interest groups – those that have a financial stake in seeing cannabis remain illegal – have gone public with their efforts. In a report released earlier this year by The Nation, several pharmaceutical companies, political elites and police organizations were named in opposition to legalization efforts.
Most notable was the White House response to The New York Times calling for legalization, and then there was the public Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America event in early 2014 where former Congressman Patrick Kennedy declared, “There is nothing more inconsistent with trying to improve mental health and reduce substance-abuse disorders in this country than to legalize a third drug.” Kennedy, however, has had several drug battles of his own over the years, including an addiction to painkillers such as OxyContin, whose maker Purdue Pharma, is also publicly against cannabis legalization.
As a matter of fact, it appears that several of those in opposition to legalization, including academics, are actually on the payroll of opioid manufacturers, including the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
Critics have even suggested that CADCA and similar organizations have taken very hypocritical approaches to fighting the War On Drugs. For example, prescription-drug abuse, which kills many more people than heroin and cocaine combined each year, is merely bandaged with more educational programs. Whereas cannabis, which has never been cited as the source of an overdose, is being lobbied against by CADCA including efforts to increase police power.
This “increase” in power is what many believe is the main culprit behind the number of drug arrests there are in the U.S., and a leading cause of differences in racial and minority incarceration rates. For example, minorities are arrested in California at four to 12 times the rate of whites. In 2010 alone, in excess of 850,000 people in America were arrested for cannabis-related crimes, comprising more than half (52 percent) of all drug arrests in the country.
To add to the monetary and lobbying dollars being spent on anti-legalization efforts, police unions, who make a lot of their money from anti-drug efforts, have joined the fight. Local police departments around the country have become so dependent on federal dollars to curb drug usage in the U.S. – including cannabis – that their unions have even lobbied to have harsher penalties for cannabis-related crimes.
No matter where one falls on the political scale or the fight for or against cannabis legalization, it is clear that the potential changes to legislation have stirred the pot. In the coming months and years, it is safe to assume that other deep-pocketed companies and individuals will throw their money and voice behind one side of the argument or the other. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top.