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Wealthy Anti-Pot Donors Set Sights on Marijuana Initiatives


Insys Therapeutics, an Arizona-based pharmaceutical company, donated $500,000 to fight the state’s cannabis legalization ballot initiative, Prop 205, on Sept. 9. The company makes both opioid and synthetic-cannabinoid medications, making it no surprise that it would feel threatened by wider access to marijuana.

The pharma company manufactures Subsys, a fentanyl sublingual spray that the company Subsys a fentanyl spray the company derives most of its revenue from. Fentanyl is one of the most potent and addictive opioids on the market. Prosecutors alleged that Insys improperly marketed the medicine to doctors, developing a kickback scheme to pay doctors for prescribing the drug.

Perhaps in an effort to stave off lost revenues as the opioid crisis gains wider recognition, Insys has entered the faux marijuana drug market with Syndros, a synthetic cannabinoid in liquid form, which was approved by the FDA in July. They’re also currently developing a CBD product to treat pediatric epilepsy.

In a filing with the SEC, the company stated: “Legalization of marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids in the United States could significantly limit the commercial success of any dronabinol [synthetic marijuana] product candidate.”

The company goes on to explain that if cannabis were legalized, “Our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.”

It’s no wonder then that Insys would make the single largest donation to No on 205 in Arizona. Another $1.4 million has been raised by Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy in Opposition to Prop 205.But supporters of legalization have so far out-raised their opponents (to the tune of $3 million), with the Marijuana Policy Project contributing nearly $779,000 to the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

The same goes for California’s Proposition 64, which would create the world’s largest legal cannabis market if passed by voters on Nov. 8. Also on Sept. 9, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM)—the largest contributor to No on Prop 64—received $1.3 million from Pennsylvania retiree Julie Schauer. SAM has so far donated $64,000 to fight the legalization initiative. California Teamsters and law enforcement have also donated to No on Prop 64 to No on Prop. 64. But minus Schauer’s money, No on Prop 64 has raised less than $230,000 so far. In contrast, supporters of cannabis legalization have more than $11 million in the coffers, with over $2.5 million coming from Napster founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker.

In Florida, businessman Mel Sembler has donated $1 million to fight Amendment 2, the state’s medical cannabis initiative. Carol Jenkins Barnett, an heiress to supermarket chain Publix, gave $800,000 to Drug Free Florida.

Interestingly, on Sept. 12, the fight for legal cannabis in Massachusetts earned a surprising supporter: cousin of former president George W. Bush, Jonathan Bush, who contributed $10,000 to the Yes on Question 4 campaign. “He believes this is one of many freedoms Americans should have the right to,” a Bush spokesperson said.



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