The federal government does support the marijuana industry, just not the one you think.
The East Bay Express is reporting this week that the DEA has been quietly giving out licenses for large-scale marijuana growing operations to a number of unnamed companies. But these actions have nothing to do with the real medical marijuana industry, which is still a favorite target for DEA persecution; instead they are designed to enable a total coup by the pharmaceutical industry. Until now, the belief was that there was only one DEA licensed and operated marijuana farm which existed mainly to provide research material. However, in a letter to the East Bay Express, the DEA revealed that â€œthere are 64 active DEA registrations (reflecting 55 companies) for manufacturers that have listed drug code 7370 (THC, Delta-8 THC, Delta-9 THC, dronabinol and others) and drug code 7371 (TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL, ORGANIC) on their DEA record.â€ In other words, 55 companies have active licenses for producing organic THC; which means growing marijuana.
Whether these companies have already began growing marijuana or not is irrelevant; the mere fact that the DEA can hand out growing licenses while continuing to raid state-approved growers and dispensaries is a testament to the governmentâ€™s unlimited capacity for hypocrisy. It is also a sign of how the pharmaceutical industry has co-opted the DEA and the FDA, turning government agencies into its lackeys. Even as the Department of Justice intensifies its attacks on legitimate medical marijuana, the pharmaceutical industry demands to be given a way to profit from cannabis. Now that the patent for the (reportedly mediocre) THC pill Marinol has expired and GW Pharmaceuticalsâ€™ Sativex, a cannabis-based oral spray, is on track for U.S. approval, pharmaceutical companies are getting ready to cash in, and they are using the government to keep the competition at bay.
With the rapidly growing list of medical conditions treatable with marijuana making the plantâ€™s medicinal properties almost impossible to deny (unless you are the DEA of course) the pharmaceutical industry figured it needed to get in on the action. This presented a conundrum: to make halfway decent pills, organic cannabinoids are needed, and for that marijuana would have to be federally rescheduled. However, if that happened, how could the drug companies maintain a ruthless monopoly on this plant? The result is a plan so devoid of logic or consistency it would get laughed out of Wonderland: to expand the less restrictive Schedule III category of drugs so that that it can include what the DEA calls â€œnaturally derived or synthetically produced dronabinol.â€ Dronabinol is Marinol, which is synthetic THC.
Thus under this system a marijuana plant is illegal, but commercial organic THC is officially just a dronabinol analogue. Never mind that both are the same thing, and that such â€œdronabinol analoguesâ€ can be gathered from the still illegal marijuana plant; the alchemy of Big Pharma turns the illegal into business gold. Ironically enough, actual synthetic marijuana that the industry doesnâ€™t have much of a use for, such as the JWH-018 or JWH-073 used in herbal blends like Spice or K2, has been aggressively pursued and banned by the DEA. There really is no overstating the depth of lunacy required for this to make sense to anyone; luckily for the pharmaceutical industry, our government can always be counted on to toss sanity out the window for the right price.
The Pharmaceutical lobby is the biggest lobby in America, spending over 240 million dollars in 2010 alone. With that kind of money going towards supporting politicians on both sides of the aisle, the industry has reached the point where it can get government agencies to carry water for it in even the most outrageous of situations. Only last year, GlaxoSmithKline used the FDA to keep a diabetes drug, Avandia, on the market despite a Senate committee report showing that not only was it dangerous, but that GSX knew this and had colluded with the FDA to hide it. Even the revelation that a member of the FDA advisory panel making the decision was a paid speaker for GSX failed to have any effect.
The government has also been proactive in its service to the pharmaceutical industry, most recently laying the groundwork for a federal center for drug research: The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The center will be operated under the National Institutes of Health, an agency with a history of conflict of interest issues, whose head recently resigned to join the board of directors at a pharmaceutical company. Drugs developed by this institution will be turned over to private drug companies, effectively turning it into a taxpayer funded R&D arm for the pharmaceutical Industry.
Given this very special relationship, is it any wonder that the government is willing to bend over backwards to take medical marijuana away from patients and hand it over to the drug companies wholesale? The key to winning this battle is the growth of the legitimate medical marijuana industry made up of dispensaries, doctors, growers, etc. As more states, businesses and patients put their weight and wealth on the side of real medical marijuana, they are building a wall to keep out the big drug companies. Economic and political power can stall the government and give the issue more time to mature into a powerful civil rights movement that will ultimately win the day in court.
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