The last ten years has seen a major shift in how America views pot. A recent poll showed 58% of the country supports legalized marijuana, up from just 34% a decade ago. But even with the surge in public support, federal legislation to reschedule or decriminalize marijuana is still nowhere on the horizon. And that is mostly due to the handful of corporate interests who fear that legal pot will lead to less revenue for themselves and their clients.
The three states with legalized marijuana sales are on currently track to sell more than $1.8 billion in product this year, generating more than $650 million in state taxes.
While that might be attractive to local politicians as a way to fund flagging school systems and public services, the marijuana industry still can't afford to buy influence inside the beltway like their competition.
Number one on the list of corporate entities spending big to keep marijuana as illegal as possible is the pharmaceutical industry. They have spent decades fighting against research at the academic level that validates marijuana as a plant with medicinal value, while pressuring members of the various branches of the government with the threat of withholding campaign funding.
Last year, the pharmaceutical company Insys spent $500,000 to stop Arizona's recreational cannabis measure. They argued that pot businesses would be bad for public health and endanger children. Less than five months after defeating the legalization effort, they announced to shareholders that the DEA had given them approval to launch Syndros, a synthetic cannabinoid made from a liquid form of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a key chemical compound in marijuana.
Insys also happens to manufacture fentanyl, a painkiller that is 50 times stronger than heroin and is driving the national opioid crisis. Six former Insys executives were recently arrested for bribing doctors to prescribe fentanyl to patients who didn’t need it.
Meanwhile over the last decade, big pharma has joined with police unions, private prison firms, and alcohol manufacturers to spend tens of millions of dollars every year to ensure that taxpayer dollars continue to flow to the never ending "war on drugs."
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently recommitted to his public stance regarding potential legalization.
"I've never felt that we should legalize marijuana. It doesn't strike me that the country would be better if it's being sold on every street corner. We do know that legalization results in greater use. Federal law remains in effect."