Anti-Marijuana Academics Paid By Big Pharma

By McCarton Ackerman 09/09/14

Pharmaceutical companies have lined the pockets of so-called experts to spread disinformation about weed.

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In a clear conflict of interest, a new report from VICE has revealed that several academic researchers who have spoken out against legalizing marijuana are being paid by pharmaceutical companies that make painkiller products.

Dr. Herbet Kleber of Columbia University, who has written anti-pot articles for CBS News and has been quoted in several academic publications, has been serving as a paid consultant to prescription drug companies including Alkermes and Purdue Pharma, the latter of which is the maker of Oxycontin. Dr. A. Eden Evins, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has worked as a consultant for Pfizer and DLA piper since November 2012, and has received grant support from the former.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mark L. Kraus, who gave testimony in 2012 opposing a medical marijuana law in Connecticut, served on the scientific advisory panel the year before for painkiller companies including Pfizer and Reckitt Benckiser. The relationships these three medical professionals had with pharmaceutical companies are particularly noteworthy in light of several recent studies which have found that pot can be an effective substitute for painkillers when it comes to pain relief.

There has long been speculation that anti-pot advocacy groups have been funded by painkiller companies, but painkillers have now proven to be more fatal than heroin and cocaine combined with 16,000 overdose deaths per year. Meanwhile, there have been no known overdose deaths from marijuana that hasn't been laced with other substances.

Last month, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center found that states which have legalized medical marijuana had on average 1,700 fewer deaths per year from prescription drugs than states which did not legalize medical pot. The study didn’t attempt to explain the correlation, but called for further research into marijuana-based medications.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.