Fentanyl Spray Maker Contributes $500,000 Towards Anti-Pot Legalization Campaign

By Paul Gaita 09/12/16

One pro-pot advocate says that the company appears to be trying to “kill a non-pharmaceutical market for marijuana in order to line their own pockets.”

Fentanyl Spray Maker Contributes $500,000 Towards Anti-Pot Legalization Campaign
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A pharmaceutical company that manufactures a form of the painkiller fentanyl has made a sizable contribution to a campaign group that opposes a marijuana legalization initiative in Arizona.

Insys Therapeutics, a company based in Chandler, Arizona that makes a sublingual fentanyl spray called Subsys, donated $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, according to campaign finance reports. The group opposes Proposition 205, a measure on the Arizona ballot that seeks to legalize marijuana for recreational and retail use.

The donation from Insys constitutes more than one-third of all funds raised by the group, according to the Washington Post, and is one of the largest contributions ever made to a campaign opposing legalization efforts.

Advocates for legalization decried the contribution, citing a host of legal issues shrouding Insys and its marketing and sales of Subsys. The company is currently facing investigations on both the state and federal level for improperly marketing the drug to medical professionals in an attempt to boost sales. More significantly, the company has also developed Syndros, a synthetic version of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, which was approved by the FDA in July 2016 to treat AIDS and cancer patients. 

“[Our opponents] are now funding their campaign with profits from the sale of opioids—and maybe even the improper sale of opioids,” said J.P. Holyoak, chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which supports Proposition 205 and has called for their opponents to return the contribution. “We hope that every Arizonan understands that Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy is now a complete misnomer. Their entire campaign is tainted by this money. Any time an ad airs against Proposition 205, the voters should know that it was paid for by highly suspect Big Pharma actors.”

In regard to Insys, Holyoak also said, “It appears they are trying to kill a non-pharmaceutical market for marijuana in order to line their own pockets.”

In an emailed statement, Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy campaign manager Adam Deguire said, “We are grateful that Insys Therapeutics—an Arizona-based company—has chosen to join Governor [Doug] Ducey, the Arizona Association of County School Superintendents, the Arizona Small Business Association … the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and several other community organizations in defeating Proposition 205 in November.”

While the contribution is a victory for the opposition, which until August was struggling to keep up with funding for Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s efforts, the initiative itself remains a contest for either side to claim. A recent poll found that 50% of Arizona voters favor the measure, while 40% are opposed and 10% remain undecided. 

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.