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Weed Pusher; Pill Pusher

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"They sell drugs in the hood but the man he move the medicine/He'll prescribe you Augmen for everything." The Roots, "Rising Down"

With rapidly expanding recreational cannabis programs here and abroad, it's surprising when cannabis growers, dispensaries or brands are equated with "drug pushers." People who do this have never been a part of any sort of weed deal, because no one ever wanted to get high with them.

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They're often the same people who oppose expanded access of lab-tested cannabis products until we "do more research to uncover the potential hidden dangers that cannabis surely possesses," while at the same time not supporting research funding, or changes that would allow researchers to use something other than the uber-schwag, University of Mississippi "cannabis" that federally funded researchers are required to use. Uncle Sam got the weak sack hookup!

The goal of the recreational cannabis industry is to develop and grow markets for legal sale of a wide range of cannabis (and hemp) products. Most companies value the goals of wellness and other non-economic benefits, but sales is the main driver, as it is in any capitalistic undertaking. As cannabis becomes increasingly commodified, the "pusher" moniker seems outdated. Unlike, say, pharmaceuticals.

Recent coverage of one of the largest true drug pushers in the world gives rare and sickening insight into how their products are promoted and sold. It's nationally available, with access to benefits and capital that cannabis is barred from, due to cannabis' Schedule 1 classification. They are Purdue Pharma, and their product is OxyContin.

The New York Times did a fascinating must-read piece in January on the new court filing by the Massachusetts Attorney General against Purdue and eight of its owners, all members of the Sackler family. The lawsuit is separate from an additional 1,500 filed by various governments.

The Sacklers are one of the wealthiest families in the U.S. Their name is attached to numerous hospitals, universities and museums—with most of their staggering wealth (estimated in 2016 to be $13 billion) derived from the sale of the opioid OxyContin, which they brought to market in 1996, racking up over $1 billion a year in sales. When the Food and Drug Administration approved it, they permitted Pharma to promote the idea that "the opioid's...formulation was 'believed to reduce' its appeal to drug abusers compared with traditional painkillers. "

Oxy kicked off the opioid crisis, which in 2016 killed 72,000 Americans. Purdue pushed its sales team to urge physicians to prescribe the highest-possible dose, so as to maximize profit, and to tell doctors that "OxyContin couldn't be abused, and had an addiction risk for patients of "less than 1 percent," a claim that had no scientific backing.

That sort of behavior led to Purdue paying a fine in 2007 of $634.5 million in a federal lawsuit for false safety claims. The new filing reveals that as early as 2001, Purdue President and partial owner Richard Sackler responded to the growing evidence of Oxy sales being responsible for a jump in opioid-related overdoses by suggesting that the company blame those who had become addicted to Oxy through prescriptions. "We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible...They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals."

When informed that 59 people in a single state had died from OxyContin overdoses in one year, Sackler replied, "This is not too bad. It could have been far worse."

Purdue isn't alone. The soulless husks of humanity at Insys, makers of a sublingual Fentanyl spray called Subsys, paid their sales staff higher compensation for selling higher-dose products, which even moved their own executives to warn this practice was "dangerous." As Forbes reports, "The FDA okayed (Subsys) only for the sickest cancer patients, but prosecutors say Insys marketed Subsys to patients who didn't have cancer, lying to insurance companies and paying off doctors with exorbitant speaking fees."

Between 2011 and 2015, they produced a generic version of Marinol, a synthetic THC substitute given to cancer and HIV patients to do what cannabis does for appetite and nausea, but at a much higher price. This may be why Insys contributed $500,000 to anti-cannabis legalization opponents in Arizona in 2016.

Screw...Big...Pharma.

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