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Who Opposes Cannabis and Why (Part 1)

Written by Luke Burgess
Posted October 25, 2019

One of the most common questions we get asked about cannabis legalization is: Who opposes it?

It's a good question. If you ask around, you'll find that most people do support cannabis legalization and have for a long time.

According to the most recent Gallup polls, two out of every three American adults say marijuana should be legal.

But what about the other third?

Who are they? And why do they oppose legalization?

Today, we'll explore all that...

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Generally speaking, organizations that still oppose cannabis legalization include:

  • Pharmaceutical companies and trade groups
  • Police, police unions, and law enforcement associations
  • Companies that operate prisons
  • Religious organizations
  • A whole list of government agencies
  • Casinos
  • Addiction services groups
  • Right-wing political organizations ranging from conservative think tanks to the American Nazi Party

I'll get into specific organizations that oppose cannabis legalization and why in a minute. But first let's look at which groups of private individuals in America oppose legalization.

According to Gallup:

Two of the biggest differentiators of Americans' opinions on legal marijuana are age and party identification. Younger Americans, Democrats and independents are the most likely of major demographic and political groups to favor legalizing use of the drug, while Republicans and older Americans are least likely to do so.

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You're probably not surprised by those results.

In fact, I'm sure I didn't even need to show you the poll results for you to believe older conservatives are the main opposition to cannabis legalization among private individuals.

But why?

Why are older conservatives the main opposition to cannabis legalization among private individuals?

Well, there's really no one answer I can give to that question. And that's simply because individual opinions vary.

When I ask older conservatives if they oppose cannabis legalization and why, I get a whole variety of answers ranging from “it's a gateway drug” to “it makes people lazy” to “people just don't need to get high.”

Of course, these responses are mostly untrue:

  1. Marijuana can act as a gateway drug, but the extreme majority of people who try weed don't move on to harder drugs.
  2. Marijuana does not make people lazy, but instead acts as an anxiolytic — it simply decreases the anxiety of things people panic over.
  3. Human beings have a natural drive to seek altered and higher states of consciousness (see all of human history as an example).

Unfortunately, arguing these points has (at least for me) never proven effective in changing anyone's mind on the matter.

But ultimately, it really doesn't make much sense to me that older conservatives would oppose cannabis.

First, being older means you've been around longer than younger people. As such, older folks know for a fact marijuana legalization has little to no effect on society.

Cannabis has been available for recreational use in the Netherlands for almost 50 years. And the country is doing just fine — better than ever, in fact.

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But moreover (and I'll talk about this again in a minute), conservatives should be the political party to mainly support legalization.

Among the core central tenets of conservatism are personal liberty, free market capitalism, free enterprise, deregulation, and limited government intervention.

It's hypocritical to call yourself a conservative and support government prohibition of a consumable plant.

So... why are older conservatives the main opposition to cannabis legalization?

Well, I believe all of the arguments against cannabis legalization from older conservatives are simply due to the fact that it's something younger liberals want.

In other words, their opposition has little to nothing to do with marijuana's effects on society. Instead, they just oppose anything associated with young liberals.

Just remember, very few people actually support one side of politics. Instead, they oppose the other side.

Ask anyone who voted for Trump: Did you vote for Trump or against Hillary? I've never had anyone say they voted for Trump. Everyone says they voted against Hillary.

And it's the same thing with cannabis. Older conservatives only oppose cannabis legalization because younger liberals support it — which is not a legitimate argument for opposition at all.

So what about organizations that oppose legalization?

Let's go through them one by one...

Pharmaceutical Companies and Trade Groups

Not every pharmaceutical company opposes marijuana legalization. And many pharmaceutical firms that used to oppose legalization have flip-flopped.

And that's simply because they got into the cannabis business.

You might be wondering why I left out alcohol and tobacco companies from the list of those that oppose legalization. Well, at one point, the alcohol and tobacco industries did, in fact, oppose legalization. And that makes sense: Cannabis competes with their products.

But now many firms like Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) and Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE: MO) are entering the cannabis industry. So many no longer oppose it.

Similarly, big pharma companies like Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and Teva Pharmaceutical (NYSE: TEVA), which previously opposed cannabis legalization, now support it because they've gotten into the business, too.

Yet there are still holdouts.

Pharmaceutical firms that still actively try to stop legalization include:

  • Purdue Pharma L.P. (private), maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin
  • Insys Therapeutics, Inc. (OTC: INSYQ), manufacturer of the painkiller fentanyl
  • Reckitt Benckiser (OTC: RBGLY), maker of painkiller Nurofen (codeine)
  • Alkermes (NASDAQ: ALKS), producer of the powerful new opioid called Zohydro (hydrocodone bitartrate)

(Note: A former executive from Purdue Pharma bankrolled Emblem Cannabis, a Canadian medical marijuana firm, and Insys Therapeutics developed a synthetic formulation of THC. But both companies are still financial backers of cannabis opposition.)

Starting to see the picture?

Pharmaceutical companies don’t oppose the legalization of marijuana because of any social, economic, or health concerns. They couldn’t give two shits about any of that. They oppose cannabis because it’s a product that competes with theirs.

A recent survey found that 92% of medical marijuana patients in California said it alleviates their chronic pain, migraines, and arthritis.

Another study from JAMA Internal Medicine found “there was about a 25% lower rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths on average after implementation of a medical marijuana law” from 1999 to 2010.

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Opposing cannabis is all about money for some pharmaceutical companies and the trade groups that represent them, like Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which is one of the largest financial backers of the anti-cannabis holdout.

And that's understandable from their perspective. But I find it absolutely egregious that Big Pharma is willing to trample on your personal liberty just for a buck.

Police, Police Unions, and Law Enforcement Associations

The police, police unions, and other law enforcement associations have other reasons they want to keep cannabis illegal aside from profit.

Of course, prohibiting pot creates police jobs — which also benefits their unions and law enforcement associations.

According to the ACLU, 52% of all drug arrests in 2010 were for marijuana — there was one pot bust every 37 seconds that year.

If marijuana were legal, we simply wouldn’t need as many police. And of course, that doesn’t sit well with police, police unions, and other law enforcement associations. But for us as taxpayers, it costs billions.

The ACLU estimates that states waste $3.6 BILLION enforcing marijuana prohibition every year.

But unlike pharmaceutical companies, cannabis opposition from law enforcement is not all about money.

Fact is, marijuana is a very loud drug — it’s pungent and easy to smell. And as long as pot remains illegal, the smell of it alone gives police probable cause to search individuals.

This simply results in making the police’s job easier.

If they smell pot on you and you’re in a state where it’s still illegal, they have probable cause to search you for other illegal things.

Keeping cannabis illegal just so the police can use it as probable cause is, once again, not a legitimate reason for prohibition.

Next Week

I've run out of time for today, but I'll be back on Monday for Part 2, where I'll cover the rest of the organizations that oppose cannabis legalization and why.

Stay tuned.

Until next time,
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Luke Burgess

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As an editor at Energy and Capital, Luke’s analysis and market research reach hundreds of thousands of investors every day. Luke is also a contributing editor of Angel Publishing’s Bubble and Bust Report newsletter. There, he helps investors in leveraging the future supply-demand imbalance that he believes could be key to a cyclical upswing in the hard asset markets. For more on Luke, go to his editor’s page.

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