By Katie O’Leary.
As someone who uses cannabis for pain, I feel so lucky to be living in California. Marijuana not only treats my nerve pain, it helps with my crippling anxiety. When I can’t sleep, I use it to relax, sleep, etc. The legalization of medical marijuana happened long before I moved to Los Angeles in 2013, but at the stroke of midnight January 1, 2018, marijuana became legal for all residents of California. I didn’t think much of it, other than amusement in thinking that my friends could join me when I vape outside a restaurant.
But while Californians have been enjoying their new freedom, a video was recently posted on my Facebook feed. A new drug has been approved by the FDA and has also been vetted by the DEA. It is called “Syndros”, and the company that developed this drug is called Insys Therapeutics, located in Arizona. This drug is a synthetic form of cannabis, fast-tracked by the FDA to help patients deal with pain, nausea, anxiety – all the same symptoms actual cannabis treats already. Here is the worst part: Insys Therapeutics spent over $500,000 campaigning against marijuana legalization in the state of Arizona. And now they have created a synthetic cannabis drug, and two government agencies have APPROVED this drug.
Let me say this again: two MASSIVELY influential governmental agencies have approved a drug that works exactly like cannabis, and have approved it. This means they are acknowledging on a federal level, that cannabis has a proven medical need in this country. This is absolutely huge, because our prison system contains more drug users than any other crime percentage.
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The ACLU has a series of charts breaking down the prison industrial complex as it relates to marijuana arrests and imprisonment. Here we see staggering arrest rates for cannabis.
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The ACLU has been battling against politicians and the government who have been swayed by their lobbyist funding to criminalize marijuana, and to continue to push this issue when the statistics tell us that (I am going to wager a guess that today since these charts are from 2010) over 50% of Americans approve of legalization. Why does our government or companies like Insys continue to oppose legalization and then arrest those who use cannabis outside of states with legalization?
There are many factors: marijuana terrifies pharmaceutical companies since it works so well for patients, people believe it is a gateway drug and are afraid of it, and smoking has a bad reputation. So why are we not researching it? The DEA will not allow scientists to study marijuana, but hopefully more bills will be introduced to Congress (as they were last year) to allow that to happen.
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So, the DEA will not allow research on cannabis, but they approve of a synthetic drug that is a copy of an all-natural plant known to combat cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, nerve pain, and Parkinson’s disease? They claim marijuana is dangerous and are locking people up, and yet they okay a new drug that does exactly the same thing? This should be a watershed moment in which the American people, medicinal marijuana patients, the disenfranchised, minorities, and all people need to rise up and oppose this blatant corruption. Marijuana is not dangerous, and the actions of Insys and their greedy stone-walling of legalization is not progress. Arresting minorities and anyone who smokes cannabis in other states, and then locking them is pure hypocrisy. Two government agencies, independent of each other, have clearly stated by their approval – marijuana has medicinal value. Otherwise the synthetic trial would never have been approved. Why do we continue to lock up people who are possibly in pain? Why are we targeting minority groups for smoking cannabis, a waste of money and resources, when we could direct law enforcement for more important tasks?
Two years ago, the CDC released guidelines on opioids and encouraged the American people to comment and share their illnesses, chronic pain, and their reasons as to why our opinions should be included in their decision making. We trust the CDC to make the right calls for our health, and we assume they are not affected by special interest groups or easily bought.
Well, on January 31, 2018 Brenda Fitzgerald, the director of the CDC resigned from her position after it was discovered she invested in a tobacco company. This news has infuriated me. The CDC condescendingly asked the disability community, minorities, and so many people to participate in their “guidelines” survey. We know anyone and everyone can be bought. The CDC, FDA, and the DEA are influenced by big money and sometimes the public at large. It can make you cynical and furious
This situation brings me back to one of my favorite film quotes, “Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.” Jack Nicholson in this film feels as if his world imploded and becomes even more cynical. But remember in your fury, we are all stronger together and we have to keep fighting companies and government agencies who are actively trying to swindle us all out of our medications and our rights.
Katie O’Leary suffers from CRPS. She works in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles when she can. She is also a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.
 Ingraham Christopher, A Pharma Company That Spent $500,000 Trying To Keep Pot Illegal Just Got DEA Approval For Synthetic Marijuana: 24 Mar. 2018.
 Wadman Meredith. CDC Director Resigns After Report On Tobacco Stock Purchase. 31 Jan. 2018