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The Real Reason Pot Is Still Illegal | The Nation

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The Real Reason Pot Is Still Illegal

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The CADCA convention featured a roster of federal officials and members of Congress as well as a guest appearance by R&B singer Mario. The speakers talked with energy about the coming showdown over marijuana-law reform.

“We need to apply what Hank Aaron said about baseball to our movement today,” asserted Sue Thau, a CADCA consultant. “We need to always keep swinging!”

Buses were scheduled to ferry the participants to Congress for meetings, and Thau coached the assembled activists to emphasize the potential risks for young people, something that “everybody on Capitol Hill can agree on.” In addition to lobbying against marijuana-law reform, she encouraged everyone to preserve key federal funding streams, to “make sure all the programs that fund our field, every one of them,” are protected in the appropriations process for the coming fiscal year.

Ironically, both CADCA and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids are heavily reliant on a combination of federal drug-prevention education grants and funding from pharmaceutical companies. Founded in 1992, CADCA has lobbied aggressively for a range of federal grants for groups dedicated to the “war on drugs.” The Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997, a program directed by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, was created through CADCA’s advocacy. That law now allocates over $90 million a year to community organizations dedicated to reducing drug abuse. Records show that CADCA has received more than $2.5 million in annual federal funding in recent years. The former Partnership for a Drug-Free America, founded in 1985 and best known for its dramatic “This is your brain on drugs” public service announcements, has received similarly hefty taxpayer support while advocating for increased anti-drug grant programs.

The Nation obtained a confidential financial disclosure from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids showing that the group’s largest donors include Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, and Abbott Laboratories, maker of the opioid Vicodin. CADCA also counts Purdue Pharma as a major supporter, as well as Alkermes, the maker of a powerful and extremely controversial new painkiller called Zohydrol. The drug, which was released to the public in March, has sparked a nationwide protest, since Zohydrol is reportedly ten times stronger than OxyContin. Janssen Pharmaceutical, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary that produces the painkiller Nucynta, and Pfizer, which manufactures several opioid products, are also CADCA sponsors. For corporate donors, CADCA offers a raft of partnership opportunities, including authorized use of the “CADCA logo for your company’s marketing, website, and advertising materials, etc.”

The groups’ approach to marijuana contrasts sharply with their attitude toward prescription-drug abuse. In March of this year, the heads of CADCA and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and other government officials urging them to keep marijuana listed as Schedule I, a designation indicating that it has no recognized medical use and is among society’s most dangerous drugs. “We are aware of a small chorus in the United States Congress (copied on this letter) who are calling for the rescheduling of marijuana,” wrote Arthur Dean, a retired general and the president of CADCA, and Stephen Pasierb, head of the Partnership. “[O]ur groups agree with the most recent Health and Human Services (HHS) determination that marijuana should remain a Schedule I drug.”

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