Anti-Cannabis Researcher Links Prohibition to Big Pharma Profits

By David Jenison on March 27, 2019

Dr. Wayne Hall likes cannabis about as much as Mike Pence likes watching Queer Eye. The director of the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research in Australia regularly plays all the prohibitionist hits (gateway drug theory, suicide, schizophrenia, etc.), and he famously said quitting cannabis can be more difficult than getting through heroin withdrawals.

Last month, the Aussie Anslinger co-wrote the introduction to a series of papers that analyzed the risks and benefits of cannabis use on physical and mental health. As one might expect, the risks dominated the discussion, with suspect claims like CBD gets you high and legalization increases "the number of problem users." The most interesting line in the intro, though, came at the very end: "While the legalization of nonmedical use will make it easier in principle to undertake research on medical uses of cannabinoids," Dr. Hall and his associates argued, "it will also reduce the incentives that the pharmaceutical industry has to fund clinical trials of medical uses." Thus, the continuation of prohibition would increase such financial incentives. 

Whether intentional or not, the argument they made is that profit potential is what drives private-sector research into health and wellness, and maintaining the prohibition on recreational cannabis provides the profit motive to encourage more medical research. Of course, that is the very reason why federal governments should fund an extensive set of clinical trials to provide clarity on the actual medical benefits and then determine optimal treatment protocols and formulations, though we're fairly confident Dr. Hall wasn't making that suggestion.  

Based on his research and interviews, Dr. Hall appears to be a staunch supporter of the prohibition on recreational cannabis use, but this study's reference to financial incentives echoes what legalization advocates have said for decades: An all-natural therapeutic that people can grow at home is a financial threat to Big Pharma companies who want the public to pay a premium for health and wellness.

In the meantime, Dr. Hall should tune into ABC Australia for this report: "Despite government claims that a streamlined medicinal cannabis system has led to an increase in prescriptions, at least 100,000 people are self-medicating through the black market, outweighing legal supply in Australia by over 30 to one." The elderly population makes up a large number of the black-market medical users that the current law would put in prison for self-medicating use. 

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