One of the hidden, dark reasons that marijuana remains illegal in the United States is that major pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars every year to keep it that way. But one U.S. senator is calling them out for it.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, criticized the pharmaceutical industry for opposing efforts to legalize cannabis, while also promoting and selling opioids.
"To them it's competition for chronic pain, and that's outrageous because we don't have the crisis in people who take marijuana for chronic pain having overdose issues," Gillibrand said. "It's not the same thing. It's not as highly addictive as opioids are."
Gillibrand made the comments on an appearance on Good Day New York. She was also asked if she believed marijuana was a gateway drug, which she denied.
"I don't see it as a gateway to opioids," she said. "What I see is the opioid industry and the drug companies that manufacture it, some of them in particular, are just trying to sell more drugs that addict patients and addict people across this country."
Major pharmaceutical companies have opposed legalization in the past. In 2016, one major company spent half a million dollars to fight a ballot initiative that would've legalized recreational cannabis in Arizona. Studies have shown that states with legalized marijuana have lower rates of opioid abuse, so they see legalization as a threat to their business of pushing dangerous painkillers onto people.
Gillibrand has made several pro-marijuana comments in the past month and a half, ever since Attorney General Jeff Sessions repealed protections on legalized states. Gillibrand is seen as a potential candidate to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.