Though it’s not the focus of this site, drug legalization is important for intellectual freedom (and indeed, freedom, equality, and security) writ large, and the drug war is a prototype for mass criminalization and state conflict that enforcing property in knowledge leads to.
But drug legalization can also help intellectual freedom by contributing to dismantling medicine enclosure.
[I]n the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law. The drops were quite significant: In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication.
But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year.
In what may be the most concerning finding for the pharmaceutical industry, the Bradfords took their analysis a step further by estimating the cost savings to Medicare from the decreased prescribing. They found that about $165 million was saved in the 17 medical marijuana states in 2013. In a back-of-the-envelope calculation, the estimated annual Medicare prescription savings would be nearly half a billion dollars if all 50 states were to implement similar programs.
One limitation of the study is that it only looks at Medicare Part D spending, which applies only to seniors. Previous studies have shown that seniors are among the most reluctant medical-marijuana users, so the net effect of medical marijuana for all prescription patients may be even greater.
[Pharma] companies have long been at the forefront of opposition to marijuana reform, funding research by anti-pot academics and funneling dollars to groups, such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, that oppose marijuana legalization.
Pharmaceutical companies have also lobbied federal agencies directly to prevent the liberalization of marijuana laws. In one case, recently uncovered by the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that naturally derived THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana, be moved from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act — a less restrictive category that would acknowledge the drug’s medical use and make it easier to research and prescribe. Several months after HHS submitted its recommendation, at least one drug company that manufactures a synthetic version of THC — which would presumably have to compete with any natural derivatives — wrote to the Drug Enforcement Administration to express opposition to rescheduling natural THC, citing “the abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States.”
The DEA ultimately rejected the HHS recommendation without explanation.
Pharma interests due not appear to be among the top funders of Proposition 64, but I suppose they have their hands full with Proposition 61.