‘Lining their own pockets’: Pharma firm gives $500,000 to fight legal weed – then gets the OK on synthetic pot
Marijuana (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

A pharmaceutical company that provided significant financial support for the opposition against legal marijuana in Arizona last year received approval from the DEA this week for a synthetic marijuana drug, the Washington Post reports.

Insys Therapeutics won preliminary approval for Syndros, a synthetic form of THC that treats vomiting and nausea in cancer and AIDS patients; the drug was approved by the FDA last year. While marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning high potential for abuse and lack of medically-accepted use, this synthetic derivative is a Schedule II.

Insys provided $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which led the fight against marijuana legalization in Arizona last year. The company has a long history of fighting legal marijuana, both recreation and legal. In 2011, the company wrote to the DEA against naturally-derived THC, insisting "the abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States” renders natural pot dangerous.

"It appears they are trying to kill a non-pharmaceutical market for marijuana in order to line their own pockets,” a spokesman for Arizona’s legalization campaign said of the company last year, the Post reports.

Insys is the subject of several criminal investigations, including charges stemming from its aggressive marketing of opioids like fentanyl. The FBI arrested Insys’ former CEO last December on charges he and five other executives “committed fraud to sell a highly potent and addictive opioid that can lead to abuse and life threatening respiratory depression."