According to an article by The Guardian, a pharmaceutical company called Insys lobbied against marijuana legalization in Arizona; and then was approved for a cannabis-derived pharmaceutical five months later.

As marijuana legalization swept the US in November, Arizona was alone in its rejection of legal weed. There, a pharmaceutical company called Insys was a major backer of the successful campaign to stop the state’s recreational cannabis measure, publicly arguing that pot businesses would be bad for public health and endanger children.

But to marijuana activists, the motive of Insys was clear – to squash the competition.

Confirming those suspicions, Insys has now received approval from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to develop its own synthetic marijuana, the latest case of Big Pharma battling small cannabis growers.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, is supposedly one of the largest contributors to the The Partnership of Drug-Free Kids and the Anti-Drug Coalition of America.

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 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.

Is it true that pharmaceutical companies contribute to anti-drug campaigns such as the “war on drugs”?

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    What is the notable claim that you are asking us to examine? The fact companies do powerful lobbying is not in question anywhere, we all know they do that. So if the claim is "Companies lobby legislators to get advantages for themselves", then the answer is trivial and well known: yes, they do, this is common knowledge and no secret. Is there anything besides this that you want examined?
    – user32299
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 8:29
  • 2
    @MichaelK I want to know if they lobby the government to continue the war on drugs like the Miser website claims. I know they lobby for patent protections and stuff like that, but are they actually lobbying to have common citizens thrown into cages?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 9:08
  • 1
    Yes, I’m asking about illegal “substances”. It’s common knowledge that they lobby for restrictions so that the market is difficult to enter. I’m talking about using weapons and prisons to fight competitors and consumers who choose another product over their own.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 9:33
  • 1
    Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between recreational cannabis and medicine derived from it.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 14:01
  • 2
    And unless there's a lawsuit or internal leak, how are we going to find out what the real "motive of Insys" (as if the company were one person) actually is? I think this is mostly non-answerable, so I'm voting to close that way "insufficient data for a meaningful answer". Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 15:11

2 Answers 2


The Partnership of Drug-Free Kids

According to the PDFK’s 2016 Annual Report, they receive most of their funding from pharmaceutical companies. At the top of the list we have the highest donors, which are those who spent between $250,000-499,999:

Consumer Healthcare Products Association

Jazz Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America

Purdue Pharma L.P.

So it appears the Nation was correct that Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin and a very controversial pharmaceutical company, is one of their largest supporters. Jazz Pharmaceuticals is also noteworthy. They were involved in a lawsuit in 2007 when their acquired company Orphan Pharmaceuticals marketed their most popular drug, Xyrem, for “off-label medical uses”:

With the approval of Orphan sales personnel, the psychiatrist allegedly made misleading statements about Xyrem in the course of promoting the drug for “off-label” use, including minimizing the dangers of a Xyrem overdose, suggesting that the drug was customary and safe to use on children and the elderly, and suggesting that the drug’s active ingredient, “GHB,” was not really a “date rape” drug.

Next on the list is the $100,000-250,000:

CVS Health

Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals

Pfizer Inc.

The John Strang Trust

Mike White

CVS Health is the largest drug seller in America.

Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals is interesting because they are the only entity that can legally obtain and possess cocaine- a Schedule II substance and estimated to have an illegal market value of $28 billion dollars in the United States alone. However, their major products include generic opioids and other synthetic drugs. They were also involved in a lawsuit in 2017 for “anti-competitive” behavior because of “monopolistic pricing” of Acthar gel, and are currently in a lawsuit filed by Kentucky’s Attorney General Andy Beshear for their role in the “opioid epidemic”.

Then there’s also Pfizer Inc, who was involved in the second largest pharmaceutical settlement because they marketed Lyrica for “off-label usages” and offered “kickbacks” to doctors.

When we get to the $25,000-99,999 group, it’s a much longer list. There are a few pharmaceutical companies like AbbVie Inc, Alkermes, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Grünenthal USA, Inc, Merk Partnership for Giving, and Walgreens- the second largest drug sellers in America.

Community of Anti-Drug Coalition of America

According to CADCA’s 2017 Annual Report they also receive most of their funding from pharmaceutical companies. Those who provide over $100,000 are referred to as Presenting Partners, and it’s the highest amount shown. It includes Purdue Pharma, McKesson, and Alkermes.

McKesson has been found guilty in two lawsuits already, and is currently involved in a lawsuit from Kentucky for the same reason- selling large amounts of opioids.

Alkermes is interesting because their top drugs are used for schizophrenia, opioid addiction, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.

NOTE: Each disease is linked to an article about medicinal cannabis.


Yes, pharmaceutical companies are the highest donators to the two largest anti-drug organizations in America; and practically all of them have been involved in lawsuits and accused of very immoral behavior.

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    Good job on CADCA. Note that lawsuits on McKesson aren't simply for selling though "McKesson delivers more than 1/3 of all medicines in the U.S. from a network of 30 warehouses around the country. The DEA requires drug distributors to identify, stop and report orders of unusual size or frequency to the agency - something Schiller says McKesson did not do until the company learned it was under investigation." from cbsnews.com/news/… Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 5:50
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    @Fizz Thanks, and thanks for the article. Anyone can draw their own conclusions, but it seems to me that pharmaceutical companies depend on regulations and laws, and they don’t really care about breaking them because they can easily afford any “punishment” they receive. Whereas a common person would be spending decades in prison and lose everything for selling the same product.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 6:36

On version of the question asks if:

Is it true that pharmaceutical companies contribute to anti-drug campaigns such as the “war on drugs”?

And in the comments it's clarified as:

I would like to know if The Nation’s claim that the Partnership of Drug-Free Kids and CADCA receive large donations from pharmaceutical companies is true, or [...]

The first question is still pretty interpretable, but PDFA, which is an NGO has received donations from pharama (as well as from tobacco and alcolhol companies farther back in time), acording to their tax statements as investigated by journalists. As reported on Wikipedia:

PDFA was the subject of criticism when it was revealed by Cynthia Cotts [...] that their federal tax returns showed that they had received several million dollars worth of funding from major pharmaceutical, tobacco and alcohol corporations including American Brands (Jim Beam whiskey), Philip Morris (Marlboro and Virginia Slims cigarettes, Miller beer), Anheuser Busch (Budweiser, Michelob, Busch beer), R.J. Reynolds (Camel, Salem, Winston cigarettes), as well as pharmaceutical firms Bristol Meyers-Squibb, Merck & Company and Procter & Gamble. In 1997 it discontinued any direct fiscal association with tobacco and alcohol suppliers, although it still receives donations from pharmaceutical companies.

The 1992 article on which that is based cannot be accessed currently in original, but this seems to be samizdat copy confirming what Wikipedia says.

James Burke, who resigned as chairman and C.E.O. of Johnson & Johnson in 1989 to become chairman of the Partnership, is no stranger to marketing. [...]

In the Partnership's early days, its primary supporter was the American Association of Advertising Agencies. That group knew better than to alienate the legal drug industry. But the mandate must have been reinforced in 1989, the year Burke came in from Johnson & Johnson, bringing with him a $3 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a prominent health care philanthropy. The foundation described its unusually handsome grant to the Partnership as "pivotal in leveraging ... support from other private foundations."

On cue, the other foundations rolled over. In 1989 and 1990, the ten largest foundation grants for alcohol and drug abuse totaled $12.4 million. The Partnership took $4.7 million from that pool, or 38 percent. Many an individual donor gave its largest antidrug grant to the Partnership. In other words, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation accelerated a trend: the channeling of foundation money into public awareness, which is considered a less effective form of drug-abuse prevention than school- and community-based programs.

The Partnership's funders are usually kept secret, says Grant [the Partnership's spokeswoman], to protect them from other grant seekers and from the legalization lobby. But the Partnership's 1991 tax return reveals another motive for secrecy: conspicuous support from the legal drug industry. From 1988 to 1991, pharmaceutical companies and their beneficiaries contributed as follows: the J. Seward Johnson, Sr, Charitable Trusts ($1,100,000); Du Pont ($150,000); the Procter & Gamble Fund ($120,000); the Bristol- Myers Squibb Foundation ($110,000); Johnson & Johnson ($110,000); Smith Kline Beecham ($100,000); the Merck Foundation ($75,000); and Hoffman-La Roche ($30,000). Pharmaceuticals and their beneficiaries alone donated 54 percent of the $5.8 million the Partnership took from its top twenty-five contributors from 1988 to 1991. That 54 percent is conservative. It doesn't include donations under $90,000, and it doesn't include donations from the tobacco and alcohol kings: The Partnership has taken $150,000 each from Philip Morris, nheuser-Busch and RJR Reynolds, plus $100,000 from American Brands (Jim Beam. Lucky Strike).

So not only did PDFA take in a lot of pharma money, but hey were led by a former pharma CEO, and the money and leadership pretty much came in as a package deal.

And a 2016 account of the matter posted as a blog entry on Oxford University Press' site--account that also contains bits of a recent interview with Tom Hedriks, who was one of the PDFA founders and who still works at PDFA--says:

In a spring 1992 exposé in the Nation, Cynthia Cotts revealed that the PDFA’s supporters included several pharmaceutical companies, the maker of Jim Beam whiskey, Anheuser-Busch, and Philip Morris. Most damningly, R.J. Reynolds had been backing its calls for a “drug-free America” even as public health advocates condemned the company for hooking youngsters on cigarettes with its kid-friendly cartoon mascot, Joe Camel.

Cotts pulled no punches: “The war on drugs is a war on illegal drugs, and the partnership’s benefactors have a large stake in keeping it that way. They know that when schoolchildren learn that marijuana and crack are evil, they’re also learning that alcohol, tobacco, and pills are as American as apple pie.” Others were even harsher, and their criticism stung all the more because the Partnership appeared to be making real progress in shifting popular attitudes about illicit drugs.

At the time, Hedrick was unrepentant, claiming that he would have “taken money from the devil” to combat the scourge of crack. That implied comparison hardly flattered the organization’s heretofore silent partners, and it appeared inevitable that they would go their separate ways. Soon the PDFA pledged not to take alcohol and tobacco money, a position it notes prominently on its website today, though it openly acknowledges continued pharmaceutical support. For other reasons, directors also expanded the Partnership’s mission from persuading young people to abstain from drugs to reaching out to parents of children at risk. Now renamed the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, the group addresses the dangers of licit as well as illicit drugs, with a focus on abuse of prescription medications. Decades of work earned Hedrick recognition from the White House earlier this year.

I finally broached the topic. Had the passage of time changed his perspective on the funding question? “Maybe from a public relations point of view that was a stupid thing to do. I can understand why there was so much criticism.”

Not quite an admission of error, but perhaps understandable in light of how charges by the Partnership’s most vociferous critics—who portrayed it as little more than a front for Big Tobacco out to brainwash unsuspecting young people—distorted the efforts of its professional, generally earnest staff. [..]

[About the author:] Joe Moreau, a history teacher and author of Schoolbook Nation: Conflicts over American History Textbooks from the Civil War to the Present, is researching drug education in the postwar era. He discusses the topic of this blog further in his Journal of Social History article, “‘I Learned it by Watching YOU!’ The Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the Attack on ‘Responsible Use’ Education in the 1980s.”

Whether PDFA is or isn't part of the "war on drugs" is in the eye of the beholder. Wikipedia mentions they had "coordination with federal anti-drug efforts".

The Partnership holds a special position under law within the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.[25][26] It cooperates with government agencies in many initiatives to try to help reduce drug abuse. In 2010, it worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2010 on a public relations event entitled "National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day."[27] The event involved 4,000 so-called "drop spots" for people to discard extra prescription drugs as a way to lessen the temptation for their abuse.[27]

As for CADCA, lobbying and what not: don't' ask multiple questions in one; even if mods give you a pass on that, I won't give you answers in one post that require extensive quotes/investigation on multiple topics.

  • I like this answer a lot and enjoyed reading it, but the details are a bit old. That’s okay with me though because PDFK seems like they still have no qualms about “taking money from the devil”. Thanks for digging all that up.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 6:39

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