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Cully Stimson Gets Ruff Against MJ

When it comes to positioning for marijuana prohibition, Cully Stimson is something of a pit bull; Stimson is the guy at The Heritage Foundation who writes all the marijuana policy briefs and opinions for the Foundation’s Daily Signal website, and he clamps down hard in the fight against legalized marijuana of literally any kind.

Why the tenacity?

As we discussed in a previous post, Heritage Foundation major donors include a host of pharmaceutical companies and trade groups. With statistics already showing sharp dropoffs in prescribed drug dosages on a per-physician basis in legal MMJ states, the bite out of pharmaceutical profits and sales as a direct result of legalization is actually measurable. Ditto, too, for alcoholic beverage sales in recreational-legal states – a beer industry trade paper report from Brewbound cited a 4.4% dropoff in domestic premium beer sales in Colorado since the state’s ballot measure to fully legalize took affect – something Colorado-based Coors, a founding donor of Heritage, certainly took notice to. So it is easy to see the Foundation might be influenced to push an anti-marijuana agenda. For all of Stimson’s expertise in other areas, however, many of his anti-marijuana positions are all bark and little if any bite.

Cases in Point

Some Stimson anti-marijuana arguments lack any teeth at all. These include:

Better living through chemistry: Since synthetic THC is available via prescription, Stimson suggests the source – the psychoactive species of marijuana plant - should be made illegal. Clearly, Stimson hasn’t been in the produce section of the supermarket in a spell. Natural and organic has been a huge trend across the board, something Stimson would know if he kept up with tends promoting natural cleaning agents, cotton over polyester, and essential oil aromatherapy over manmade lilac bathroom spray.

Notwithstanding, this type of thinking leads us down the road of making things like, say, citrus fruits illegal. Your doctor can, after all, prescribe the clinic grade ascorbic acid you’ll need to cure your inevitable scurvy.

The “better” alternative argument: Stimson notes a few new drugs containing THC already have or are in the lineup for FDA approval, something he refers to as The Dirty Little Secret Pot Pushers Don’t Want You to Know About. We doubt pro-marijuana folks are sitting around conniving ways to hide the fact that several prescription meds containing THC are available – Stimson specifically names Marinol, Cesamet and Syndros are available. But it seems Stimson may have hop-scotched over the fact that these trademarked prescription meds:

  • Come in off-patent, substantially less expensive generic varieties

  • Have a host of unpleasant side effects, the kind you’d hear about in a comically long list on a television commercial

  • May cause dependency

  • Unlike their natural counterpart, are things you can actually, easily overdose on

While it’s logical that the Heritage Foundation might (consciously or not) telegraph the goals of certain of its donors – for instance, maximizing brand name pharmaceutical purchases from original patent/trademark holders – given the push to focus on pharmaceutical equivalents it’s surprising Stimson stuck strictly with brand names; the Mayo Clinic notes that Marinol and Syndros have the generic equivalent of dronibinol, while Cesamet is generically known as nabilone.

Stimson further suggests these prescription drugs are superior than medical marijuana because of their lack of “unanticipated side effects.” Yet the "anticipated" side effects of the prescription varieties are longer than most kids’ Christmas lists – the Mayo Clinic notes the side effects of dronibinol range from clumsiness to vomiting, restlessness to diarrhea, dizziness to a false sense of well-being and – counterintuitively – a loss of appetite. Many of nabilone’s side effects are the same, with additional fun coming from possible headaches, drowsiness and dryness of mouth.

And yes, the prescription med version of THC can lead to dependency in prone individuals, another point that seems to be lost amidst Stimson’s barking and growling. Certainly people can become addicted to cannabis as well, but there is no known history of someone overdosing on it – the possibility of which is readily present in the warning labels for the prescription varieties.

Maybe some day, Stimson will stop howling about legalized cannabis. For now, though, he’s the leader of Heritage’s anti-cannabis pack.


Dan Ogden is a 20+ year veteran of the executive search industry, having covered operations, regulatory and consulting verticals within capital markets as well as data science, data analytics and, more recently, the cannabis industry within search firm and internal corporate HR leadership roles. Dan is Principal of the practice at Delta 9, the Western Hemisphere's' only dedicated cannabis industry executive search firm. To find out how Delta 9's proprietary, trademarked end-to-end recruiting methodology can help you find the key executives to make your company thrive and grow in the cannabis industry, shoot us an email, or give us a ring at 212.390.8190.


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