Donors questioned for medical marijuana failure in Texas
In the aftermath of the death of medical cannabis bills in Austin during the 2017 session, many point to the time constraints, but few realize that political donors may have led to medical cannabis’ ultimate demise in Texas.
Let’s start with Dr. Charles Schwertner, chairman of Senate Committee on Health and Human Services; the committee responsible for setting public health policy for the state, regulating physicians and other health professions, and providing legislative oversight of the state’s health-related agencies.
Senate Bill (SB) 269, medical cannabis, was sitting in this committee waiting for Dr. Schwertner to schedule a hearing for it. Schwertner is a doctor and has been presented with many medical testimonials alongside many scientific studies showing the medical benefits cannabis offers. One would think a doctor would be swayed by medical studies, but despite this there was no hearing scheduled and not a comment offered. Below is a list of his donors that may shed some light as to why he didn’t schedule a hearing for medical cannabis bill, SB 269.
The two biggest donors are Mednax, Inc PAC and Border Health PAC. When I called these PACs to see their stance on medical cannabis reform, Mednax operators sent me through a myriad of other operators reminiscent of trying to get help from Comcast. Border Health PAC’s executive director, Prisylla Jasso, has not returned my phone calls after multiple attempts and messages left.
Wholesale Beer Distributors of TX PAC spent $10,159 on a representative who is a doctor and who is the chair of a health committee. About $7,000 of that was an ‘in-kind contribution’ spent on lunch. These types of contributions are the transfer of any time of other asset such as goods and services.
Abbott Laboratories, CVS Health, Johnson & Johnson, Centene, Abbvie, Cigna, Eli Lilly & Co, and Amgen from this list of donors are also on the list of highest paid pharmaceutical CEOs.
From this list is most notably Abbvie, the creators of the synthetic cannabis pill, Marinol, have their presence in monetary donations. While $500 from them does not seem like a lot, they more than likely have contributed $500 to multiple representatives since we see they also donated to Rep. Four Price.
Rep. Price, chairman of the House Committee on Public Health which has jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to the protection of public health; mental health, the development of its programs, and the prevention and treatment of mental illness; oversight of the Health and Human Services Commission, Department of State Health Services, and 22 other health or health related state agencies such as the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
Rep. Price did schedule a hearing for House Bill (HB) 2107, and it was voted out of committee. However, per Rep. Price’s office HB 2107 was “back logged” in paperwork and didn’t make it to Calendars Committee in time to be voted out of there before hitting the House floor where 77 House representatives already signed to support it. This claim would be believable if only Rep. Price didn’t vote against it and didn’t have the questionable donors he has.
It’s curious to note the overlapping donors between Dr. Schwertner and Rep. Price as we can see how much alcohol, big pharma, and cigarette companies donated.
While Express Scripts and Aetna did not donate to Dr. Schwertner, they did donate to Rep. Price and are on the list of highest paid pharmaceutical CEOs.
In this list of donors for Rep. Price, it’s important to also note American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees (AFSOME) Texas Correctional Officers. Prison guard unions have an interest in keeping people behind bars because jailing people for cannabis helps them keep their jobs.
Did the medical cannabis bills die because of time constraints? Sadly, after reviewing some of the special interest groups and what they donated, it seems like the donors played an invisible hand in creating the time constraints for medical cannabis. Perhaps for the 2018 elections voters need to be acutely aware of what corporations are playing the game and vote for representatives who are not supported by them.
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- Donors questioned for medical marijuana failure in Texas - June 5, 2017