Last year, backers of an Arizona initiative to legalize recreational marijuana ran into stiff resistance from a large pharmaceutical company. Opponents of Proposition 205 got a huge boost from drug company Insys Therapeutics in the form of a $500,000 donation.

At the time, an Insys spokesperson said the company was opposing legalization because “it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children.” However, the real reason, which was made official last week, was because Insys didn’t want competition.

Insys’ new synthetic marijuana drug, Syndros, was given a green light by the FDA, as well as  preliminary approval by the Drug Enforcement Agency, last July. That approval became official last Thursday. The purpose of the new medication is to treat nausea in patients suffering from cancer and AIDS – something that natural cannabis does quite well for a fraction of the cost.

In keeping with the rank hypocrisy of the anti-marijuana legalization cabal, the DEA now lists Syndros in Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act – which includes cocaine and prescription opioid painkillers, while natural cannabis remains Schedule I.

Several years ago, corporate attorneys for Insys wrote a letter to the DEA, urging the agency to keep marijuana criminalized because of “the abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States.” At the same time, they petitioned the DEA to ease up on restrictions of the production of synthetic cannabidol (CBD), a less psychoactive compound in marijuana that has been proven effective in treating epilepsy. It should come as no surprise that Insys has been working on its own CBD product.

Now, the story gets interesting. It turns out the Insys is under investigation while being sued by shareholders for illegally marketing highly-addictive opioid painkillers. Six former Insys executives were arrested in December on charges of racketeering. According to the FBI, the conspired to “sell a highly potent and addictive opioid that can lead to abuse and life threatening respiratory depression.”

No coincidentally, Insys is working on a treatment for opioid overdose.

It is worth pointing out that in states that have legalized marijuana, those natural humans who wish to go into business as growers and suppliers must pass very strict background checks and have squeaky clean records. However, it is becoming clear that corporate “people” are exempt from those high standards that natural people are held to.

This is also another example of the rank hypocrisy of America’s so-called “free market” capitalist system. Supposedly, a free market is based on competition, and rewards those who can provide the best products at the lowest price. However, when it comes to big corporations, government agencies can – and often do – rig the rules of the game.

Aside from that, it turns out that synthetic marijuana, unlike natural cannabis, can have serious, and even deadly toxic side effects. But that doesn’t matter when corporate profits are on the line.

For Big Pharma, it’s business as usual and the rest of us will be paying the price. There may be a bit of justice in store for Insys, however. According to the independent investment research and analysis website Seeking Alpha, investors who were keeping an eye on the development and approval for Syndros had been hoping for a much-less strict Schedule 3 classification by the DEA  (“drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence”). This would have put it in the same category as codeine, anabolic steroids and testosterone replacement treatments. Between Syndros’ Schedule II classification and last week’s arrests of former Insys executives and the arrest of a doctor last week, Seeking Alpha considers Syndros “too worrisome to prescribe” and is advising investors to “avoid [Insys] at all costs.”

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.