John Stewart once ran the pharmaceutical company behind the narcotic painkiller OxyContin. Now he is a co-founder of Emblem, a medical marijuana company in Ontario, Canada, the BBC reports.
Stewart left Purdue Pharma, which makes the popular painkiller, in 2013 and is focused on the pharmaceutical arm of Emblem which “will invest in research into dosing and plant strains as well as the development of alternate forms of consuming medical marijuana like gel caps, sprays, patches, and pills.”
Not surprisingly, not everyone has warmly welcomed Stewart into the pot business.
“Nobody says to me to my face: ‘We are terrified big pharma’s going to come take over this industry,” Stewart told the BBC. “However, they are,” he says. “These days nobody wants big pharma, particularly in the United States, to do anything.”
“There is a lot of anti-opioid sentiment,” he says, delicately. “And certainly based on the social disruption that we’ve seen it’s understandable.” He says, as do many doctors, there is some benefit to opioid painkillers, despite the potential for abuse or addiction.
Accidental overdoses from prescription painkillers quadrupled between 1999 and 2012. In 2014, drug overdoses were the leading accidental cause of death south of the border, driven by prescription opioids. In Canada, prescriptions of the drug are abundant, but reports of abuse are lesser than in the U.S.
Stewart credits his time at Purdue Pharma, which researched medical benefits of cannabis but never brought a drug to market, for sparking his current interest in delivering the drug to patients.t – finding better ways to deliver the medical benefits of marijuana to patients.
He believes his experience can help bolster research, help with quality control and consistency and develop new products, which many big cannabis investors are working on constantly.
Stewart credits cannabis industry pioneers with putting Canada and the United States in the position they are today in which patients who desperately need medical marijuana may have access to the material.