With half the states now embracing some form of marijuana legalization, the DEA appears set to loosen restrictions on at least studying the potential medical benefits of weed.

Some may be asking why it took so long. Others still will ponder why it will continue to take a long time to enact legislation nationwide that fully promotes the healing usage of cannabis (assuming that does, in fact, ever happen).

The answers likely include a wide range of factors, but a two-word answer could suffice: Big Pharma.

Big Pharma is the nickname given to the world's pharmaceutical industry and its trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

According to DrugWatch, Big Pharma heavily funds the agency charged with regulating drugs (FDA), spends more money lobbying in D.C. than any other industry and accounts for approximately 60 percent of biomedical research in the country.

"Using these connections to pursue industry goals, Big Pharma has a significant competitive advantage over the public interest," DrugWatch's page states.

And they are not interested in marijuana eating into their profit margins.

One of the biggest reasons many states have moved through medical marijuana legislation is its supposed ability to reduce opioid usage.

Opioid addiction, of course, has been deemed a national emergency (by half of Congress, anyway), but they're currently the only FDA-approved drugs available for pain reduction.

No exact figures are available, but it's safe to assume Big Pharma is making a decent amount of money selling these opioids.

A recent survey conducted by the Centre for Addictions Research in British Columbia helped affirm what the industry has likely been fearing.

A staggering 80 percent of nearly 500 adult medical cannabis users polled reported giving up prescription medications in favor of marijuana.

Big Pharma isn't alone in its worries either because 52 percent of respondents said they gave up alcohol in favor of cannabis.

Imagine having the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries working together for the singular goal of preventing a plant from legally reaching consumers, and you start to understand why this has taken so long.

Heck, you start to wonder how it has even made this much progress.

— Reach Dispatch business reporter David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid. Like the blog on Facebook at The CannaBiz Kid.

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