Cannabis descheduling not one of pharma giant’s “core priorities”

Eli Lilly & Co. made the declaration in response to a shareholder resolution that would require the company to support cannabis descheduling

Update Feb. 26, 2018: This story has been updated to include a statement from Eli Lilly & Co.

A pharmaceutical giant that once developed marijuana-based medicines won’t be advocating for the descheduling of cannabis anytime soon.

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co. opposes a shareholder proposal seeking Lilly to proclaim support of marijuana descheduling, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing made Friday.

“We have finite resources for advocacy, which we must limit and focus to be effective, and descheduling of cannabis is not one of our core priorities.” Lilly officials wrote in the filing.

The response and recommendation for a vote against such a move came in response to a proposal made by Fred Pfenninger, an Indianapolis resident who owns 79 shares of Lilly stock.

Pfenninger, in his proposal, cited Lilly’s pre-Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 history of developing cannabis-based medicines, the research that has been conducted since and the claimed medicinal potential of the cannabis plant.

Pfenninger, 68, a creditors’ rights attorney and official in Indiana’s NORML chapter, said he hopes the resolution draws attention to cannabis.

“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first cannabis shareholder resolution of this type ever presented to any major American pharmaceutical company for approval by its shareholders,” Pfenninger wrote in an email response to a query by The Cannabist.

He said he may make similar proposals to other companies of which he’s a shareholder.

Lilly officials on Friday evening responded to a query from The Cannabist about the shareholder proposal and whether the company would research or develop cannabis-derived products in the future.

“Lilly has no plans to conduct cannabis-based research and has no further statement on the shareholder proposal beyond what is in our latest proxy filing,” Mark Taylor, a Lilly spokesman, wrote in the email.

The company’s annual meeting — during which shareholders vote on various proposals — is scheduled for May 7.