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Editor’s Letter – 4/17/19

More than $4 billion stuck to the Sacklers between 2008 and 2016. The following year, despite barely cracking the Top 20 in Forbes’ list of America’s richest families, they had hoarded wealth in excess of $13 billion. This was decades after Richard Sackler and his team at Purdue Pharma developed OxyContin, a pain pill whose active ingredient is stronger than morphine.

In 2017, after the Sacklers celebrated their $13-billion milestone, 47,600 people died at the hands of these powerful, addictive opioids. (For scale: that’s more than the entire population of Owasso.) Ruthlessly marketed in places like Oklahoma, with pills outnumbering people in some communities across the U.S., the painkillers obliterated entire swaths of the country while making one already-wealthy family rich beyond any normal person’s wildest dreams.

Meditate on the word billion. What even is it? Crudely, this: 1,000,000,000. But it’s more emotionally resonant, for me, to consider the number in long scale—one thousand million.

Imagine, if you can, one million dollars. (I can barely do this.) In the time it took me to rack up the national-average $30k in high-interest student loans across two humanities degrees, the Sackler family made one thousand million dollars, four times, from the sale of one deadly drug. Imagine one thousand million dollars four times. Now imagine one thousand million dollars five times. Six times. 13.

Purdue recently settled a lawsuit with the State of Oklahoma for $270 million—a brick in the family castle, to be sure, but hopefully enough to help some of our neighbors struggling with addiction here in Tulsa.

Check out Fraser Kastner’s tidy summation of the settlement. Then read about Tiffanie Dartez, a former food truck operator suffering from MS who managed to break free of her “really good relationship with opiates” with the help of medical cannabis—a now-legal medicine in Oklahoma, whose body count is zero—which she infuses into sweet and savory treats at White Rabbit Medicinals.

We’ve also got the case for retroactive drug sentencing; an edible guide with recipes; and the rundown on Tulsa’s medical cannabis dispensaries.

If you’re curious: The Sacklers were #19 on the Forbes “Richest Families in America” list. The wealthiest was the Walton Family, whose net worth absorbs all light in the known universe at $130 billion. That’s $130,000,000,000—one thousand million dollars, 130 times. (Entry-level Walmart employees make $11/hr., which is $4.41 shy of the hourly wage needed to afford the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom rental home in Oklahoma.)

Regardless of the specific harms done by the elite to a community, or their lack of accountability to the workers who generate their grotesque profits, a simple truth remains: No one needs a billion dollars. And we don’t need billionaires.

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