• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 6, 2015


    Marijuana smoke exposure is not positively associated with the development of cancers of the head or neck, according to the results of a systematic literature review published online ahead of print in the journal Archives of Oral Biology.

    Investigators from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil reviewed nine case-control studies to assess whether marijuana smoking favored the development of head and neck cancer. Authors reported that subjects who used cannabis were no more likely to develop the disease than were subjects with no history of use, after researchers controlled for potential confounding such as age, gender, race, and the use of tobacco and alcohol.

    “The result of this study indicated no association between lifetime marijuana use and the risk for development of head and neck cancer,” authors concluded.

    A separate analysis of six case-control studies published last year in the International Journal of Cancer similarly identified no positive association between cannabis smoke exposure and lung cancer, while a 2009 case-control trial published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research reported that the moderate levels of marijuana use were associated with a reduced risk of head and neck cancer.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 29, 2015

    Patients who possess legal access to cannabis frequently substitute it in place of alcohol and prescription drugs, according to survey data published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.

    Investigators from the University of Victoria in British Columbia assessed the influence of medical marijuana access on other drug-taking behaviors in a cohort of 473 Canadian adults licensed to engage in cannabis therapy.

    “Substituting cannabis for one or more of alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drugs was reported by 87 percent of respondents, with 80.3 percent reporting substitution for prescription drugs, 51.7 percent for alcohol, and 32.6 percent for illicit substances,” they reported.

    Rates of substitution were highest among respondents between the ages of 18 and 40. Patients using cannabis for pain were most likely to use pot as a substitute for prescription drugs.

    Authors concluded, “The finding that cannabis was substituted for alcohol and illicit substances suggests that the medical use of cannabis may play a harm reduction role in the context of use of these substances, and could have implications for substance use treatment approaches requiring abstinence from cannabis in the process of reducing the use of other substances.”

    Evaluations of patients enrolled in state-specific medical marijuana programs, including those in Arizona, California, and Rhode Island, yield similar results — finding that patients are particularly likely substitute cannabis for opioids. According to a recently published National Bureau of Economic Research report, states that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths as compared to states that do not.

    An abstract of the study, “Substituting cannabis for prescription drugs, alcohol and other substances among medical cannabis patients: The impact of contextual factors,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 21, 2015

    Self-reported use of marijuana by high-school students is significantly lower today than it was 15 years ago, according to an analysis of CDC data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

    Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore assessed data compiled by US Center for Disease Control’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey for the years 1999 to 2013. The Survey is a biennial school-based evaluation of more than 100,000 high-schoolers nationwide.

    Investigators reported that lifetime use of cannabis fell during this period. The percentage of respondents reporting monthly marijuana consumption and/or use any use of cannabis prior to age 13 also declined.

    “People have been very quick to say that marijuana use is going up and up and up in this country, particularly now that marijuana has become more normalized,” study leader Renee M. Johnson, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School said in a press release. “What we are seeing is that … the rates of marijuana use have actually fallen.”

    The study is the latest in a series of recent evaluations — including this one here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here — concluding that changes in state marijuana policies are not associated with increased marijuana use by young people.

    Moreover, just-released results from a separate University of Texas study assessing trends in the disapproval of marijuana by young people also reports “a significant increase in the proportion of youth (age 12 to 14) reporting ‘strong disapproval’ of marijuana use initiation over the last decade.” Similar to the findings of prior studies, the paper also reports that teens’ lifetime and past year use of marijuana has declined significantly over the past decade.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    Chronic pain patients who use herbal cannabis daily for one-year report reduced discomfort and increased quality of life compared to controls, and do not experience an increased risk of serious side effects, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Pain.

    Researchers at McGill University in Montreal assessed the long-term health of 216 medicinal cannabis users with chronic non-cancer pain who consumed a daily standardized dose (12.5 percent THC) of herbal cannabis compared to 215 controls (chronic pain suffers who did not use cannabis). Subjects in study were approved by Health Canada to legally use medicinal cannabis and consumed, on average, 2.5 grams of herb per day, typically via inhalation or vaporization.

    Investigators reported that daily cannabis consumers possessed no greater risk than non-users to experience “serious adverse events.” Specifically, researchers identified no significant adverse changes in consumers’ cognitive skills, pulmonary function, or blood work following one-year of daily cannabis consumption. Medical cannabis consumers did report elevated risk of experiencing “non-serious adverse events” (e.g., cough, dizziness, paranoia) compared to controls; however, authors classified these to be “mild to moderate.”

    Pain patients who used cannabis reported a reduced sense of pain compared to controls, as well as reduced anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

    “Quality-controlled herbal cannabis, when used by cannabis-experienced patients as part of a monitored treatment program over one year, appears to have a reasonable safety profile,” authors concluded.

    The study is one of the first to ever assess the long-term safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis. A prior health review of patients receiving medical cannabis monthly from the US federal government as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program similarly reported that cannabis possesses therapeutic efficacy and an acceptable side-effect profile.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study,” appears online here.

  • by NORML September 3, 2015

    Canary App

    The mainstream media is abuzz about My Canary — the first-ever NORML-endorsed mobile app that quickly and accurately measures one’s personal performance to determine whether or not he/she may be under the influence of marijuana.

    National and international media outlets have profiled the app in recent weeks, including Fast Company, CNN Money, The International Business Times, The Daily Mail, GQ Magazine (French edition), Philly.com, The Denver Channel and Business Insider, among others.

    My Canary features four distinct mental and physical performance tests, designed to evaluate baseline performance, and then to compare subjects’ behavior against this established baseline. Potential deviation in baseline performance as a result of the use of cannabis, alcohol, prescription drugs, or even exhaustion, is readily identified by the app. Here is a video of Oregonian reporter Molly Harbarger engaging in a live demonstration of the My Canary application.

    Since its launch in mid-July, over 10,000 people have downloaded the application. As we approach Labor Day weekend, the makers of My Canary are offering the app for download for the discounted price of 99 cents. This promotion will be in effect from Thursday, September 3 through Monday, September 7.

    Canary is compatible with iOS 7.1 and iPhone versions 4S and newer.

    For more information visit: http://www.mycanaryapp.com.

    For more information regarding cannabis and psychomotor performance, please see: http://norml.org/library/driving-and-marijuana.

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