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SCIENCE

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 18, 2017

    Marijuana medicineChronic pain patients enrolled in a statewide medical marijuana program are more likely to reduce their use of prescription drugs than are those patients who don’t use cannabis, according to data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

    Investigators from the University of New Mexico compared prescription drug use patterns over a 24-month period in 83 pain patients enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program and 42 non-enrolled patients. Researchers reported that, on average, program registrants significantly reduced their prescription drug intake while non-registrants did not.

    Specifically, 34 percent of registered patients eliminated their use of prescription drugs altogether by the study’s end, while an additional 36 percent of participants used fewer medications by the end of the sample period.

    “Legal access to cannabis may reduce the use of multiple classes of dangerous prescription medications in certain patient populations,” authors concluded. “[A] shift from prescriptions for other scheduled drugs to cannabis may result in less frequent interactions with our conventional healthcare system and potentially improved patient health.”

    A pair of studies published in the journal Health Affairs previously reported that medical cannabis access is associated with lower Medicaid expenditures and reduced spending on Medicare Part D approved prescription medications.

    Separate studies have reported that patients with legal access to medical marijuana reduce their intake of opioidsbenzodiazepinesanti-depressantsmigraine-related medications, and sleep aids, among other substances.

    An abstract of the study, “Effects of legal access to cannabis on Scheduled II–V drug prescriptions,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 7, 2017

    no_marijuanaFewer young people today identify as current users of cannabis as compared to 2002, according to national survey data released today by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health report finds that 6.5 percent of respondents between the ages of 12 and 17 report having consumed cannabis within the past 30 days – a decrease of 21 percent since 2002 and the lowest percentage reported by the survey in 20 years. Adolescents’ use of alcohol and tobacco also declined significantly during this same period.

    The findings are similar to those compiled by the University of Michigan which also reports long-term declines in young people’s marijuana use, which have fallen steadily nationwide since 1996.

    The new SAMHSA data acknowledges an increase in the percentage of respondents ages 18 or older who report using cannabis, a trend that has similarly been identified in other national surveys. By contrast, rates of alcohol abuse have been steadily declining for over a decade among this same age group. Rates of problematic cannabis use by those over the age of 18 have largely held steady since 2002, and have fallen substantially among adolescents.

  • by NORML September 3, 2017

    Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) has introduced an amendment to the House appropriations bill that, if passed, would not allow funds to be used to prevent states from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of industrial hemp. These laws are defined in section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014. In 2014, members of Congress approved language in the omnibus federal Farm Bill explicitly authorizing states to sponsor hemp research.

    The majority of US states have already enacted legislation redefining hemp as an agricultural commodity and allowing for its cultivation. However, the federal government still includes hemp in the Controlled Substances Act, despite it containing minimal amounts of THC–the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

    All parts of the hemp plant can be cultivated and used to produce everyday household items. It can be grown as a renewable source for raw materials such as clothing, paper, construction materials, and biofuel. Not only is it useful, but growing hemp is much more environmentally friendly than traditional crops. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.

    If Bonamici’s amendment is passed, this could prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with states’ rights, specifically regarding to the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of industrial hemp. It’s time for Congress to respect state laws and allow them to engage in the environmentally responsible cultivation of industrial hemp.

    Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of H.R. 3530, to exclude low-THC strains of cannabis grown for industrial purposes from the federal definition of marijuana.

     

  • by NORML September 2, 2017

    Marijuana researchRepresentative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill that, if passed, would not allow the Department of Justice to use funds from the bill to prevent or delay the approval of an application to research medical marijuana. This past year, the DEA moved to create a new procedure to license more facilities to cultivate marijuana for research after hearing concerns about the lack of quality cannabis for trials. However, since this implementation, the DEA has not acted on any of the applications that have been submitted since the creation of this program in an attempt to keep the already outrageous restrictions.

    “Because of marijuana’s draconian schedule 1 status, scientists are hindered in researching its medical potential — and then, because medical research is scarce, its schedule 1 status is upheld. It’s time to break this vicious cycle, and make it easier for researchers to investigate the potential medical uses of cannabis” said Rep. Gaetz. “How many lives throughout the nation could be improved with increased marijuana research — from cancer patients to veterans with PTSD? We do a disservice to them, and to all Americans, by limiting research. The time for change is now.”

    Because marijuana is listed as a schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government does not see it as having any medicinal benefits. Trying to get the DEA to actually act upon these new applications to expand research is extremely difficult and it will be just as difficult to get the DEA accept them. If Gaetz’s proposed amendment is passed, it will make it harder for the DEA to deny these research applications.

    In a bipartisan letter, Representatives Gaetz, Rohrabacher (R-CA), Polis (D-CO), and Blumenauer (D-OR) ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stop standing in the way of increasing research into marijuana’s medical potential. In the letter, the Representatives write “It is worrisome to think that the Department of Justice, the cornerstone of American civil society, would limit new and potentially groundbreaking research simply because it does not want to follow a rule.”

  • by NORML August 30, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaFirst, we would like to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of you who responded to NORML’s request to contact the American Automobile Association and urged them to “stop lying about marijuana legalization.”

    But even as public and media pressure grows, AAA affiliates are doubling down on their reefer madness rhetoric.

    At a recent AAA Texas-sponsored event, attendees were falsely told that drivers testing positive possess a 25-fold risk of accident compared to sober drivers. But the actual study cited by AAA concluded nothing of the sort. Rather, the study in question — conducted by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — determined that THC-positive drivers possessed virtually no statistically significant risk of motor vehicle accident compared to drug negative drivers.

    Similarly, AAA Mid-Atlantic is continuing to distort the truth about cannabis. Despite having been provided with peer-reviewed evidence to the contrary, a recent reply by their Director of Public and Government Affairs office shows that the agency is refusing to listen to the facts with regard to cannabis regulation and traffic safety.

    “We are deeply concerned that lawmakers are considering the legalization of recreational marijuana,” the AAA’s response states. “AAA opposes the legalization … of marijuana for recreational use because of its negative traffic safety implications.”

    Yet, recent studies of federal crash data find that changes in the legal status of cannabis are not associated with a rise in traffic fatalities – and, in some instances, regulating cannabis has been associated with a reduction in deadly motor vehicle crashes.

    Send AAA the facts in a message now

    Nonetheless, AAA Mid-Atlantic opines, “The problem of drugged driving … will only get worse if [a] state legalizes it for recreational use.”

    AAA further argues that a 2015 Governors Highway Safety report finds that “drugs were present in … fatally-injured drivers with known test results, appearing more frequently than alcohol.” However, AAA fails to acknowledge that the Governors report was primarily highlighting a rise in the presence of prescription medications and over-the-counter medications in fatally injured drivers. As acknowledged by the paper’s authors: “For this report, a drug is any substance that can impair driving. There are four categories of drugs: illegal drugs, legal non-medical drugs, prescription medications, [and] over-the counter medicines.” The Governors’ report also fails to identify whether the drug-positive drivers identified by the study were either impaired at the time of the crash or even culpable for the accident.

    Further, the Governors’ report has fallen under scathing public criticism from other traffic safety groups, including MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), who publicly repudiated its interpretations. “There is no way you can say that drugs have overtaken alcohol as the biggest killer on the highway,” MADD responded. “The data is not anywhere close to being in a way that would suggest that.”

    They’re correct. Specifically, a 2014 review of US fatal traffic accident data by researchers at the Pacific Research Institute in Maryland reported definitively that alcohol remains a greater contributor to crash risk than all other drugs combined, concluding: “Alcohol was not only found to be an important contributor to fatal crash risk, … it was associated with fatal crash risk levels significantly higher than those for other drugs. … The much higher crash risk of alcohol compared with that of other drugs suggests that in times of limited resources, efforts to curb drugged driving should not reduce our efforts to pass and implement effective alcohol-related laws and policies.”

    If we are going to achieve sane policy solutions in regards to cannabis reform, it is essential that we call out those who seek to deceive the public, even if we appreciate their roadside assistance.

    Take Action:

    Tell AAA to stop spreading disinformation on the impacts of legalization.

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