Three quarters of medical cannabis consumers report using it as a substitute for prescription drugs, alcohol, or some other illicit substance, according to survey data published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory.
An international team of investigators from Canada and the United States assessed the subjective impact of marijuana on the use of licit and illicit substances via self-report in a cohort of 404 medical cannabis patients recruited from four dispensaries in British Columbia, Canada.
Researchers reported that subjects frequently substituted cannabis for other substances, including conventional pharmaceuticals. Authors reported:
“Over 41 percent state that they use cannabis as a substitute for alcohol (n=158), 36.1 percent use cannabis as a substitute for illicit substances (n=137), and 67.8 percent use cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs (n=259). The three main reasons cited for cannabis-related substitution are ‘less withdrawal’ (67.7 percent), ‘fewer side-effects’ (60.4 percent), and ‘better symptom management’ suggesting that many patients may have already identified cannabis as an effective and potentially safer adjunct or alternative to their prescription drug regimen.”
Overall, 75.5 percent (n=305) of respondents said that they substitute cannabis for at least one other substance. Men were more likely than women to report substituting cannabis for alcohol or illicit drugs.
Authors concluded: “While some studies have found that a small percentage of the general population that uses cannabis may develop a dependence on this substance, a growing body of research on cannabis-related substitution suggests that for many patients cannabis is not only an effective medicine, but also a potential exit drug to problematic substance use. Given the credible biological, social and psychological mechanisms behind these results, and the associated potential to decrease personal suffering and the personal and social costs associated with addiction, further research appears to be justified on both economic and ethical grounds. Clinical trials with those who have had poor outcomes with conventional psychological or pharmacological addiction therapies could be a good starting point to further our under- standing of cannabis-based substitution effect.”
Previous studies have similarly demonstrated cannabis’ potential efficacy as an exit drug. A 2010 study published in the Harm Reduction Journal reported that cannabis-using adults enrolled in substance abuse treatment programs fared equally or better than nonusers in various outcome categories, including treatment completion. A 2009 study reported that 40 percent of subjects attending a California medical cannabis dispensary reported using marijuana as a substitute for alcohol, and 26 percent used it to replace their former use of more potent illegal drugs. A separate 2009 study published in the American Journal on Addictions reported that moderate cannabis use and improved retention in naltrexone treatment among opiate-dependent subjects in a New York state inpatient detoxification program.
Full text of the study, “Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs: A dispensary-based survey of substitution effect in Canadian medical cannabis patients,” appears online in Addiction Research and Theory. NORML Advisory Board Member Mitch Earleywine is a co-author of this study.
Electronic Freedom Foundation board member and drug policy reform activist John Gilmore memo:
EFF.ORG (where I’m on the board) filed a Freedom of Information request to FAA about “drones” (Unmanned Aerial Systems, or UAS’s).
It’s taken the FAA a long time to release info; they sent us another batch recently. This includes several thousand pages of drone authorizations for law enforcement agencies, universities, and the military.
View EFF-created map of law enforcement ‘drone’ projects here.
Once again, we see in these records that law enforcement agencies want to use drones to support a whole host of police work. However, many of the agencies are most interested in using drones in drug investigations. For example, the Queen Anne County, Maryland Sheriff’s Department, which is partnering with the federal Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Navy, applied for a drone license to search farm fields for pot,”surveil people of interest” (including “watching open drug market transactions before initiating an arrest”), and to perform “aerial observation of houses when serving warrants.”
The Gadsden Alabama Police Department also wanted to use its drone for drug enforcement purposes like conducting covert surveillance of drug transactions, while Montgomery County, Texas wanted to use the camera and “FLIR systems” (thermal imaging) on its ShadowHawk drone to support SWAT and narcotics operations by providing “real time area surveillance of the target during high risk operations.” Another Texas law enforcement agency-the Arlington Police Department-also wanted to fly its “Leptron Avenger” drone for narcotics and police missions. Interestingly, the Leptron Avenger can be outfitted with LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) technology. While LIDAR can be used to create high-resolution images of the earth’s surface, it is also used in high tech police speed guns-begging the question of whether drones will soon be used for minor traffic violations.
More disturbing than these proposed uses is the fact that some law enforcement agencies, like the Orange County, Florida Sheriff’s Department and Mesa County, Colorado Sheriff, have chosen arbitrarily to withhold some or-in Orange County’s case-almost all information about their drone flights-including what type of drone they’re flying, where they’re flying it, and what they want to use it for-claiming that releasing this information would pose a threat to police work. This risk seems extremely far-fetched, given that other agencies mentioned above and in prior posts have been forthcoming and that even the US Air Force feels comfortable releasing information about where it’s flying drones around the country.
EFF news release and links found here.
This past weekend, National NORML, with the help of its Tennessee affiliate hosted the first NORML Southeastern Regional Conference. NORML representatives from several southeastern states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia met to discuss strategy for legalizing marijuana across the region. This southern coalition met in Nashville with members of NORML’s National board and leaders in the cannabis reform movement.
The event was a great success with informative speakers and an energized, engaged audience. The conference opened with a special statement from US Representative Cohen who was “sorry [he] couldn’t be there in person,” but wanted to extend his personal support and commitment to our cause.
Speakers included NORML board members Greta Gaines and Paul Kuhn, Chris Butts and Ron Crumption from the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition, public health epidemiologist (and victim of prohibition) Bernie Ellis and Texas NORML board member Cheyanne Weldon. They covered a multitude of topics ranging from the utility of hemp, medical marijuana research, lobbying and public education. There was also a workshop on team management based on the New Organizing Institute’s development training seminars.
[North Carolina NORML put together a fantastic roundup of content and information from the conference. Click here to see their report.] That evening, the Douglas Corner Café hosted a successful fundraiser featuring local musicians Tish Lindsey, Don Ray, Greta Gaines, Chuck Foster and Daniel Lawrence Walker. Invariably, the Southeast has some of the most draconian marijuana laws, and the lowest level of support for reform in the United States. This conference and subsequent events will help reformers lay the groundwork for education and effective activism in the most politically conservative region in the country.
If you don’t live in the Southeast, do not fret! NORML Regional Conferences will be coming to your area of the country soon.
Up next: NORML’s First Northeastern Regional Conference in Philadelphia. Stay tuned to norml.org for more info in the coming weeks.
A majority of Americans are now demanding we reassess our cannabis policies. As I argue in The Seattle Times, this reassessment should also include amending employers’ policies that sanction workers’ off-the-job use of marijuana.
It’s time for employers to rethink marijuana, drug-testing policies
via The Seattle Times
Voters have declared that it is time to rethink our marijuana policies. It’s also time to rethink the practice of drug testing for pot.
The enactment of Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana use in Washington state, is an ideal opportunity for employers to re-examine their drug-testing policies regarding employees’ off the job cannabis use. Those who consume alcohol legally and responsibly while off the job do not suffer sanctions from their employers unless their work performance is adversely affected. Employers should treat those Washingtonians who consume cannabis legally while away from the workplace similarly.
Programs that mandate the random testing of employees’ urine for alleged traces of drug residue are invasive and ineffective. They neither identify workers’ who may be impaired nor do they contribute to a safe work environment.
… A positive test result for carboxy THC, marijuana’s primary metabolite, provides little if any substantive information to employers. That is because carboxy THC, unlike most other drug metabolites, is fat-soluble and may remain detectable in urine for days, weeks or, in some rare cases, months after a person has ceased using cannabis. Most other common drug metabolites are water soluble and therefore undetectable some 24 hours or so after ingestion.
In short, a positive test result for cannabis does not provide any definitive information regarding an employee’s frequency of cannabis use, when he or she last consumed it, or whether he or she may have been under the influence of the substance at the time the drug screening was administered.
… Writing in the journal Addiction, investigators at the University of Victoria in British Columbia reviewed 20 years of published literature pertaining to the efficacy of workplace drug testing, with a special emphasis on marijuana. “[I]t is not clear that heavy cannabis users represent a meaningful job safety risk unless using before work or on the job,” they concluded. “Urinalysis testing is not recommended as a diagnostic tool to identify employees who represent a job safety risk from cannabis use.”
So why are Washington employers still engaging in it?
Read the entire text of the op/ed here.
Adults with a history of marijuana use have a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and possess a lower risk of contracting the disease than those with no history of cannabis consumption, according to clinical trial data published in the British Medical Journal.
Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles assessed the association between diabetes mellitus (DM) and marijuana use among adults aged 20 to 59 in a nationally representative sample of the US population of 10,896 adults. The study included four groups: non-marijuana users (61.0%), past marijuana users (30.7%), light (one to four times/month) (5.0%) and heavy (more than five times/month) current marijuana users (3.3%). Diabetes was defined based on self-report or abnormal glycaemic parameters.
Researchers hypothesized that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes would be reduced in marijuana users because of the presence of various cannabinoids that possess immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties.
Investigators reported that past and present cannabis consumers possessed a lower prevalence of adult onset diabetes, even after authors adjusted for social variables (ethnicity, level of physical activity, etc.), despite all groups possessing a similar family history of DM. Researchers did not find an association between cannabis use and other chronic diseases, including hypertension, stroke, myocradial infarction, or heart failure compared to nonusers.
Past and current cannabis users did report engaging in more frequent physical activity than nonusers, but also possessed higher overall levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides. By contrast, the highest prevalence of marijuana consumers were found among those with the lowest glucose levels.
Investigators concluded, “Our analysis of adults aged 20-59 years … Showed that participants who used marijuana had a lower prevalence of DM and lower odds of DM relative to non-marijuana users.” They caution, however: “Prospective studies in rodents and humans are needed to determine a potential causal relationship between cannabinoid receptor activation and DM. Until those studies are performed, we do not advocate the use of marijuana in patients at risk for DM.”
Previous studies in animals have indicated that certain cannabinoids possess anti-diabetic properties. In particular, a preclinical trial published in the journal Autoimmunity reported that injections of 5 mg per day of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD significantly reduced the incidence of diabetes in mice compared to placebo. Investigators reported that control mice all developed adult onset diabetes at a median of 17 weeks (range 15-20 weeks), while a majority (60 percent) of CBD-treated mice remained diabetes-free at 26 weeks.
Full text of the study, “Decreased prevalence of diabetes in marijuana users: cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III,” appears online here.