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SCIENCE

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 13, 2014

    The imposition of student drug testing programs is not effective in limiting students’ consumption of controlled substances, according to survey data published in the January edition of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

    Investigators from Israel and the United States assessed whether students’ awareness of drug testing programs in their school was associated with a reduction in the frequency of their use of alcohol, cigarettes, or cannabis.

    Authors reported, “Consistent with previous research, results of the current study show that perceived SDT (student drug testing) is not associated with a reduction in initiation or escalation of substance use in the general student population.”

    They concluded, “The current research reinforces previous conclusions that SDT is a relatively ineffective drug-prevention policy.”

    An estimated 20 percent of US high schools impose drug testing upon members of the student body.

    Previous assessments of student drug testing programs, including random testing programs, report that the imposition of such programs are not associated with reduced levels of student drug use and, in some instances, are “associated with increased use of illicit drugs other than marijuana.”

    Full text of the study, “Student Drug Testing and Positive School Climates: Testing the Relation Between Two School Characteristics and Drug Use Behavior in a Longitudinal Study,” is available online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 26, 2013

    #1 Public Support For Legalizing Marijuana Hits Historic Highs
    An unprecedented 58 percent of Americans believe that marijuana ought to be “made legal” for adult consumption, according to survey data reported in October by Gallup. The percentage is the highest level of support ever recorded by Gallup, which has been inquiring on the issue since 1969, and marks a ten percent increase in voter approval since 2012. Regional polls conducted this year in several states, including California, Louisiana, and Texas, also reported majority support for legalization.

    #2 Nation Of Uruguay Passes Legislation Regulating Cannabis Use
    Lawmakers in the South American nation of Uruguay enacted legislation authorizing the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to all citizens age 18 and older. Residents will be able to legally purchase up to 40 grams of cannabis per month from state-licensed stores at a price of $1 per gram. Uruguay is the first country in modern history to officially legalize and regulate the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis.

    #3 Feds Pledge Not To Interfere In State-Licensed Retail Sales Of Cannabis
    Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a three-page memorandum in August affirming that the US Justice Department will allow Colorado and Washington to move forward with statewide efforts to license and regulate the adult marijuana market. Cole later reaffirmed the agency’s position in testimony before the US Senate, stating, “We will not … seek to preempt state ballot initiatives.”

    #4 States Finalize Regulations Governing Adult Cannabis Sales
    Regulators in Colorado and Washington this fall began accepting applications from businesses seeking to engage in the licensed cultivation, production, and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products. In Washington, several thousand applicants have applied to pot business licenses. In Colorado, regulators have begun approving licenses and several commercial establishments are expected to be open for business on January 1, 2014.

    #5 Record Number Of Statewide Marijuana Reform Measures Enacted Into Law
    Lawmakers in a dozen states approved some 20 pieces of marijuana law reform legislation in 2013. Specifically, lawmakers in Colorado and Vermont enacted legislation licensing commercial hemp production; Illinois and New Hampshire legalized the use and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes; Oregon and Nevada approved regulations allowing for the establishment of medical cannabis distribution facilities; and Oregon and Vermont significantly reduced marijuana possession penalties.

    #6 Cannabis Dispensaries Open In Washington, DC
    Medical cannabis facilities opened for business in Washington, DC in 2013. The establishments are licensed and regulated by the District of Columbia, which finally unveiled its long-awaited medical marijuana program earlier this year. State-authorized dispensaries also opened for the first time this year in New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Lawmakers in four states, Illinois, Oregon, Nevada and New Hampshire, enacted legislation in 2013 allowing for the establishment of medicinal cannabis facilities.

    #7 Study: Blacks Arrested For Pot Offenses At Rates Four Times That Of Whites
    African Americans are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession offenses than are whites, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report released in June that analyzed arrest data from 945 counties nationwide. The report found that blacks were approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, even though both ethnicities consumed the substance at similar rates. Authors reported that the racial disparity in arrest rates had grown significantly over the past decade and that in some states African Americans were nearly eight times as likely as whites to be arrested for cannabis possession.

    #8 FDA Approves Clinical Trials Of CBD In Cases Of Pediatric Epilepsy
    The US Food and Drug Administration this fall granted approval for the importation of cannabidiol (CBD) extracts as an experimental treatment for a rare, intractable form of pediatric epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. Preliminary clinical trials assessing the safety and tolerability of the compound in children are scheduled to begin in early 2014. Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has been documented to possess a variety of therapeutic qualities, including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, anti-cancer, and bone-stimulating properties.

    #9 Study: No Association Between Cannabis Smoking And Lung Cancer
    Subjects who regularly inhale cannabis smoke possess no greater risk of lung cancer than do those who consume it occasionally or not at all, according to data presented in May at the annual meeting of the American Academy for Cancer Research. UCLA investigators analyzed data from six case-control studies, conducted between 1999 and 2012, involving over 5,000 subjects (2,159 cases and 2,985 controls). They reported, “Our pooled results showed no significant association between the intensity, duration, or cumulative consumption of cannabis smoke and the risk of lung cancer overall or in never smokers.”

    #10 Members Of Congress Introduce Legislation To End Federal Pot Prohibition
    Members of Congress in February introduced historic legislation, HR 499: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, to remove cannabis from the control of the Drug Enforcement Administration and authorize the US Department of Treasury to license state-authorized retail marijuana producers and distributors. Although Congress refused to vote on the measure in 2013, it was the most-viewed legislation on the Congress.gov website.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 18, 2013

    Adolescent consumption of alcohol and tobacco fell to historic lows while self-reported annual use of cannabis held steady, according to survey data released today by the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor — which has been sampling teens consumption of various licit and illicit substances since the mid-1970s.

    But you wouldn’t know these facts if you read today’s mainstream media headlines.

    For example, the accompanying headline of McClatchy’s wire story inaccurately claims that marijuana consumption among young people rose between 2011 and 2012, stating “Feds decry rising marijuana use among kids”, despite the fact that the title of the study’s own press release affirms “The rise in teen marijuana use stalls.”

    Other news outlets, such as PBS News Hour (in which I am quoted here) predictably highlight the federal government’s talking point that adolescents’ perception of pot’s risk potential is dipping (e.g., ’60 percent of 12th grade students do not view marijuana as harmful’). Unreported is the fact that this trend is is not new, but is rather an ongoing one. According to the University’s year-by-year data, teens’ perceptions regarding marijuana’s risks first began declining in the early 1990s — a time that predates the passage of statewide medical cannabis laws or more recent statewide depenalization/legalization laws. (Looking for an explanation for this trend? Try this: More and more teens are wising up to the fact that cannabis is not as equally dangerous as heroin, despite the federal government’s claims to the contrary.)

    Overlooked in the mainstream media’s reporting is that the use of both alcohol and tobacco among all grades surveyed has fallen consistently since the mid-1990s and now stands at all-time lows. (In fact, more teens now acknowledge using marijuana than cigarettes, the study found.) Teens are also finding alcohol to be less availabile and are far less likely to engage in binge drinking now than ever before.

    By contrast, teens self-reported annual use of cannabis has largely held steady since the late 1990s but remains elevated compared to the historic lows reported in the earlier that decade. (Present use levels, however, still remain well below the highs reported in the late 1970s.) Approximately 8 out of 10 12th graders surveyed said that marijuana was “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain, a percentage that has remained largely unchanged since 2009, but is well below previously reported highs circa the late 1990s.

    Nevertheless, federal officials are utilizing the latest University of Michigan data to once again sound the alarm about cannabis, stating that the cannabis ‘problem’ is even “worse” than the data suggests while the Drug Czar once again tries to misleadingly link long-term trends to the passage of recent changes in law.

    And what no public officials wish to acknowledge is the obvious elephant in the room. The reality that an increasing number of teens are steadily turning away from the legally regulated intoxicants alcohol and tobacco — a factoid that once again affirms that the most effective way to keep substances out of teens’ hands isn’t through criminal prohibition; it is through legalization, regulation, and public education. So why does the federal government (as well as the mainstream media) acknowledge the effectiveness of this strategy when it comes to booze and cigarettes, but continue to turn its back on these common sense principles when it comes to pot?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 16, 2013

    Cananbidiol (CBD), a non-psychotropic cannabinoid, alleviates psychotic symptoms and may hold promise as an alternative antipsychotic treatment, according to a review published in the November issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

    Investigators in the Netherlands and in the United Kingdom reviewed preclinical and clinical data on the use of CBD as an antipsychotic agent. Authors reported that both animal and human studies document the ability of CBD to mitigate symptoms of psychosis. Specifically, CBD administration is associated with improved symptoms in clinical evaluations of patients with schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and ketamine-induced dissociative and psychotic symptoms.

    Investigators also highlighted a 2012 double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial assessing CBD versus the prescription anti-psychotic drug amisulpride in 42 subjects with schizophrenia and acute paranoia. Authors reported that both CBD and the prescription drug were associated with “equally significant clinical improvement” in this patient population, but that cannabidiol “possessed significantly less side effects.”

    Researchers concluded: “[E]vidence from several study domains suggests that CBD has some potential as an antipsychotic treatment. … Given the high tolerability and superior cost-effectiveness, CBD may prove to be an attractive alternative to current antipsychotic treatment.”

    Previous human trials assessing the administration of CBD in healthy human subjects report that the cannabinoid is “safe and well tolerated.”

    Separate investigations of CBD, primarily in animal models, have documented the cannabinoid to possess a variety of therapeutic qualities, including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, anti-cancer, and bone-stimulating properties. Recently, the FDA approved the experimental use of CBD extracts for the treatment of a rare form of intractable pediatric epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. Preliminary clinical trials assessing the safety and tolerability of the compound in children are scheduled to begin imminently.

    Full text of the study, entitled “Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for psychosis,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 13, 2013

    Nearly two-thirds of Americans disagree with workplace policies that allow employers to sanction an employee for his or her off-the-job consumption of cannabis, according to a just released HuffPost/YouGov poll.

    Sixty-four percent of the poll’s respondents, including 62 percent of self-identified Republicans, said that it is “unacceptable for a company to fire an employee for using marijuana during his or her free time” if the employee resides in a state that has legalized the plant’s adult use. An equal percentage of respondents similarly said that it would be unacceptable for an employer to fire an employee for after-hours drinking.

    Only 22 percent of respondents said that it is acceptable for employers to fire workers who consume cannabis legally after-hours.

    To date, the Supreme Court of three separate states — California, Oregon, and Washington — have all similarly ruled that an employee who uses cannabis legally while off the job can still be sanctioned by their employer.

    Forty-five percent of respondents in the HuffPost/YouGov poll agreed that it should always be unacceptable for an employer to sanction an employee for his or her off-the-job marijuana use, even if the use took place in a state that classifies cannabis as illegal.

    Conventional workplace drug tests detect the presence of inert drug metabolites, non-psychoactive by-products that linger in the body’s urine well after a substance’s mood-altering effects have subsided.

    The HuffPost/YouGov poll surveyed 1,000 adults and possesses a margin of error is +/- 4.8 percent.

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