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SCIENCE

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 10, 2017

    oil_bottlesThe US Drug Enforcement Administration has publicly reiterated its position that cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic cannabinoid, is properly categorized under federal law as a schedule I controlled substance — meaning that, by definition, it possesses “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and lacks “accepted safety … under medical supervision.”

    The agency has long contended that CBD, along with all organic cannabinoids, is — by default — a schedule I controlled substance because it is a naturally occurring component of the cannabis plant. (This position is similarly held by both the NIDA and the FDA.) Nonetheless, a growing body of science undermines the notion that CBD meets any of the criteria necessary for such classification.

    Specifically, clinical trial data finds that CBD is “safe,” “non-toxic,” and “well tolerated” in human volunteers. Even the director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse acknowledges that CBD is “not mind-altering” and that it “appears to be a safe drug with no addictive effects.”

    Recently conducted controlled studies also acknowledge its therapeutic efficacy, particularly the ability of CBD dosing to mitigate treatment-resistant seizures, hypertension, and psychotic symptoms in humans. Other peer-reviewed data shows that CBD therapy holds promise for the treatment of “Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral ischemia, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, other inflammatory diseases, nausea and cancer.”

    That is why in addition to the thirty states that presently recognize medical cannabis, an additional 16 states also explicitly recognize the use of CBD as a viable medical treatment.

    Nonetheless, it remains unlikely that the DEA is going to amend its position any time soon. Further, police in recent months have begun initiating raids of CBD retailers, such as those reported here, here, and here. That is why it is critical that members of Congress move forward with legislation to remove the cannabis plant from the Controlled Substances Act.

    Presently, several pieces of federal legislation are pending to amend the federal classification of CBD as a schedule I substance. These include:

    HR 2020: Passage of this act would exclude CBD from the federal definition of ‘marihuana.’

    S. 1374/HR 2920: Passage of these Acts would exempt from federal prosecution those who are engaged in state-sanctioned medical cannabis activities; it would also remove CBD from the federal definition of ‘marihuana.’

    HR 2273/S. 1008: Passage of these Acts would exclude CBD and CBD-rich cannabis plants from the federal definition of ‘marihuana.’

    You can contact your members of Congress in support of these bills and other pending legislation by visiting NORML’s Take Action Center here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 5, 2017

    3410000930_95fc2866fa_zThe closure of medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with an increase in larceny, property crimes, and other criminal activities, according to data published in the Journal of Urban Economics.

    Researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Irvine assessed the impact of dispensary closures on neighborhood crimes rates in the city of Los Angeles. Investigators analyzed crime data in the days immediately prior to and then immediately after the city ordered several hundred operators to be closed. Authors reported an immediate increase in criminal activity – particularly property crime, larceny, and auto break ins – in the areas where dispensary operations were forced to close as compared to those neighborhoods were dispensaries remained open.

    “[W]e find no evidence that closures decreased crime,” authors wrote. “Instead, we find a significant relative increase in crime around closed dispensaries.” Specifically, researchers estimated that “an open dispensary provides over $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented.”

    They concluded, “Contrary to popular wisdom, we find an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open. The increase is specific to the type of crime most plausibly deterred by bystanders, and is correlated with neighborhood walkability. … A likely … mechanism is that ‘eyes upon the street’ deter some types of crime.”

    The findings are consistent with those of prior studies determining that dispensary operations are not associated with ‘spillover effects’ in local communities, such as increased teen use or increased criminality.

    An abstract of the study, “Going to pot? The impact of dispensary closures on crime,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    mj_researchThe prolonged daily administration of cannabinoids is associated with a reduction in migraine headache frequency, according to clinical trial data presented at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology.

    Italian researchers compared the efficacy of oral cannabinoid treatments versus amitriptyline – an anti-depressant commonly prescribed for migraines – in 79 chronic migraine patients over a period of three months. Subjects treated daily with a 200mg dose of a combination of THC and CBD achieved a 40 percent reduction in migraine frequency – a result that was similar to the efficacy of amitriptyline therapy.

    Subjects also reported that cannabinoid therapy significantly reduced acute migraine pain, but only when taken at doses above 100mg. Oral cannabinoid treatment was less effective among patients suffering from cluster headaches.

    “We were able to demonstrate that cannabinoids are an alternative to established treatments in migraine prevention,” researchers concluded.

    Some five million Americans are estimated to experience at least one migraine attack per month, and the condition is the 19th leading cause of disability worldwide.

    According to retrospective data published last year in the journal Pharmacotherapy, medical cannabis consumption is often associated with a significant decrease in migraine frequency, and may even abort migraine onset in some patients.

    A just published review of several studies and case-reports specific to the use of cannabis and cannabinoids in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research concludes: “[I]t appears likely that cannabis will emerge as a potential treatment for some headache sufferers.”

    An abstract of the study, “Cannabinoids suitable for migraine prevention,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 28, 2017

    medical_mj_shelfPain patients report successfully substituting cannabis for opioids and other analgesics, according to data published online in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

    Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Kent State University in Ohio assessed survey data from a cohort of 2,897 self-identified medical cannabis patients.

    Among those who acknowledged having used opioid-based pain medication within the past six months, 97 percent agreed that they were able to decrease their opiate intake with cannabis. Moreover, 92 percent of respondents said that cannabis possessed fewer adverse side-effects than opioids. Eighty percent of respondents said that the use of medical cannabis alone provided greater symptom management than did their use of opioids.

    Among those respondents who acknowledged having recently taken nonopioid-based pain medications, 96 percent said that having access to cannabis reduced their conventional drug intake. Ninety-two percent of these respondents opined that medical cannabis was more effective at treating their condition than traditional analgesics.

    Authors concluded: “[M]ore people are looking at cannabis as a viable treatment for everyday ailments such as muscle soreness and inflammation. … [T]his study can conclude that medical cannabis patients report successfully using cannabis along with or as a substitute for opioid-based pain medication.”

    The study’s conclusions are similar to those of several others, such as these herehereherehere, and here, finding reduced prescription drug use and spending by those with access to cannabis. Separate studies report an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid-related abuse, hospitalizations, traffic fatalities, and overdose deaths.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabis as substitute for opioid-based pain medication: patient self-report,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 22, 2017

    thumbs_upThe enactment of statewide laws regulating the adult use and sale of cannabis is not associated with subsequent changes in traffic fatality rates, according to an analysis of traffic safety data (“Crash fatality rates after recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado”) published today in the American Journal of Public Health.

    Investigators from the University of Texas-Austin evaluated crash fatality rates in Colorado and Washington pre- and post-legalization. They compared these rates to those of eight control states that had not enacted any significant changes in their marijuana laws.

    “We found no significant association between recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and subsequent changes in motor vehicle fatality rates in the first three years after recreational marijuana legalization,” author concluded.

    They further reported, “[W]e also found no association between recreational marijuana legalization and total crash rates when analyzing available state-reported nonfatal crash statistics.”

    Commenting on the findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These conclusions ought to be reassuring to lawmakers and those in the public who have concerns that regulating adult marijuana use may inadvertently jeopardize public safety. These results indicate that such fears have not come to fruition, and that such concerns ought not to unduly influence legislators or voters in other jurisdictions that are considering legalizing cannabis.”

    A prior study published last year by the same journal reported that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with a reduction in traffic fatalities compared to other states, particularly among younger drivers.

    Fatal accident rates have fallen significantly over the past two decades — during the same time that a majority of US states have legalized marijuana for either medical or social use. In 1996, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were an estimated 37,500 fatal car crashes on US roadways. This total fell to under 30,000 by 2014.

    A summary of the study appears online under ‘First Look’ on the apha.org website here.

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