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  • 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 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.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 25, 2017

    thumbs_upThe American Legion, the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, has adopted a resolution calling on federal officials to expand veterans’ access to medical marijuana.

    The resolution, passed yesterday at the Legion’s annual convention, urges the “United States government to permit VA medical providers to be able to discuss with veterans the use of marijuana for medical purposes and recommend it in those states where medical marijuana laws exist.”

    The language is similar to pending legislation in Congress, H.R. 1820: The Veterans Equal Access Act. In July, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24 to 7 to include similar language as an amendment to the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Identical language in the House was blocked from consideration by House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX).

    Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 MilCon-VA bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to strip the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.

    Federal policy prohibits V.A. doctors – including those residing in legal medical cannabis states – from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. 

    Both the American Legion and AMVETS issued public calls last year for federal marijuana law reforms. Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress

  • by NORML August 15, 2017

    HumboldtOne of NORML’s primary missions is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults. One of the ways we successfully achieve this goal is by debunking marijuana myths and half-truths via the publication of timely op-eds in online and print media. Since the mainstream media seldom casts a critical eye toward many of the more over-the-top claims about cannabis, we take it upon ourselves to set the record straight.

    The majority of NORML’s rebuttals are penned by Deputy Director Paul Armentano. In the past few weeks, he has published numerous op-eds rebuking a litany of popular, but altogether specious claims about the cannabis plant – including the contentions that cannabis consumption is linked to heart attacks, psychosis, violence, and a rise in emergency room visits and traffic fatalities, among other allegations.

    Below are links to a sampling of his recent columns.:

    Blowing up the big marijuana IQ myth — The science points to zero effect on your smarts

    Blowing the lid off the ‘marijuana treatment’ racket

    The five biggest marijuana myths and how to debunk them

    It took just one distorted study for the media to freak out over health risks marijuana

    Cannabis mitigates opioid abuse — the science says so

    Three new marijuana myth-busting studies that the mainstream media isn’t picking up on

    For a broader sampling of NORML-centric columns and media hits, please visit NORML’s ‘In the Media’ archive here.

    If you see the importance of NORML’s educational and media outreach efforts, please feel free to show your support by making a contribution here.

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