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SOCIETY

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 26, 2016

    pills_v_potRates of prescription opioid abuse are significantly lower in jurisdictions that permit medical marijuana access, according to data reported by Castlight Health, an employee health benefits platform provider.

    Investigators assessed anonymous prescription reporting data from over one million employees between the years 2011 and 2015.

    In states that did not permit medical marijuana access, 5.4 percent of individuals with an opioid prescription qualified as abusers of the drug. (The study’s authors defined “abuse” as opioid use by an individual who was not receiving palliative care, who received greater than a 90-day cumulative supply of opioids, and received an opioid prescription from four or more providers.) By contrast, only 2.8 percent of individuals with an opioid prescription living in medical marijuana states met the criteria.

    The findings are similar to those reported by the RAND Corporation in 2015, which determined, “[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”

    Data published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine also reported that the enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, finding, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

    Full text of the new study, “The opioid crisis in America’s workforce,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 21, 2016

    Legalize marijuanaFifty-six percent of Americans say “Marijuana use should be legal,” according to the results of a nationwide poll commissioned by CBS News. The percentage is the highest ever reported by news agency.

    Only 36 percent of respondents said that they opposed legalization.

    Seventy-one percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 said that marijuana use ought to be legal, an increase of 10 percent since CBS posed the question last year. Among those age 35 to 64, 57 percent of respondents backed legalization, while only 31 percent of those age 65 or older did so.

    Men (59 percent) were more likely than women (54 percent) to support making marijuana use legal. Democrats (63 percent) and Independents (58 percent) were far more likely to support legalization compared to Republicans (44 percent).

    In response to a separate polling question, 51 percent of Americans admitted having consumed cannabis, up from 34 percent in 1997.

    The poll possesses a margin of error of +/- four percent.

    The CBS survey results are similar to those of other recent national polls, such as those by reported by Gallup, CBS, and Pew, finding that a majority of Americans now support ending marijuana prohibition.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 22, 2016

    cannabis_pillsChronic pain patients with legal access to medicinal cannabis significantly decrease their use of opioids, according to data published online ahead of print in The Journal of Pain.

    Investigators at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor conducted a retrospective survey of 244 chronic pain patients. All of the subjects in the survey were qualified under Michigan law to consume medicinal cannabis and frequented an area dispensary to obtain it.

    Authors reported that respondents often substituted cannabis for opiates and that many rated marijuana to be more effective.

    “Among study participants, medical cannabis use was associated with a 64% decrease in opioid use, decreased number and side effects of medications, and an improved quality of life,” they concluded. “This study suggests that many chronic pain patients are essentially substituting medical cannabis for opioids and other medications for chronic pain treatment, and finding the benefit and side effect profile of cannabis to be greater than these other classes of medications.”

    About 40 people die daily from opioid overdoses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

    Clinical trial data published last month in The Clinical Journal of Pain reported that daily, long-term herbal cannabis treatment is associated with improved pain relief, sleep and quality of life outcomes, as well as reduced opioid use, in patients unresponsive to conventional analgesic therapies.

    The results of a 2015 Canadian trial similarly concluded that chronic pain patients who consumed herbal cannabis daily for one-year experienced reduced discomfort and increased quality of life compared to controls, and did not possess an increased risk of serious side effects.

    Separate data published in 2014 in The Journal of the American Medical Association determined that states with medical marijuana laws experience far fewer opiate-related deaths than do states that prohibit the plant. Investigators from the RAND Corporation reported similar findings in 2015, concluding, “States permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.” Clinical data published in 2011 in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics previously reported that the administration of vaporized cannabis “safely augments the analgesic effect of opioids.”

    An abstract of the University of Michigan study, “Medical cannabis associated with decreased opiate medication use in retrospective cross-sectional survey of chronic pain patients,” appears online here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director March 18, 2016

    MERRY JANE, a premiere cannabis and pop culture media platform, is investigating cannabis globally in their new original series, “Wide World of Cannabis,” which premiered Wednesday. The first episode, “Uruguay Part 1” travels to South America to explore the first country in the world to completely legalize recreational and medical marijuana. This is just the start of MERRY JANE’s deep dive into cannabis use around the world.

    MERRY JANE was recently launched by entertainment icon, Snoop Dogg, and media entrepreneur, Ted Chung. The website, including partners Seth Rogen, Guy Oseary and Miley Cyrus, features the latest news on cannabis, business and entertainment, as well as a location mapping service for dispensaries and an encyclopedia of all things cannabis.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 17, 2016

    fifty_dollar_fineLocal legislators in New Orleans, Louisiana and Tampa, Florida voted today in favor of municipal ordinances to halt minor marijuana possession arrests within city limits.

    Members of the New Orleans city council voted 7 to zero in favor of legislation permitting police to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders (defined as those who possess 14 grams or less), including repeat offenders. First-time violators are subject to a $40 fine while subsequent offenders may face fines of up to $100. Under state law, first-time possession offenders are subject to arrest and criminal prosecution (punishable by up to 15 days in jail) while repeat offenders face up to eight years in prison.

    Members of the Tampa city council voted 5 to 1 to amend local laws so that the possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis within city limits is a non-arrestable, fine-only offense. First-time offenders face a $75 fine, while multiple offenders could face fines up to $450. By contrast, Florida law defines similar possession offenses as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

    Tampa’s pending law is similar to those recently enacted in a number of Florida counties, including Miami-Dade, West Palm Beach, and Volusia, as well as in several other metropolitan areas, such as Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

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