• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 21, 2015

    Chronic pain patients who use herbal cannabis daily for one-year report reduced discomfort and increased quality of life compared to controls, and do not experience an increased risk of serious side effects, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Pain.

    Researchers at McGill University in Montreal assessed the long-term health of 216 medicinal cannabis users with chronic non-cancer pain who consumed a daily standardized dose (12.5 percent THC) of herbal cannabis compared to 215 controls (chronic pain suffers who did not use cannabis). Subjects in study were approved by Health Canada to legally use medicinal cannabis and consumed, on average, 2.5 grams of herb per day, typically via inhalation or vaporization.

    Investigators reported that daily cannabis consumers possessed no greater risk than non-users to experience “serious adverse events.” Specifically, researchers identified no significant adverse changes in consumers’ cognitive skills, pulmonary function, or blood work following one-year of daily cannabis consumption. Medical cannabis consumers did report elevated risk of experiencing “non-serious adverse events” (e.g., cough, dizziness, paranoia) compared to controls; however, authors classified these to be “mild to moderate.”

    Pain patients who used cannabis reported a reduced sense of pain compared to controls, as well as reduced anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

    “Quality-controlled herbal cannabis, when used by cannabis-experienced patients as part of a monitored treatment program over one year, appears to have a reasonable safety profile,” authors concluded.

    The study is one of the first to ever assess the long-term safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis. A prior health review of patients receiving medical cannabis monthly from the US federal government as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program similarly reported that cannabis possesses therapeutic efficacy and an acceptable side-effect profile.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study,” appears online here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director September 16, 2015

    At nearly the two and half hour mark in tonight’s marathon Republican debate on CNN Jake Tapper directed a question from the online audience, indicating it was very popular, to Senator Rand Paul regarding Colorado and other states having recently legalized marijuana by popular vote on binding initiatives, that if elected president of the US Governor Chris Christie recently said ‘the people of Colorado should enjoy their pot now because if elected by 2017 I’ll be going after them to shut down’, imploring Senator Paul to respond to Christie’s clear threat to state autonomy in states like Colorado (along with Alaska, Oregon and Washington too).vote

    Senator Paul indicated that he supports the 10th Amendment and states rights, that the drug war has racist outcomes, that rehabilitation is preferable to incarceration, expanding drug courts, indicated the war on drugs is a failure, and that individuals on the stage are hypocrites for their youthful marijuana use. Governor Jeb Bush apparently took that to mean him…where he extolled the virtues of Florida’s drug courts. Paul retorted that Bush didn’t support medical access to marijuana. Bush claimed that he did, but only the way the legislature in Florida recently passed restrictive laws (‘Not Colorado-like laws’), that he didn’t support the 2014 effort to pass medical marijuana laws via a ballot initiative and that he voted against it.

    Senator Paul drilled Bush that he didn’t really support medical marijuana or states’ rights.

    Bush claimed that if voters in Colorado wanted different marijuana laws he wouldn’t necessarily interfere.

    The next two candidates took the opportunity to try to have it both ways, first with Christie extolling New Jersey’s recently passed ‘rehabilitation over incarceration’ legislation and that the “war on drugs is largely a failure”, but, non-sensibly, then goes on to bluster and re-affirm his virulent opposition to marijuana legalization, claiming marijuana is a gateway drug (which simply is not supported by science or data). He exclaimed to Paul ‘if you want marijuana legalized, pass a law in Congress’.

    Then former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina took the unsolicited opportunity to gratuitously mention her son’s addiction and death from drug overdose (self-evidently not from marijuana), that marijuana is a gateway drug, is way more potent (‘Then when Jeb Bush smoked it”)…but, then, incongruously, she insisted that the war on drugs is a failure, prisons are overcrowded and that “what we’re doing is not working”.

    Senator Paul attacked Christie for not truly supporting the 1oth Amendment allowing states autonomy from the federal government, that, further, if president Christie would enforce federal laws against state medical cannabis patients, including children who’re recommended medical marijuana use by physicians.

    Distilled: Three of the Republican candidates indicated the war on drugs is a failure (Paul, Fiorina and Christie), one candidate (Bush) indicated that the federal government has an important role to play against drug use.

    One candidate supported medical access to marijuana and states rights (Paul); one candidate claimed to support states rights and limited access to medical marijuana (Bush); one candidate supported medical access to marijuana, but would use federal law to stop states from deviating from federal policies they no longer support (Christie) and a candidate will use the death of their child to advance inaccurate and unscientific claims–while at the same time wanting credit for identifying the problems that contributed to their son’s plight, while making no indication how if at all they’d allow states autonomy to make policy decisions independent of the centralized federal government (Fiorina).

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    NORMLState taxes specific to the production and retail sale of marijuana totaled some $70 million in Colorado over the past year — nearly twice the amount collected for alcohol during this same period.

    Financial data released this week by the Colorado Department of Revenue reports that state regulators collected $69,898,059 from marijuana-specific taxes from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. This total includes the collection of $43,938,721 from the imposition of a 10 percent special sales tax on retail sales to adults, and $25,959,338 collected from the imposition of a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale transfers of marijuana intended for commercial sales. In comparison, the state raised just under $41,837,647 from alcohol-specific taxes during this same period, including $27,309,606 from excise taxes collected on spirited liquors, $8,881,349 from excise taxes on beer, and $5,646,692 from excise taxes collected on vinous liquors.

    Additional revenue attributable to the imposition of state sales taxes (2.9 percent) on retail sales of cannabis and/or booze were not included in the Department’s calculations. The majority of Colorado voters approved the imposition of cannabis-specific taxes (Proposition AA) in November 2013.

    According to market research reported recently by Marijuana Business Daily, the average amount spent on marijuana in states where the drug is legal is $1,800 per year versus only $450 for alcohol.

    In Washington state, where retail cannabis sales began last summer, data released today estimates that marijuana-specific tax revenues have generated $90 million in the past 15 months.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    vote_keyboardBy a margin of over 2 to 1, voters in Toledo, Ohio yesterday approved a municipal ballot measure removing criminal and civil penalties associated with minor marijuana possession offenses. The vote took place during a special city election.

    Ballot Issue 1, the “Sensible Marijuana Ordinance,” amends the city’s municipal code to eliminate the threat of jail or fines for those found within city limits to be in the possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana. The measure also prohibits the city from suspending one’s license as a punishment for violating marijuana possession laws.

    Under Ohio law, any conviction for possession of a controlled substance is subject to driver’s license revocation for no less than 6 months and no more than 5 years.

    A summary of the ordinance is available here.

    Despite the measure’s popularity, both the city’s mayor and police chief have indicated their intent to charge minor marijuana offenders under the Ohio Revised Code rather than under the local ordinance. State law classifies classifies the possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis as a minor criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $150. Marijuana possession offenses involving more than 100 grams but less than 200 grams are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.

    Toledo is the fourth largest city in Ohio.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 11, 2015

    Teen Marijuana Use FlatCurrent use of marijuana by those between the ages of 12 to 17 has remained largely unchanged over the past decade, while young people’s self-reported consumption of alcohol and cigarettes has fallen to record lows, according to federal data compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    According to SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the percentage of respondents ages 12 to 17 who reported past-month use of marijuana remained steady from 7.6 percent in 2004 to 7.4 percent in 2014. By contrast, teens’ use of tobacco, cigarettes, and alcohol fell dramatically during this same period. Over the past ten years, adolescents’ use of tobacco fell from 14.4 percent to 7 percent, their use of cigarettes fell from 11.9 percent to 4.9 percent, and their use of alcohol fell from 17.6 percent to 11.5 percent. Binge drinking by young people fell from 11.1 percent in 2004 to 6.1 percent in 2014.

    Self-reported marijuana use by older respondents, particularly among those age 26 and older has increased in recent years. By contrast, since 2012, when voters in Colorado and Washington decided to permit the commercial production and sale of cannabis to adults, youth marijuana use in the past 30 days is virtually unchanged (7.2 percent in 2012, 7.4 percent in 2014).

    Of all estimated past-month illicit drug consumers, 82 percent are users of marijuana, the survey reported.

    The data once again undermines the concern that liberalizing marijuana laws for adults will inherently increase youth marijuana use and indicates that a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults but restricts its use among young people — coupled with a legal environment that fosters open, honest dialogue between parents and children about cannabis’ potential harms — best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or abuse.

    Nonetheless, marijuana law reform opponents are refusing to acknowledge these positive trends, instead falsely stating that marijuana use is “continuing to rise among youth.”

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