• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 9, 2016

    pain_reliefMarijuana consumers do not access health care services at rates that are higher than non-users, according to data published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Internal Medicine.

    Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin assessed the relationship between marijuana use and health care utilization in a nationally representative sample of 174,159,864 US adults aged 18 to 59 years old.

    Authors reported “no significant increase in outpatient health care visits and overnight hospital admissions in marijuana users compared to non-users.” They also reported that those who consumed cannabis multiple times per day were no more likely to seek health care patient services as compared to those who used the substance less frequently.

    They concluded, “[C]ontrary to popular belief, … marijuana use is not associated with increased healthcare utilization, [and] there [is] also no association between health care utilization and frequency of marijuana use.”

    A previous assessment, published in 2014 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, similarly reported that the use of marijuana within the past three months was not associated with adverse effects on health, comorbidity, ER visits, or hospitalization.

    An abstract of the study, “Marijuana users do not have increased healthcare utilization: A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study,” appears here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 25, 2016

    oil_bottlesMore than two in three military veterans say that medical cannabis should be legal, and 75 percent believe that VA physicians should be able to recommend marijuana therapy to eligible patients, according to the results of the 7th annual membership survey of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American (IAVA).

    Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they “support the legalization of medical marijuana in their state.” Only 20 percent oppose legalizing medical cannabis access.

    Seventy-five percent of veterans “believe the VA should allow medical marijuana as a treatment option where warranted.” Fourteen percent of respondents disagreed.

    Founded in 2004, the IAVA states that it is “the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America.”

    In May, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include language in the 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to permit VA doctors to recommend cannabis therapy. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee decided in June to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.

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

    legalization_pollSixty-five percent of Americans ages 18 and older believe that “government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth” and 55 percent of respondents say that the plant’s use ought to be legal, according to national polling data compiled by YouGov.com.

    Those living in the western region of the United States (65 percent), Hispanics (64 percent), Democrats (63 percent), and those under 30 (63 percent) were most likely to endorse legalizing marijuana use. Republicans (45 percent), African Americans (44 percent), and those over the age of 65 (40 percent) were least likely to be supportive.

    By contrast, a majority of respondents of all ages and political persuasions agreed with the notion that marijuana law enforcement costs more than it’s worth.

    In response to a separate polling question, respondents agreed by a margin of more than 2 to 1 that the government should not enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states that have legalized its use.

    A majority of those polled also disputed the allegation that cannabis use is a ‘gateway’ to other illicit drug use. Of those under the age of 60, only 25 percent believed the claim.

    The YouGov.com survey polled 1,000 US citizens and possesses a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 18, 2016


    Montana voters will decide this November on a statewide initiative to restore and expand elements of the state’s medical cannabis program.

    The Secretary of State’s office has affirmed that initiative proponents, Montana Citizens for I-182, submitted sufficient signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

    The Montana Medical Marijuana Act (I-182) amends the state’s existing law to expand the pool of patients eligible to access cannabis therapy and removes certain restrictions on recommending physicians and providers. The measure also establishes a regulatory scheme overseeing the testing and distribution of medical cannabis products.

    Montana voters initially approved ballot initiative language in 2004 authorizing qualified patients to possess and grow medical marijuana. In 2011, lawmakers passed legislation significantly revising the law. This spring, members of the Montana Supreme Court upheld several of those amendments, including provisions that called for additional oversight for physicians who recommend cannabis therapy to more than 25 patients annually, and permitting law enforcement to engage in warrantless inspections of the premises of marijuana providers.

    The full text of I-182 is available online here. A fact sheet about the measure is available here.

    Voters this November will also decide on separate statewide medical use measures in Arkansas, Florida, and Missouri.

    Initiatives to permit the adult use of cannabis are pending in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. A Michigan initiative remains in litigation.

    Summaries and status of pending 2016 statewide initiatives is available from NORML’s Take Action Center here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 12, 2016

    substitutionThe enactment of statewide medicinal cannabis laws is associated with a quantifiable decline in the use of traditional prescription drugs, according to data published in the July edition of the scientific journal Health Affairs.

    Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the relationship between medical marijuana legalization laws and physicians’ prescribing patterns in 17 states over a three-year period (2010 to 2013). Specifically, researchers assessed patients’ consumption of and spending on prescription drugs approved under Medicare Part D in nine domains: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity.

    Authors reported that prescription drug use fell significantly in seven of the nine domains assessed.

    “Generally, we found that when a medical marijuana law went into effect, prescribing for FDA-approved prescription drugs under Medicare Part D fell substantially,” investigators reported. “Ultimately, we estimated that nationally the Medicare program and its enrollers spent around $165.2 million less in 2013 as a result of changed prescribing behaviors induced by … jurisdictions that had legalized medical marijuana.”
    Investigators estimated that prescription drug savings would total more than $468 million annually were cannabis therapy to be accessible in all 50 states.

    They concluded, “Our findings and existing clinical literature imply that patients respond to medical marijuana legislation as if there are clinical benefits to the drug, which adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the Schedule I status of marijuana is outdated.”

    An abstract of the study, “Medical marijuana laws reduce prescription medication use in Medicare Part D,” is available online here.

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