Rising rates of medical cannabis use among Canadian military veterans is associated with a parallel decline in the use of prescription opiates and benzodiazepenes, according to federal data recently provided to The Globe and Mail.
According to records provided by Veterans Affairs Canada, the number of veterans prescribed benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax, Ativan, and Valium) fell nearly 30 percent between 2012 and 2016, while veterans’ use of prescription opiates declined almost 17 percent. During this same period, veterans seeking federal reimbursements for prescription cannabis rose from fewer than 100 total patients to more than 1,700.
Canadian officials legalized the use of cannabis via prescription in 2001.
While the data set is too small to establish cause and effect, the trend is consistent with data indicating that many patients substitute medical cannabis for other prescription drugs, especially opiates.
Prior assessments from the United States report that incidences of opioid-related addiction, abuse, and mortality are significantly lower in jurisdictions that permit medicinal cannabis access as compared to those states that do not.
Ohio Governor John Kasich has signed legislation into law establishing regulations for the licensed production and dispensing of medical cannabis formulations to qualified patients.
House Bill 523 authorizes the use of various forms of cannabis preparations for the physician-authorized treatment of the following qualifying conditions: acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Alzheimer’s disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease); cancer; chronic traumatic encephalopathy; Crohn’s disease; epilepsy or other seizure disorders; fibromyalgia; glaucoma; hepatitis C; inflammatory bowel disease; multiple sclerosis; pain that is either of the following nature: (i) Chronic and severe; or (ii) Intractable; Parkinson’s disease; positive status for HIV; post-traumatic stress disorder; sickle cell anemia; spinal cord disease or injury; Tourette’s syndrome; traumatic brain injury; and ulcerative colitis.
The new law, which takes effect in 90 days, requires state regulators to license the production, distribution, and testing of cannabis products, but it forbids home cultivation of the plant.
Cannabis-specific products may be dispensed as oils, tinctures, edibles, patches, or as herbal material. Smoking herbal cannabis is not permitted under the measure; however, the measure does not clarify how this prohibition would be enforced.
The vaporizing of medical cannabis products by patients is permitted by the legislation. Similar smoking restrictions exist in four other states: Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania.
THC content in herbal cannabis will be limited to 35 percent under the measure, while extracts will be capped at 75 percent THC.
Although the program is not anticipated to be fully operational until early 2018, provisions in the law provide limited legal protections for qualifying patients who acquire cannabis from alternative sources prior to this date.
A summary of the bill is available from the Ohio Patient Network here.
Ohio is the 26th state to enact statutory language permitting the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana. Last month, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed legislation amending the state’s dormant medical marijuana law to permit the licensed production and distribution of cannabis-infused preparations to qualified patients. However, patients are not anticipated to have access to cannabis products under that law until late 2017 or 2018.
Proponents in Ohio who sought to place a separate, broader medical marijuana measure on the 2016 ballot had recently announced that they were suspending their campaign, stating, “[A]ll in all, [HB 523] is a moderately good piece of legislation passed by lawmakers who were pushed hard by the patient community. We plan on continuing forward as an advocacy effort to ensure that the state of Ohio lives up to the promises contained in HB 523, but also working to better the program utilizing our amendment as a road map for those improvements.”
More than nine in ten pediatric oncology providers with opinions favor patients’ access to cannabis therapy, according to survey data provided this week at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Investigators from various US cancer treatment centers surveyed 654 pediatric oncology providers, including physicians and nurses, at three National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington. Over 300 providers (46 percent) completed the survey.
Of those, 92 percent said that they were “willing to help pediatric cancer patients access medical marijuana,” and just over one-third (34 percent) acknowledged that cannabis therapy “is appropriate in the early stages of cancer treatment.”
Thirty percent of respondents reported receiving requests from patients or their families to access medical marijuana therapy at least once per month.
Overall, pediatric oncology providers hold “predominantly favorable attitudes toward medical marijuana use in pediatric cancer patients,” authors concluded.
Previous surveys of physicians and health care providers report similar attitudes. Survey results published in 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 76 percent of respondents supported the use of cannabis therapy in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. A 2014 poll of over 1,500 physicians commissioned by Web MD similarly reported that 82 percent of oncologists believed that marijuana treatment provides legitimate therapeutic benefits.
An abstract of the survey data, “Pediatric oncology providers and use of medical marijuana in children with cancer,” appears online here.
The majority of US voters believe that the adult use of cannabis ought to be legalized, while more than nine in ten Americans endorse allowing its use for therapeutic purposes, according to the results of nationwide polling data provided by Quinnipiac University.
Fifty-four percent of respondents say that the “use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States.” Support for legalization is strongest among those age 18 to 39 (69 percent), Democrat voters (65 percent), Independents (61 percent), and males (60 percent). Support is weakest among Republicans (36 percent), those over 65 years of age (37 percent), and female voters (47 percent).
By contrast, super-majorities in all demographic categories — including 94 percent of Democrats, 93 percent of Independents, and 81 percent of Republicans — support permitting physicians to authorize medical marijuana use to qualified patients.
In response to a separate polling question, 87 percent of respondents agreed with a recently enacted Congressional amendment authorizing V.A. physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to military veterans in states that permit it.
Fewer adolescents are consuming cannabis; among those who do, fewer are engaging in problematic use of the plant, according to newly published data in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis evaluated government survey data on adolescents’ self-reported drug use during the years 2002 to 2013. Over 216,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 participated in the federally commissioned surveys.
Researchers reported that the percentage of respondents who said that they had used cannabis over the past year fell by ten percent during the study period. The number of adolescents reporting problems related to marijuana, such as engaging in habitual use of the plant, declined by 24 percent from 2002 to 2013.
The study’s lead author acknowledged that the declines in marijuana use and abuse were “substantial.”
The study’s findings are consistent with previous evaluations reporting decreased marijuana use and abuse by young people over the past decade and a half — a period of time during which numerous states have liberalized their marijuana policies.
An abstract of the new study, “Declining prevalence of marijuana use disorders among adolescents in the United States, 2002 to 2013,” appears online here.