#1 Public Support For Legalizing Marijuana Hits Historic Highs
An unprecedented 58 percent of Americans believe that marijuana ought to be “made legal” for adult consumption, according to survey data reported in October by Gallup. The percentage is the highest level of support ever recorded by Gallup, which has been inquiring on the issue since 1969, and marks a ten percent increase in voter approval since 2012. Regional polls conducted this year in several states, including California, Louisiana, and Texas, also reported majority support for legalization.
#2 Nation Of Uruguay Passes Legislation Regulating Cannabis Use
Lawmakers in the South American nation of Uruguay enacted legislation authorizing the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to all citizens age 18 and older. Residents will be able to legally purchase up to 40 grams of cannabis per month from state-licensed stores at a price of $1 per gram. Uruguay is the first country in modern history to officially legalize and regulate the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis.
#3 Feds Pledge Not To Interfere In State-Licensed Retail Sales Of Cannabis
Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a three-page memorandum in August affirming that the US Justice Department will allow Colorado and Washington to move forward with statewide efforts to license and regulate the adult marijuana market. Cole later reaffirmed the agency’s position in testimony before the US Senate, stating, “We will not … seek to preempt state ballot initiatives.”
#4 States Finalize Regulations Governing Adult Cannabis Sales
Regulators in Colorado and Washington this fall began accepting applications from businesses seeking to engage in the licensed cultivation, production, and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products. In Washington, several thousand applicants have applied to pot business licenses. In Colorado, regulators have begun approving licenses and several commercial establishments are expected to be open for business on January 1, 2014.
#5 Record Number Of Statewide Marijuana Reform Measures Enacted Into Law
Lawmakers in a dozen states approved some 20 pieces of marijuana law reform legislation in 2013. Specifically, lawmakers in Colorado and Vermont enacted legislation licensing commercial hemp production; Illinois and New Hampshire legalized the use and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes; Oregon and Nevada approved regulations allowing for the establishment of medical cannabis distribution facilities; and Oregon and Vermont significantly reduced marijuana possession penalties.
#6 Cannabis Dispensaries Open In Washington, DC
Medical cannabis facilities opened for business in Washington, DC in 2013. The establishments are licensed and regulated by the District of Columbia, which finally unveiled its long-awaited medical marijuana program earlier this year. State-authorized dispensaries also opened for the first time this year in New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Lawmakers in four states, Illinois, Oregon, Nevada and New Hampshire, enacted legislation in 2013 allowing for the establishment of medicinal cannabis facilities.
#7 Study: Blacks Arrested For Pot Offenses At Rates Four Times That Of Whites
African Americans are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession offenses than are whites, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report released in June that analyzed arrest data from 945 counties nationwide. The report found that blacks were approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, even though both ethnicities consumed the substance at similar rates. Authors reported that the racial disparity in arrest rates had grown significantly over the past decade and that in some states African Americans were nearly eight times as likely as whites to be arrested for cannabis possession.
#8 FDA Approves Clinical Trials Of CBD In Cases Of Pediatric Epilepsy
The US Food and Drug Administration this fall granted approval for the importation of cannabidiol (CBD) extracts as an experimental treatment for a rare, intractable form of pediatric epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. Preliminary clinical trials assessing the safety and tolerability of the compound in children are scheduled to begin in early 2014. Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has been documented to possess a variety of therapeutic qualities, including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, anti-cancer, and bone-stimulating properties.
#9 Study: No Association Between Cannabis Smoking And Lung Cancer
Subjects who regularly inhale cannabis smoke possess no greater risk of lung cancer than do those who consume it occasionally or not at all, according to data presented in May at the annual meeting of the American Academy for Cancer Research. UCLA investigators analyzed data from six case-control studies, conducted between 1999 and 2012, involving over 5,000 subjects (2,159 cases and 2,985 controls). They reported, “Our pooled results showed no significant association between the intensity, duration, or cumulative consumption of cannabis smoke and the risk of lung cancer overall or in never smokers.”
#10 Members Of Congress Introduce Legislation To End Federal Pot Prohibition
Members of Congress in February introduced historic legislation, HR 499: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, to remove cannabis from the control of the Drug Enforcement Administration and authorize the US Department of Treasury to license state-authorized retail marijuana producers and distributors. Although Congress refused to vote on the measure in 2013, it was the most-viewed legislation on the Congress.gov website.
The results of a first-of-its-kind worldwide survey of nearly 1,000 medicinal cannabis consumers shows that most patients prefer their medicine in the way that nature, not Big Pharma, intended it to be.
Investigators from Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States conducted a web-based survey consisting of 21 structured questions to assess patients’ perceptions of different types of cannabinoid-based medicininal products as well as their preferred modes of consumption. Over 950 subjects participated in the survey.
The study’s findings appear in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
Overall, subjects said that herbal cannabis preparations were more cost-effective and posed fewer side-effects than cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals. Participants also reported greater satisfaction with inhaled (via either smoking or vaporizing) forms of cannabis products as compared to oral dosing.
“In general, herbal non-pharmaceutical CBMs (cannabinoid-based medicines) received higher appreciation scores by participants than pharmaceutical products containing cannabinoids,” the study concluded. “[O]ur data suggest that overall there is good satisfaction with whole plant preparations that are affordable and administered in an inhaled manner, or in the form of a tincture.”
An abstract of the study, “The Medicinal Use of Cannabis and Cannabinoids — An International Cross-Sectional Survey on Administration Forms,” appears online here.
Members of the Oregon House and Senate have given final approval to House Bill 3460, which licenses medicinal cannabis dispensaries statewide.
Senate members approved an amended version of the bill by an 18 to 12 vote on July 3. House members had previously passed the bill in June. Members signed off on the Senate’s amendments this past weekend.
House Bill 3460 “directs [the] Oregon Health Authority to establish a registration system for medical marijuana facilities.” The department has until March 2014 to draft rules regulating dispensaries. Such facilities exist presently in the state but are unregulated and remain subject to state and local prosecution. Officials expect to register an estimated 225 dispensaries in the first two years.
Oregonians initially authorized the physician-supervised use of cannabis in 1998. However, the law limits patients’ access to cannabis to either home-cultivation or cultivation by a designated caregiver.
House Bill 3460 was publicly supported of Oregon’s Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum. The measure now awaits approval from Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, and Rhode Island have state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries up and running. (California dispensaries are not licensed by the state.) Similar dispensary outlets are in the process of opening in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont, and Washington, DC.
The amended bill calls for the creation of four state-sanctioned marijuana dispensing facilities to produce and distribute cannabis to state-qualified patients who possess a physician’s recommendation. Patients diagnosed with one of approximately twenty qualifying conditions — including cancer, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease, or multiple sclerosis — would be permitted to legally possess up to than two-ounces of cannabis. Under the proposed law, patients must obtain cannabis only from a state-licensed facility. Qualified patients will not be provided with any legal protections to possess or use cannabis prior to the establishment of such facilities.
As originally passed by the House, the measure allowed for qualified patients to have the option to grow their own cannabis. The measure also allowed for physicians to recommend cannabis for the treatment of post-traumatic stress. Both provisions were stripped from the bill by the Senate at the request of newly-elected Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan.
Gov. Hassan is expected to approve the reconciled version of HB 573. A commission is expected to be put in place to oversee the implementation of the law as soon as the bill is passed.
New Hampshire will become the 19th state to allow for the limited, legal use of medical cannabis and the final New England state to do so.
Another study has once again affirmed that the enactment of statewide medical cannabis laws is not associated with increased rates of adolescent marijuana consumption.
According to data published this week in the American Journal of Public Health, the passage of medical marijuana laws in various states has had no “statistically significant … effect on the prevalence of either lifetime or 30-day marijuana use” by adolescents residing in those states.
Researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine evaluated the effects of medical marijuana laws on adolescent marijuana use rates during the years 2003 and 2011. Investigators “found no evidence of intermediate-term effects of passage of state MMLs (medical marijuana laws) on the prevalence or frequency of adolescent nonmedical marijuana use in the states evaluated.” Authors concluded, “Our results suggest that, in the states assessed here, MMLs have not measurably affected adolescent marijuana use.”
The study’s findings rebut often repeated claims from cannabis prohibitionists that the passage of therapeutic cannabis laws adversely impacts teens’ usage of the substance.
In fact, numerous published studies have contradicted this claim. A 2012 analysis of statewide cannabis laws and adolescent use patterns of commissioned by the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany concluded: “Our results suggest that the legalization of medical marijuana was not accompanied by increases in the use of marijuana or other substances such as alcohol and cocaine among high school students. Interestingly, several of our estimates suggest that marijuana use actually declined with the passage of medical marijuana laws.”
A separate 2012 study by researchers at McGill University in Montreal and published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology reported similar findings, concluding: “[P]assing MMLs (medical marijuana laws) decreased past-month use among adolescents … and had no discernible effect on the perceived riskiness of monthly use. … [These] estimates suggest that reported adolescent marijuana use may actually decrease following the passing of medical marijuana laws.”
Previous investigations by research teams at Brown University in 2011 and Texas A&M in 2007 made similar determinations, concluding, “[C]onsistent with other studies of the liberalization of cannabis laws, medical cannabis laws do not appear to increase use of the drug.”
Full text of the study, “Effects of State Medical Marijuana Laws on Adolescent Marijuana Use,” appears online in the American Journal of Public Health.