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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 20, 2017

    Pain reliefChronic pain patients enrolled in a statewide medical cannabis access program are significantly more likely to either reduce or cease their use of opioids as compared to non-enrolled patients suffering from similar pain conditions, according to data published online in the journal PLOS One.

    A team of investigators at the University of New Mexico assessed opioid prescription use patterns over a 21-month period in 37 pain patients enrolled in the state’s medicinal cannabis program versus 29 non-enrolled patients.

    Compared to non-users, medical cannabis enrollees “were more likely either to reduce daily opioid prescription dosages between the beginning and end of the sample period (83.8 percent versus 44.8 percent) or to cease filling opioid prescriptions altogether (40.5 percent versus 3.4 percent).” Enrollees were also more likely to report an improved quality of life.

    Authors concluded, “The clinically and statistically significant evidence of an association between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription cessation and reductions and improved quality of life warrants further investigations on cannabis as a potential alternative to prescription opioids for treating chronic pain.”

    Prior studies similarly report that patients enrolled in cannabis access programs are more likely to reduce their use of opioids and other prescription drugs.

    Full text of the study, “Association between medical cannabis and prescription opioid use in chronic pain patients: A preliminary cohort study,” appears online here. NORML’s marijuana and opioids fact-sheet is online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 1, 2017

    GovChristieDespite the growing body of scientific evidence showing that cannabis access is associated with reductions in opioid use and mortality, the Chairman of the White House’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis today called upon the President to reject any efforts to acknowledge marijuana’s promising role in mitigating opioid abuse and dependency.

    In a letter sent today to President Donald Trump by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Chairman of the Committee, he writes:

    “The Commission acknowledges that there is an active movement to promote the use of
    marijuana as an alternative medication for chronic pain and as a treatment for opioid addiction. … There is a lack of sophisticated outcome data on dose, potency, and abuse potential for marijuana. This mirrors the lack of data in the 1990’s and early 2000’s when opioid prescribing multiplied across health care settings and led to the current
    epidemic of abuse, misuse and addiction. The Commission urges that the same mistake is not made with the uninformed rush to put another drug legally on the market in the midst of an overdose epidemic.”

    President Trump established the Commission in May via an executive order. Members of the Commission issued their policy recommendations today.

    In recent months, dozens of peer-reviewed studies have concluded that legal cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use, spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Summaries and links to these studies are available here.

    Despite over 10,000 advocates communicating this information to the Commission, members of the committee have chosen to disregard it. Moreover, Gov. Christie opines in today’s letter that cannabis exposure increases the likelihood that one will become opioid dependent — an allegation that was recently rejected by the National Academy of Sciences, which, in a January 2017 review of some 10,000 peer-reviewed studies, failed to identify even one “good or fair-quality systematic review that reported on the association between cannabis use and the initiation of use of opioids.”

    NORML thanks the thousands of you who took the time to try to inform and educate this Commission and regrets that its members continue to place political ideology above the health and safety of American lives.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director October 12, 2017
    Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) speaking a NORML Conference

    Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) speaking at a NORML Conference

    On Wednesday, October 11th, Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) testified before the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health on how to deal with the opioid crisis in America.

    In his testimony, the Congressman makes the case for medical cannabis as a safer alternative to highly addictive opioids, especially for our veterans—as well as the need to remove barriers to medical cannabis research.

    It is well documented that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, and opioid-related overdose deaths.

    Watch the video below and click here to send a message to your elected officials in support of the CARERS Act of 2017 in support of medical marijuana and click here to send a message to the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Opioid Commission to urge them to include medical marijuana as part of the national strategy to combat the opioid crisis.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 18, 2017

    Marijuana medicineChronic pain patients enrolled in a statewide medical marijuana program are more likely to reduce their use of prescription drugs than are those patients who don’t use cannabis, according to data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

    Investigators from the University of New Mexico compared prescription drug use patterns over a 24-month period in 83 pain patients enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program and 42 non-enrolled patients. Researchers reported that, on average, program registrants significantly reduced their prescription drug intake while non-registrants did not.

    Specifically, 34 percent of registered patients eliminated their use of prescription drugs altogether by the study’s end, while an additional 36 percent of participants used fewer medications by the end of the sample period.

    “Legal access to cannabis may reduce the use of multiple classes of dangerous prescription medications in certain patient populations,” authors concluded. “[A] shift from prescriptions for other scheduled drugs to cannabis may result in less frequent interactions with our conventional healthcare system and potentially improved patient health.”

    A pair of studies published in the journal Health Affairs previously reported that medical cannabis access is associated with lower Medicaid expenditures and reduced spending on Medicare Part D approved prescription medications.

    Separate studies have reported that patients with legal access to medical marijuana reduce their intake of opioidsbenzodiazepinesanti-depressantsmigraine-related medications, and sleep aids, among other substances.

    An abstract of the study, “Effects of legal access to cannabis on Scheduled II–V drug prescriptions,” appears online here.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director August 22, 2017
    Photo Credit: Carlo Allegri

    Photo Credit: Carlo Allegri

    Giving remarks to the Native American Housing Association, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson strayed into the marijuana reform debate. Unfortunately, the doctor did not know his facts.

    Per the Flathead Beacon:

    The HUD secretary briefly strayed from his prepared remarks to note that he believed marijuana use was just as problematic as opiate abuse.

    “I’m not all that enthusiastic about marijuana because there have been numerous studies that show exposing a developing brain to marijuana can lead to lower IQs,” he said. “We already have enough people with a low IQ, and we don’t need anymore.”

    The ongoing stereotype of marijuana consumers may be funny in movies, but it runs counter to evidence based science.

    NORML has reported on three studies over the last year and a half that have come out dispelling this myth.

    In London, United Kingdom, researchers concluded, “In summary, the notion that cannabis use itself is causally related to lower IQ and poorer educational performance was not supported in this large teenage sample.”

    Data published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences led researchers to conclude: “In the largest longitudinal examination of marijuana use and IQ change, … we find little evidence to suggest that adolescent marijuana use has a direct effect on intellectual decline. … [T]he lack of a dose-response relationship, and an absence of meaningful differences between discordant siblings lead us to conclude that the deficits observed in marijuana users are attributable to confounding factors that influence both substance initiation and IQ rather than a neurotoxic effect of marijuana.”

    Researchers published in the journal Addiction wrote: “[W]e found that youth who used cannabis … had lower IQ at age 18, but there was little evidence that cannabis use was associated with IQ decline from age 12 to 18. Moreover, although cannabis use was associated with lower IQ and poorer executive functions at age 18, these associations were generally not apparent within pairs of twins from the same family, suggesting that family background factors explain why adolescents who use cannabis perform worse on IQ and executive function tests.”

    Investigators concluded, “Short-term cannabis use in adolescence does not appear to cause IQ decline or impair executive functions, even when cannabis use reaches the level of dependence.”

    Their findings are consistent with those of several other studies – including those here, here, and here– finding that cannabis use alone during adolescence does not appear to have a significant, direct adverse effect on intelligence quotient.

    Further, as to Secretary Carson’s remarks in the context of the nations opioid epidemic, it is important to note that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, and opioid-related overdose deaths.

    Don’t let those who speak in outdated rhetoric fool you. Stay vigilant against those who maintain the systems of prohibitionist oppression.

    Click here to tell your member of Congress to join the newly formed Congressional Cannabis Caucus, to find real policy solutions to reforming our nations marijuana laws in our quest to deschedule the plant. 

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