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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 14, 2015

    Study: Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Reduced Opioid AbuseStates that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-partisan think-tank.

    Researchers from the RAND Corporation and the University of California, Irvine assessed the impact of medical marijuana laws on problematic opioid use, as measured by treatment admissions for opioid pain reliever addiction (compiled from the years 1992 to 2012) and by state-level opioid overdose deaths (compiled from the years 1999 to 2013).

    “[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not,” authors reported. They found that women over the age of 40 showed the most significant decrease in problematic opioid use.

    Data published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine reported that the enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates. “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws,” investigators reported.

    Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have increased dramatically over the past decade. While fewer than 4,100 opiate-induced fatalities were reported for the year 1999, by 2010 this figure rose to over 16,600 according to an analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control.

    An abstract of the study, “Do Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Addictions and Deaths Related to Pain Killers?”, is available online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 25, 2014

    The enactment of medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, according to data published online today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.

    A team of investigators from the University of Pennsylvania, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore conducted a time-series analysis of medical cannabis laws and state-level death certificate data in the United States from 1999 to 2010 — a period during which 13 states instituted laws allowing for cannabis therapy.

    Researchers reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” Specifically, overdose deaths from opioids decreased by an average of 20 percent one year after the law’s implementation, 25 percent by two years, and up to 33 percent by years five and six.

    They concluded, “In an analysis of death certificate data from 1999 to 2010, we found that states with medical cannabis laws had lower mean opioid analgesic overdose mortality rates compared with states without such laws. This finding persisted when excluding intentional overdose deaths (ie, suicide), suggesting that medical cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality among individuals using opioid analgesics for medical indications. Similarly, the association between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality rates persisted when including all deaths related to heroin, even if no opioid analgesic was present, indicating that lower rates of opioid analgesic overdose mortality were not offset by higher rates of heroin overdose mortality. Although the exact mechanism is unclear, our results suggest a link between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality.”

    In a written statement to Reuters Health, lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber said: “Most of the discussion on medical marijuana has been about its effect on individuals in terms of reducing pain or other symptoms. The unique contribution of our study is the finding that medical marijuana laws and policies may have a broader impact on public health.”

    Added co-author Colleen L. Barry in USA Today: “[The study’s findings] suggest the potential for many lives to be saved. … We can speculate … that people are completely switching or perhaps supplementing, which allows them to lower the dosage of their prescription opioid.”

    Nationwide, overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have increased dramatically over the past decade. While fewer than 4,100 opiate-induced fatalities were reported for the year 1999, by 2010 this figure rose to over 16,600 according to an analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control.

    An abstract of the JAMA study, “Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 14, 2011

    From Reuters News Wire:

    Alcohol kills more than AIDS, TB or violence
    Drinking causes more than 4 percent of deaths worldwide, WHO warns

    Alcohol causes nearly 4 percent of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence, the World Health Organization warned on Friday.

    … Yet alcohol control policies are weak and remain a low priority for most governments despite drinking’s heavy toll on society from road accidents, violence, disease, child neglect and job absenteeism, it said.

    Approximately 2.5 million people die each year from alcohol related causes, the WHO said in its “Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health.”

    “The harmful use of alcohol is especially fatal for younger age groups and alcohol is the world’s leading risk factor for death among males aged 15-59,” the report found.

    Alcohol is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries, according to WHO’s first report on alcohol since 2004.

    Its consumption has been linked to cirrhosis of the liver, epilepsy, poisonings, road traffic accidents, violence, and several types of cancer, including cancers of the colorectum, breast, larynx and liver

    Of course the reason we see these startling links between alcohol consumption and disease is because ethanol, the psychoactive compound in alcohol, and acetaldehyde (what ethanol is converted to after ingestion), pose toxic risks to health cells and organs. By contrast, marijuana’s active compounds — the cannabinoids — pose little comparable risk to healthy cells and organs, and are incapable of causing fatal overdose.

    So answer me again: Why do we celebrate consumers and manufacturers of alcohol while we simultaneously target, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate consumers and producers of a far safer substance?

    Isn’t it time to visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ and ask your elected officials that same question?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 14, 2009

    UPDATE!!! You can also read and leave feedback on this post at The Hill’s influential Congress blog here or on Huffington Post here.

    “This ain’t your grandfather’s or your father’s marijuana. This will hurt you. This will addict you. This will kill you.”– Mark R. Trouville, DEA Miami, speaking to the Associated Press (June 22, 2007)

    Government claims that today’s pot is more potent, and thus more dangerous to health, than ever before must be taken with a grain of salt.

    Federal officials have made similarly dire assertions before. In a 2004 Reuters News Wire story, government officials alleged, “Pot is no longer the gentle weed of the 1960s and may pose a greater threat than cocaine or even heroin.” (Anti-drug officials failed to explain why, if previous decades’ pot was so “gentle” and innocuous, police still arrested you for it.)

    In 2007, Reuters again highlighted the alleged record rise in cannabis potency, proclaiming, “U.S. marijuana grows stronger than before: report.” Quoted in the news story was ex-Drug Czar John Walters, who warned, “This report underscores that we are no longer talking about the drug of the 1960s and 1970s — this is Pot 2.0.”

    (more…)

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 5, 2008

    As always, the first casualty in war is truth — and nowhere is this more evident than in Great Britain, where Prime Minister Gordon Brown appears intent on recriminalizing cannabis over the vehement objections of his own scientific advisory panel of experts and even the police.

    Hysteria Over Cannabis Getting In The Way Of Truth
    via The Observer

    First, cannabis remains the most commonly used illegal drug. But its use has been falling steadily since 2000, with no hint that this decline was affected by reclassification. Home Office statistics show that cannabis use by 16- to 24-year-olds has fallen by about 20 per cent since 2004. So, if we naively argue from correlations (the basis of so much of the evidence about harm), returning cannabis to B would be expected to increase its use.

    Second, there is concern about the message that reclassification has sent. But there is no evidence that classification influences the attitude of young people to drugs. Amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy are all runners-up to cannabis in the league table of popularity in this country – and they are all class A. Usage of cocaine has grown over the past eight years, as that of cannabis has declined.

    Third, there is, quite rightly, a particular worry about young people. Yet the the government’s own figures show that only one 11-year-old in 150 has tried cannabis in the last year, while 4 per cent have sniffed glue and fully 21 per cent have drunk alcohol.

    Read the full article here.

    And speaking of hysteria, cannabis, and British PM Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister has recently begun claiming that pot is “lethal,” despite the well-known fact that a human overdose from weed is physically impossible.

    Pot lethal?! Hardly.

    Pot prohibition on the other hand