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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 25, 2018

    A Florida Circuit Court judge ruled today that a legislatively enacted ban on the smoking of medical cannabis in private by qualified patients is unconstitutional.

    Lawmakers in 2017 passed Senate Bill 8A — which sought to amend provisions in Amendment 2, a voter initiated constitutional amendment permitting the use and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. Specifically, SB 8A prohibited the possession of marijuana “in a form for smoking” and barred the use of herbal cannabis except in instances where it is contained “in a sealed tamper-proof receptacle for vaping.” Seventy-one percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 2 in November 2016.

    Backers of Amendment 2, including the group Florida for Care and longtime medical activist Cathy Jordan, challenged the ‘no smoking’ ban — arguing that lawmakers improperly sought to overrule the will of the electorate. Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers today ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

    “Section 381.986, Florida Statutes (2017) unconstitutionally restricts rights that are protected in the Constitution, and so the statutory prohibition against the use of smokeable marijuana permitted by [a] qualifying patient is declared invalid and unenforceable,” the judge ruled. “Qualifying patients have the right to use the form of medical marijuana for [the] treatment of their debilitating medical condition as recommended by their certified physicians, including the use of smokable marijuana in private places.”

    NORML has long argued against regulations that limit or restrict patients’ access to whole plant herbal cannabis. Many patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms do not benefit from cannabis-infused pills, tinctures, or edibles because they possess delayed onset compared to inhaled cannabis and are far more variable in their effects.

    “This ruling is a victory for Florida voters and, in particular, Florida’s patient community,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “These legislatively enacted restrictions arbitrarily sought to limit patients’ choices in a manner that violated the spirit of the law, and cynically sought to deny patients the ability to obtain rapid relief from whole-plant cannabis in a manner that has long proven to be relatively safe and effective.”

    The Court’s opinion in the case: People United for Medical Marijuana et al v. Florida department of Health et al., appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 30, 2018

    Long-term exposure to cannabis smoke is not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function, according to clinical data published in the journal Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases.

    A team of investigators led by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health assessed the relationship between marijuana use and respiratory function and symptoms in a cohort of 2,300 subjects ages 40 to 80, many of whom also smoked tobacco.

    Authors reported, “Neither current nor former marijuana use was associated with increased risk of cough, wheeze, or chronic bronchitis when compared to never marijuana users after adjusting for covariates. … Current and former marijuana smokers had significantly higher FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) … when compared to never users. … Both current and former marijuana use was associated with significantly less quantitative emphysema … when compared to never users, even after adjusting for age, … current tobacco smoking pack years, and BMI. … In agreement with other published studies, we also did not find that marijuana use was associated with more obstructive lung disease.”

    The long-term combined use of tobacco and cannabis also was not found to be associated with any additive adverse effects on the lungs. Authors concluded, “Among older adults with a history of tobacco use, marijuana use does not appear to increase risk for adverse lung function. … There may be no to little increased risk of marijuana use for a further increase in respiratory symptoms or adverse effects on lung function among those with a history of concomitant tobacco use.”

    Prior longitudinal studies assessing the effects of long-term cannabis smoke exposure on lung function have similarly reported that subjects’ marijuana use history is not positively associated with increased incidences of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, or with other significant detrimental effects on pulmonary function.

    Full text of the study, “Marijuana use associations with pulmonary symptoms and function in tobacco smokers enrolled in the subpopulations and intermediate outcome measures in COPD Study (SPIROMICS),” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 6, 2017

    cannabis_pillsRepresentatives of Florida for Care filed litigation today challenging a statewide ban on medical cannabis smoking. The suit was expected after lawmakers approved legislation (SB 8A) in June amending Amendment 2 — a voter initiated constitutional amendment permitting the use and distribution of medical cannabis. Seventy-one percent of voters approved the amendment in November.

    Senate Bill 8A amends the definition of medical cannabis in a manner that prohibits “marijuana in a form for smoking” and that bars the personal possession of herbal cannabis flowers, except in instances where they are contained “in a sealed, tamper-proof receptacle for vaping.” The Florida for Care suit argues that these changes inconsistent with the constitutional definition of marijuana, as passed by voters, and therefore should not be implemented.

    The lawsuit argues, “Inhalation is a medically effective and efficient way to deliver tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and other cannabinoids, to the bloodstream. … By redefining the constitutionally defined term ‘medical use’ to exclude smoking, the Legislature substitutes its medical judgment for that of ‘a licensed Florida physician’ and is in direct conflict with the specifically articulated Constitutional process.”

    Under the revised law, patients diagnosed with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis — or who suffer from chronic pain related to any of these diseases — are eligible to receive a 70-day supply of cannabis-infused oils or edible products from a limited number of state-licensed dispensing facilities.

    NORML has long argued against regulations that limit or prohibit patients’ access to whole-plant cannabis in lieu of cannabis-derived extracts or pills. Cannabis inhalation is not associated with increased instances of lung cancer, COPD, or other tobacco-related adverse effects on pulmonary function. Inhaled cannabis is fast acting and permits patients to accurately self-regulate their dose. By contrast, non-herbal forms of cannabis possess delayed onset and their effects can often be far less predictable than those of herbal cannabis. Many patients seeking rapid relief of symptoms do not benefit from pills, tinctures, or edibles, and such restrictions unnecessarily limit patients’ choices.

    If the court invalidates SB 8A, the task of writing the rules for implementing the initiative — which must be operational by October — will fall to the Florida Department of Health.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 6, 2015

    marijuana_seedling

    Marijuana smoke exposure is not positively associated with the development of cancers of the head or neck, according to the results of a systematic literature review published online ahead of print in the journal Archives of Oral Biology.

    Investigators from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil reviewed nine case-control studies to assess whether marijuana smoking favored the development of head and neck cancer. Authors reported that subjects who used cannabis were no more likely to develop the disease than were subjects with no history of use, after researchers controlled for potential confounding such as age, gender, race, and the use of tobacco and alcohol.

    “The result of this study indicated no association between lifetime marijuana use and the risk for development of head and neck cancer,” authors concluded.

    A separate analysis of six case-control studies published last year in the International Journal of Cancer similarly identified no positive association between cannabis smoke exposure and lung cancer, while a 2009 case-control trial published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research reported that the moderate levels of marijuana use were associated with a reduced risk of head and neck cancer.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 21, 2015

    Chronic pain patients who use herbal cannabis daily for one-year report reduced discomfort and increased quality of life compared to controls, and do not experience an increased risk of serious side effects, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Pain.

    Researchers at McGill University in Montreal assessed the long-term health of 216 medicinal cannabis users with chronic non-cancer pain who consumed a daily standardized dose (12.5 percent THC) of herbal cannabis compared to 215 controls (chronic pain suffers who did not use cannabis). Subjects in study were approved by Health Canada to legally use medicinal cannabis and consumed, on average, 2.5 grams of herb per day, typically via inhalation or vaporization.

    Investigators reported that daily cannabis consumers possessed no greater risk than non-users to experience “serious adverse events.” Specifically, researchers identified no significant adverse changes in consumers’ cognitive skills, pulmonary function, or blood work following one-year of daily cannabis consumption. Medical cannabis consumers did report elevated risk of experiencing “non-serious adverse events” (e.g., cough, dizziness, paranoia) compared to controls; however, authors classified these to be “mild to moderate.”

    Pain patients who used cannabis reported a reduced sense of pain compared to controls, as well as reduced anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

    “Quality-controlled herbal cannabis, when used by cannabis-experienced patients as part of a monitored treatment program over one year, appears to have a reasonable safety profile,” authors concluded.

    The study is one of the first to ever assess the long-term safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis. A prior health review of patients receiving medical cannabis monthly from the US federal government as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program similarly reported that cannabis possesses therapeutic efficacy and an acceptable side-effect profile.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study,” appears online here.

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