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SOCIETY

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 2, 2018

    The enactment of marijuana legalization laws is associated with a significant reduction in the number of opioids prescribed and filled, according to a pair of studies published online today in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

    In the first study, investigators from the University of Kentucky and Emory University assessed the association between medical and adult-use marijuana laws with opioid prescribing rates and spending among Medicaid enrollees. They reported:

    “State implementation of medical marijuana laws was associated with a 5.88 percent lower rate of opioid prescribing. Moreover, the implementation of adult-use marijuana laws, which all occurred in states with existing medical marijuana laws, was associated with a 6.38 percent lower rate of opioid prescribing. … [T]he further reductions in opioid prescribing associated with the newly implemented adult-use marijuana laws suggest that there were individuals beyond the reach of medical marijuana laws who may also benefit from using marijuana in lieu of opioids. Our finding that the lower opioid prescribing rates associated with adult-use marijuana laws were pronounced in Schedule II opioids further suggest that reaching these individuals may have greater potential to reduce the adverse consequences, such as opioid use disorder and overdose.”

    The full text of the study, “Association of Medical and Adult-Use Marijuana Laws With Opioid Prescribing for Medicaid Enrollees,” is available here.

    In the second study, University of Georgia researchers evaluated the association between the enactment of medical cannabis access laws and opioid prescribing patterns under Medicare Part D. They reported:

    “This longitudinal analysis of Medicare Part D found that prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year when a state instituted any medical cannabis law. Prescriptions for all opioids decreased by 3.742 million daily doses per year when medical cannabis dispensaries opened. … Combined with previously published studies suggesting cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid mortality, these findings further strengthen arguments in favor of considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids.”

    The full text of the study, “Association Between US State Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population,” is available here.

    Both findings are consistent with those of numerous prior studies finding that cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, mortality, and overall prescription drug spending. A compilation of these studies is available in the NORML fact-sheet here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 21, 2018

    The enactment of adult use marijuana regulation in Colorado and Washington is not independently linked to an increase in traffic fatalities, according to a study published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Investigators at the University of Oregon compared traffic accident outcomes in Colorado and Washington following legalization to other states with similar pre-legalization economic and traffic trends. They reported, “We find that states that legalized marijuana have not experienced significantly different rates of marijuana- or alcohol-related traffic fatalities relative to their synthetic controls.”

    Authors concluded, “In summary, the similar trajectory of traffic fatalities in Washington and Colorado relative to their synthetic control counterparts yield little evidence that the total rate of traffic fatalities has increased significantly as a consequence of recreational marijuana legalization.”

    The study’s findings are similar to those of a 2017 study published in The American Journal of Public Health which reported, “Three years after recreational marijuana legalization, changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization.”

    A 2016 study reported that the enactment of medical cannabis legislation is associated with an immediate decline in traffic fatalities among younger drivers.

    Full text of the study, “Early evidence on recreational marijuana legalization and traffic fatalities” is available from the National Bureau of Economic Research. NORML’s fact-sheets on cannabis, psychomotor performance, and accident risk is online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 16, 2018

    Legalization in DCSenate lawmakers this week passed legislation, Senate Bill 1120, that seeks to preemptively quash many of the provisions of State Question 788 — an expansive voter initiative that provides physicians the discretion to recommend medical marijuana to those patients for whom they believe it will therapeutically benefit. Oklahomans will be voting on the measure, which NORML has endorsed, during a special election on June 26.

    But state politicians who oppose the plan do not want to wait until June for the results of a statewide vote. Instead, they are trying to kill the measure now.

    The language of Senate Bill 1120 guts State Question 788. It limits the pool of eligible patients only to those diagnosed with four distinct ailments. It arbitrarily caps the total number of licensed cannabis producers at no more than five providers. It limits the quantity of medical cannabis patients may possess, and also places undue limits on the formulations of marijuana products. It bars patients from smoking herbal cannabis and arbitrarily caps the potency of marijuana-infused products to no more than 10mgs of THC. Finally, it removes the right of patients and their caregivers to cultivate their own medicine.

    Although SB 1120 initially failed to gain the number of votes needed for Senate passage, lawmakers reconsidered the legislation on Thursday and passed it by a vote of 26 to 11. The bill now awaits action in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

    If you reside in Oklahoma, please take action here to urge your representatives to oppose this undemocratic piece of legislation. Oklahoma voters, not a handful of politicians, ought to be the ultimate arbiters of State Question 788.

    Unfortunately, as prohibitionist politicians become more desperate in their opposition to marijuana law reform, we are seeing more frequent attempts to undermine the voters’ will. In Maine, lawmakers have yet to fully implement key parts of a 2016 voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative, and are now pushing to either kill or amend many of its core provisions. In Massachusetts, lawmakers have also enacted numerous delays in the rollout of its 2016 voter-approved adult use law. In Tennessee, legislators last year passed legislation nullifying the enactment of citywide marijuana decriminalization ordinances in Nashville and Memphis, and prohibited municipalities from enacting similar marijuana reform measures in the future.

    That is why it is more important than ever that the electorate remain engaged and vigilant. Please utilize NORML’s Take Action Center to stay abreast of pending federal and state legislation, register to vote, access NORML’s 2018 Candidate Packet, and review NORML’s Congressional and Gubernatorial Scorecards to know who is standing with use — and who is acting against us.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 15, 2018

    State laws reducing minor marijuana possession offenses from criminal to civil violations (aka decriminalization) are associated with dramatic reductions in drug-related arrests, and are not linked to any uptick in youth cannabis use, according to data published by researchers at Washington University and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Investigators examined the associations between cannabis decriminalization and both arrests and youth cannabis use in five states that passed decriminalization measures between the years 2008 and 2014: Massachusetts (decriminalized in 2008), Connecticut (2011), Rhode Island (2013), Vermont (2013), and Maryland (2014). Data on cannabis use were obtained from state Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) surveys; arrest data were obtained from federal crime statistics.

    Authors reported: “Decriminalization of cannabis in five states between the years 2009 and 2014 was associated with large and immediate decreases in drug-related arrests for both youth and adults. … The sharp drop in arrest rates suggests that implementation of these policies likely changed police behavior as intended.”

    They further reported: “Decriminalization was not associated with increased cannabis use either in aggregate or in any of the five states analyzed separately, nor did we see any delayed effects in a lag analysis, which allowed for the possibility of a two-year (one period) delay in policy impact. In fact, the lag analysis suggested a potential protective effect of decriminalization.” In two of the five states assessed, Rhode Island and Vermont, researchers determined that the prevalence of youth cannabis use declined following the enactment of decriminalization.

    Investigators concluded: “[I]mplementation of cannabis decriminalization likely leads to a large decrease in the number of arrests among youth (as well as adults) and we see no evidence of increases in youth cannabis use. On the contrary, cannabis use rates declined after decriminalization, though further study is needed to determine if these associations are causal. These findings are consistent with the interpretation that decriminalization policies likely succeed with respect to their intended effects and that their short-term unintended consequences are minimal.”

    Thirteen states currently impose either partial or full decriminalization. Nine additional states have subsequently moved to fully legalize the use of marijuana by adults.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabis decriminalization: A study of recent policy change in five states,” is available online here. Additional fact-sheets regarding the societal impacts of decriminalization policies are available from the NORML website here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 6, 2018

    The District Attorney’s Office for Sonoma County, California (population 502,000) is directing staff to review and vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions.

    County officials estimate that an estimated 3,000 cases are eligible for either a sentencing reduction or expungement.

    The Sonoma County D.A.’s actions follow those of district attorneys for Alameda County, San Diego County, and San Francisco — each of which have moved to pro-actively review and dismiss thousands of past marijuana-related convictions.

    Provisions in the state’s 2016 voter-approved marijuana law allow those with past marijuana convictions to petition the court for expungement. Legislation is pending in the California Assembly, AB 1793, to make this process automatic for anyone with an eligible past cannabis conviction.

    Last month, Seattle city officials publicly announced plans to similarly review and vacate past cannabis convictions. Days later, newly elected Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner announced that his office would cease prosecuting marijuana possession offense violations.

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