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Medical Marijuana

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 5, 2018

    More than two-thirds of chronic pain patients registered to legally access medical cannabis products substitute marijuana for prescription opioids, according to data published in The Journal of Headache and Pain.

    Investigators from the United States and Canada assessed the use of medical cannabis and prescription drugs in a cohort of over 2,000 Canadian patients licensed to access marijuana products. Among those patients with a primary diagnosis of chronic pain, 73 percent reported substituting cannabis in place of opioids. Among those patients diagnosed specifically with headache/migraine, cannabis was frequently reported as a substitute for other medications – including opiates (43 percent), anti-depressants (39 percent), NSAIDS (21 percent), triptans (8 percent), and anti-convulsants (8 percent).

    “Most patients in the pain groups reported replacing prescription medications with medicinal cannabis, the most common of which were opiates/opioids across all patient groups,” authors concluded. “This is notable given the well-described ‘opioid-sparing effect’ of cannabinoids and growing abundance of literature suggesting that cannabis may help in weaning from these medications and perhaps providing a means of combating the opioid epidemic.”

    The study’s findings are consistent with those of numerous others finding that patients in medical cannabis access programs significantly reduce or eventually eliminate their use of opioid analgesics over the long-term.

    Full text of the study, “Patterns of medicinal cannabis use, strain analysis, and substitution effect among patients with migraine, headache, arthritis, and chronic pain in a medicinal cannabis cohort,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 29, 2018

    State regulators today certified a voter-initiated medical cannabis access measure for the 2018 ballot. Officials announced that proponents gathered nearly 154,000 validated initiative signatures from registered voters — far exceeding the total necessary to place the measure before a statewide vote.

    The Utah Medical Cannabis Act permits qualified patients to obtain either herbal cannabis or cannabis-infused products from a limited number state-licensed dispensaries.

    Both the Utah Medical Association and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert have publicly opined against the measure. Nonetheless, public support in favor of the initiative remains strong, with 77 percent of Utahns either “strongly” or “somewhat” endorsing the plan, according to a UtahPolicy.com poll.

    Voters in Oklahoma will also decide on a medical access initiative in a special election on Tuesday, June 26. By a margin of nearly 2 to 1, Oklahoma voters support the passage of State Question 788, according to polling data reported last week.

    Voters in two other states — Michigan and Missouri — are anticipated to decide on Election Day on statewide marijuana reform initiatives. Recent polling from those states finds majority public support for all three measures.

  • 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

    By a margin of nearly 2 to 1, Oklahoma voters support the passage of State Question 788 — a voter-initiated measure to permit patients access to marijuana for therapeutic purposes. Oklahomans will decide on the measure in a special election on Tuesday, June 26.

    According to polling data compiled by SoonerPoll.com and released today, 58 percent of likely voters endorse the measure, while 30 percent oppose it. Public support for the patient-centric initiative — which empowers physicians to use their discretion when determining cannabis therapy — has largely held steady, even in the face of growing, organized opposition from members of law enforcement and certain business leaders.

    Under the plan, licensed medical marijuana patients may cultivate up to six mature plants, and obtain personal use quantities of marijuana flower, edibles, or infused concentrates from regulated dispensaries. NORML formally endorsed the measure in January.

    Initiative proponents gathered sufficient signatures to place the issue before voters in 2016. However, the vote was postponed because when the state attorney general attempted to reword the initiative’s ballot title in a misleading manner. Initiative proponents sued to restore the title’s original wording. This year, proponents fought back legislation which sought to preemptively amend the initiative in a manner that would have curtailed the rights of both patients and their physicians.

    Voters in three other states — Michigan, Missouri, and Utah — are anticipated to decide on Election Day on statewide marijuana reform initiatives. Recent polling from those states finds majority public support for all three measures.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 23, 2018

    In a ruling issued today by the Arizona Supreme Court, justices upheld an appellate court decision striking down a 2012 law that sought to forbid medical cannabis access on college campuses.

    Lifetime NORML Legal Committee member Tom Dean represented the patient-defendant in the case pro bono, and called the decision a “victory for democracy.”

    Justices opined that the 2012 law was unconstitutional because it impermissibly sought to amend the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which voters passed in 2010. State law limits the legislature’s ability to amend, repeal, or supersede voter-initiated laws.

    “Because the AMMA sets forth a list of locations where the legislature may impose ‘civil, criminal or other penalties’ when a person possesses or uses marijuana, § 36-2802, and because that list does not include college and university campuses (unlike pre-, primary-, and secondary-school grounds), we assume that the voters did not intend to criminalize AMMA-compliant possession or use of marijuana on public college and university campuses,” the court ruled. It further rejected the state’s claim that a campus-wide ban was necessary in order to preserve universities’ federal funding.

    “If the State had prevailed, they could then have tampered with any and all ballot initiatives, past, present, and future,” said Dean. “This is a victory for all Arizona voters and especially for medical marijuana patients.”

    The ruling sets aside the felony conviction of defendant Andrew Lee Maestas, who was initially charged and found guilty of the possession of 0.4 grams of marijuana despite his status as a state-registered medical cannabis patient.

    The case is Arizona v Maestas, No. CR-17-0193-PR.

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