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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 1, 2019

    Patients authorized to legally use medical cannabis frequently substitute it in place of benzodiazepines, according to a pair of new studies published this week. Benzodiazepines are class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety. According to data compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control, the drug was attributed to over 11,500 overdose deaths in 2017.

    In the first study, Canadian researchers assessed the relationship between cannabis and benzodiazepines in a cohort of 146 patients enrolled in the nation’s medical marijuana access program. They reported that 30 percent of participants discontinued their use of anti-anxiety medications within two-months of initiating cannabis therapy, and that 45 percent did so by six-months. “Patients initiated on medical cannabis therapy showed significant benzodiazepine discontinuation rates after their first follow-up visit to their medical cannabis prescriber, and continued to show significant discontinuation rates thereafter,” authors concluded.

    In the second study, investigators at the University of Michigan surveyed over 1,300 state-registered medical cannabis patients with regard to their use of opioids and benzodiazepines. They reported that 53 percent of respondents acknowledged substituting marijuana for opioids, and 22 percent did so for benzodiazepines.

    These findings are consistent with numerous other papers — such as those here, here, here, and here — documenting patients’ use of cannabis in place of a variety of prescription drugs, particularly opioids and anti-anxiety medications.

    Full text of the study, “Reduction of benzodiazepine use in patients prescribed medical cannabis,” appears in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research here.

    An abstract of the study, “Pills to pot: Observational analyses of cannabis substitution among medical cannabis users with chronic pain,” appears in The Journal of Pain here.

    Additional information is available in NORML’s fact-sheet, “Relationship between marijuana and opioids,” here.

  • by NORML December 27, 2018

    2018 NORML's Top TenRead the ten biggest stories that shaped marijuana policy in 2018.

    #1: Public Support in Favor of Adult Use Legalization at Historic Highs
    More adults than ever before believe that marijuana use by adults ought to be legal. An October poll conducted by Gallup reported that 66 percent of adults – including majorities of Democrats, Independents, Republicans, and those over the age of 55 – back legalization. The percentage is the highest level of support ever reported by the polling firm. A 2018 Pew poll similarly reported greater public support for legalization than ever before, while a June poll by the Center for American Progress reported that 68 percent of voters nationwide endorse legalization – the highest level of national support ever recorded in a scientific survey.

    #2: Marijuana Initiatives Win at the Ballot Box
    Voters in four states – Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah – passed voter initiated measures in 2018 regulating the use of marijuana. Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah became the 31st, 32nd, and 33rd states to enact medical cannabis access laws, while Michigan became the tenth state to permit adult marijuana use. In January, Vermont legislatively enacted provisions permitting adults to grow and possess marijuana for their own personal use.

    #3: Congress Amends CSA to Lift Ban on Commercial Hemp Production
    Hemp-specific provisions included in the 2018 Farm Bill (aka The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) for the first time amend the federal classification of marijuana to distinguish between cannabis and hemp. Under the new law, which takes effect on January 1, 2019, hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance. The Act also broadens the definition of ‘hemp’ (Section 297A) to include “any part of the plant, including …. extracts [or] cannabinoids” that do not possess greater than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis. The Act also for the first time in decades permits for the licensed commercial cultivation of hemp under a partnership of state and federal regulations.

    #4 Canada Legalizes Adult Marijuana Use and Retail Sales
    Canadian lawmakers this summer approved federal legislation permitting the use of marijuana by those ages 18 and older, and regulating adult use cannabis production and sales. Retailers began selling cannabis in compliance with the new law in October. In November, justices for Mexico’s Supreme Court also struck down the nation’s marijuana ban – finding that laws criminalizing the private use and cultivation of cannabis by adults are unconstitutional.

    #5: Governors Campaign, Win On Marijuana Legalization Platforms
    Candidates for Governor in numerous state races campaigned and won in 2018 on a pledge to legalize and regulate the adult use of cannabis. Specifically, incoming governors in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Illinois explicitly pledged to enact legalization. Re-elected Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo has also pledged to enact adult use legalization in early 2019, as has New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

    #6: Incoming House Rules Chair to Allow Floor Votes on Marijuana-Related Measures
    Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern said in November that he will permit federal lawmakers to debate and vote on marijuana-related amendments when he assumes control of the House Rules Committee in 2019. Representative McGovern replaces outgoing Rules Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX), who lost his re-election bid. Representative Sessions used his position as Chairman of the House Rules Committee to block House floor members from voting on over three-dozen marijuana-related amendments during his leadership tenure. “Unlike my predecessor, I’m not going to block amendments for marijuana,” McGovern said. “Citizens are passing ballot initiatives, legislatures are passing laws, and we need to respect that. Federal laws and statutes are way behind.”

    #7: Legal Marijuana Access is Associated with Reduced Opioid Abuse
    Over a dozen peer-reviewed studies were published in 2018 finding that regulated marijuana access is associated with lower rates of opioid use, abuse, and mortality. Among patients enrolled in medical cannabis access programs, use of opioids frequently decreases or is eliminated altogether.

    #8: FBI: Marijuana Arrests Spike for Second Straight Year
    The total number of persons arrested in the United States for violating marijuana laws rose for the second consecutive year, according to data released in September by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police made 659,700 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2017. As in previous years, marijuana possession arrests were least likely to occur in the western region of the United States, where possessing the plant has largely been either legalized or decriminalized. By contrast, in Midwestern states, marijuana-related arrests comprised over 53 percent of all drug arrests.

    #9: FDA Approves First Ever Plant-Derived Cannabis Medicine
    Regulators at the US Food and Drug Administration in June for the first time granted market approval to a plant-derived cannabis medicine, Epidiolex. The medicine contains a standardized formulation of plant-derived cannabidiol for the explicit treatment of two rare forms of severe epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. In September, the US Drug Enforcement Administration classified Epidiolex to Schedule V — the lowest restriction categorization available under federal law.

    #10: States, Localities Move to Expunge Past Marijuana Convictions
    California became the first state to automatically review and expunge past marijuana-related convictions, under legislation enacted in October. Delaware enacted a similar law calling for the mandatory expungement of certain marijuana-related offenses, joining several other states that permit those with past records to petition to have those records sealed. Local officials in various cities in 2018, including Denver, Philadelphia, and Seattle, announced the facilitation of similar policies.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director August 31, 2018

    In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day, NORML chapters around the country are taking action to highlight the positive that marijuana legalization can play in combating America’s opioid crisis. Many NORML leaders are hosting community forums to highlight the growing evidence that regulated marijuana access is positively associated with decrease in opioid overdose fatalities, hospitalizations, dependency and use.

    To amplify these efforts, NORML has created action alerts targeting local, state, and federal opioid task forces and committees — urging them to make marijuana regulation a part of their discussions and strategies.

    Please take just two minutes to use our prewritten letters and send a message to each target.

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy: Contact the ONDCP Commission: Medical Marijuana as an Alternative to Opioids

    Federal lawmakers: Urge your members of Congress to acknowledge the role of cannabis in combating the prescription drug overdose epidemic

    State lawmakers: Urge your state lawmakers to acknowledge the role of cannabis in combating the prescription drug overdose epidemic

    Opioid-involved overdose deaths have increased five-fold since 1999 and were involved in over 40,000 deaths in 2016. Deaths involving benzodiazepines, a family of anti-anxiety drugs, have increased eight-fold during this same time period.

    Several observational studies — such as those here, here, and here — find that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many chronic pain subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

    The available data is consistent and clear. For many patients, cannabis offers a viable alternative to opioids. It is time for lawmakers to stop placing political ideology above the health and safety of the American public, and to acknowledge the safety and efficacy of marijuana as an alternative medical treatment.

    You can review many more published studies on the NORML factsheet Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.

    Help us raise awareness by using our Social Media Tools below:

    Click here to share on Facebook
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    Is there an active opioid commission or task force in your community? Email me at KevinM@NORML.org and we’ll create an action alert to engage and educate your elected officials about the role access to marijuana can play in reducing opioid-related deaths, hospitalizations, and total number of opioids prescribed.

     

     

     

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director August 14, 2018

    Due to growing concerns about the impact America’s opioid crisis is having on his state, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval along with Governors Steve Bullock of Montana, Charlie Backer of Massachusetts, and Kate Brown of Oregon, recently sent a letter to federal lawmakers requesting support for state and local-level initiatives:

    “Every day governors face the devastating impact of this disease on our communities, health care system, schools and families,” the letter reads. “Governors need increased financial and technical support to address this crisis and we urge Congress to avoid burdensome requirements on state programs.”

    Read more here: https://www.nga.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/NGA-Letter-6.7.2018.pdf

    In addition to his formal request for Congressional support, Governor Sandoval created the Governor’s Opioid State Action Accountability Task Force to explore, among other things, education and guidelines for treatment options and data collection.

    Click here to urge the Governor’s Opioid State Action Accountability Task Force to acknowledge the role that marijuana can play in combating Nevada’s opioid epidemic

    When asked about the Governor’s actions, Executive Director of Nevada NORML Madisen Saglibene had this to say: “State data shows that per 100,000 patients, Nevada ranks 2nd highest for hydrocodone and oxycontin addiction in the nation. Furthermore, Las Vegas ranked 4th highest in the nation for methadone, and 7th for codeine. So while we appreciate the efforts of Governor Sandoval, we’re encouraging members the the Governor’s Task Force to consider the positive role access to marijuana can play in addressing this issue.”

    Several observational studies – such as those here, here, and here – find that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many chronic pain subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

    Nevada lawmakers should not ignore the reality that access to marijuana can play a role in mitigating the opioid abuse crisis. Use NORML’s online action center below to urge members of the Governor’s Opioid State Action Accountability Task Force to acknowledge the positive role that access to marijuana is playing in combating the prescription drug overdose epidemic, and promoting greater public health and safety.

    Click here to urge the Governor’s Opioid State Action Accountability Task Force to acknowledge the role that marijuana can play in combating Nevada’s opioid epidemic

    Is there an active opioid commission or task force in your community? Email KevinM@NORML.org and we’ll create an action alert to engage and educate your elected officials about the role access to marijuana can play in reducing opioid-related deaths, hospitalizations, and total number of opioids prescribed.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director August 7, 2018

    With six meetings scheduled before next year’s legislative session, members of Colorado’s Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee are working diligently to address an issue many local and state governments are currently struggling with across America. As the total number of opioid-related deaths continues to grow beyond the more than 40,000 deaths that were reported in 2016, lawmakers are willing to consider all options.

    Click here to urge Colorado’s Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee to acknowledge the role that marijuana can play in combating Colorado’s opioid epidemic

    The committee was established earlier this year with the passage of House Bill 18-1003 to explore what other states are doing to address substance use disorders, explore harm reduction, treatment, and recovery option, and of course identify possible legislative solutions.

    “Among other initiatives, the committee will study data and statistics on the scope of the substance use disorder problem in the state, study current prevention, intervention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery resources available to citizens, as well as public and private insurance coverage and other sources of support for treatment and recovery resources and examine measures other states and countries use to address substance use disorders.”

    Read more from The Pueblo Chieftain

    Several observational studies – such as those here, here, and here – find that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many chronic pain subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment. Colorado lawmakers should not ignore the reality that access to marijuana can play a role in mitigating the opioid abuse crisis.

    Click here to urge Colorado’s Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee to acknowledge the role that marijuana can play in combating Colorado’s opioid epidemic

    Is there an active opioid commission or task force in your community? Email KevinM@NORML.org and we’ll create an action alert to engage and educate your elected officials about the role marijuana can play in reducing opioid-related deaths, hospitalizations, and total number of opioids prescribed.

     

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