AlterNet.org: Paul Armentano http://www.alternet.org/authors/paul-armentano en Maine Becomes Eighth State to Legalize Marijuana http://www.alternet.org/drugs/maine-becomes-eighth-state-legalize-marijuana-0 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">You can now legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to six plants in the state. But you&#039;ll have to wait awhile for pot shops to open.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_28.jpg?itok=1lA2xb5X" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Maine has become the eighth state to eliminate criminal penalties specific to the adult possession and personal use of cannabis.</p><p>Language in <a href="http://www.regulatemaine.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/initiative-text.pdf">Question 1</a>: the Marijuana Legalization Act, specific to the private possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults took effect today. It permits adults who are not participating in the state’s existing <a href="http://norml.org/legal/item/maine-medical-marijuana">medical cannabis program</a> to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and/or the harvest of up to six mature plants.</p><p>Public use of marijuana is a civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine.</p><p>Maine voters narrowly passed Question 1 on Election Day.</p><p>In response to Question 1, Maine lawmakers passed separate legislation, <a href="http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?paper=HP0066&amp;PID=undefined&amp;snum=128">LD 88</a>, permitting adults to possess up to five grams of marijuana concentrates. However, other provisions in the measure delay the implementation of retail marijuana sales until at least February 1, 2018. It also prohibits the possession of “edible retail marijuana products” until this date.</p><p>Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington have previously adopted voter-initiated laws legalizing the private consumption and/or sale of cannabis by adults. The District of Columbia also permits adults to legally possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana in private residences.</p><p> </p> Tue, 31 Jan 2017 10:52:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, NORML 1071472 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs maine marijuana marijuana legalization Question ! medical marijuana 10 Scientific Studies From 2016 Showing Marijuana Is Safe and Effective http://www.alternet.org/drugs/10-scientific-studies-2016-marijuana-safe-effective <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The year has seen another mountain of marijuana research, and there&#039;s a lot of good news. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_1.jpg?itok=LJv0aYAX" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">While no psychoactive substance is completely harmless, modern science continues to prove that cannabis is one of the safer and more effective therapeutic agents available. Here’s a look back at some of the most significant marijuana-centric studies published over the past year. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Pot Use Doesn’t Adversely Impact IQ</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The cumulative use of cannabis by adolescents has no ill effect on intelligence, according to longitudinal <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/01/13/1516648113.abstract">data</a> published in January in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Investigators evaluated intellectual performance in two longitudinal cohorts of adolescent twins. Participants were assessed for intelligence at ages 9 to 12, prior to any marijuana exposure, and again at ages 17 to 20. They concluded: "In the largest longitudinal examination of marijuana use and IQ change, ... we find little evidence to suggest that adolescent marijuana use has a direct effect on intellectual decline.”</p><p><strong>2. Cannabis Consumption Is Correlated With Lower BMI</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Those who use marijuana, on average, possess a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who abstain from the herb. So <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27572145">reported</a> researchers at the University of Miami this past July in The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics. Investigators assessed the relationships between marijuana use and body mass index over time in a nationally representative sampling of American adolescents. They concluded: "[D]aily female marijuana users have a BMI that is approximately 3.1 percent lower than that of non-users, whereas daily male users have a BMI that is approximately 2.7 percent lower than that of non-users." Lower BMI is associated with less risk of heart disease and other potential adverse health issues. </p><p><strong>3. Fewer Traffic Fatalities Occur In Medical Cannabis States</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The passage of medical marijuana legalization is associated with reduced traffic fatalities among younger drivers, according to <a href="http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303577?journalCode=ajph">data</a> published this month in the American Journal of Public Health. Investigators from Columbia University assessed the relationship between medical cannabis access and motor vehicle accidents over a nearly three-decade period (1985 to 2014). They reported: “[O]n average, MMLs (medical marijuana laws) states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-MML states. .... MMLs are associated with reductions in traffic fatalities, particularly pronounced among those aged 25 to 44 years. ... It is possible that this is related to lower alcohol-impaired driving behavior in MML-states.”</p><p><strong>4. Pot Patients Spend Less On Prescription Drugs</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Patients who reside states where medical cannabis is legal spend less money overall on conventional medications. So determined University of Georgia scientists in July. Researchers assessed the relationship between medical marijuana legalization laws and physicians' prescribing patterns in 17 states over a three-year period (2010 to 2013). Specifically, researchers assessed patients' consumption of and spending on prescription drugs approved under Medicare Part D in nine domains: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity. Authors <a href="http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/35/7/1230.abstract">reported</a> that prescription drug use fell significantly in seven of the nine domains assessed, and they estimated that nationwide legalization would result in a savings of more than $468 million in annual drug spending. </p><p><strong>5. Pot Users No More Likely Than Abstainers to Access Health Care Services</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Cannabis consumers are not a drain on the health care system. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin assessed the relationship between marijuana use and health care utilization in a nationally representative sample of US adults aged 18 to 59 years old. Their<a href="http://www.ejinme.com/article/S0953-6205(16)30231-X/abstract">findings</a> appeared in October in the European Journal of Internal Medicine. They determined that pot users, including habitual consumers, were no more likely than non-users to be admitted to the hospital or to access outpatient health care services. Researchers concluded, "[C]ontrary to popular belief, ... marijuana use is not associated with increased healthcare utilization, [and] there [is] also no association between health care utilization and frequency of marijuana use."</p><p><strong>6. Marijuana Use History Associated With Better In-Hospital Survival Rates</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Patients who test positive for cannabis are less likely to die while hospitalized, according to <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cam4.968/full">data</a> published online in November in the journal Cancer Medicine. A team of researchers from the University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University, and the University of Alabama assessed the relationship between marijuana use and health outcomes among a nationwide sample of 3.9 million hospitalized patients. Researchers reported a correlation between a patient’s history of cannabis use and survival rates, particularly among those admitted for cancer treatment. They concluded, "Odds of in-hospital mortality were significantly reduced among marijuana users compared with non-users in all hospitalized patients as well as cancer patients."</p><p><strong>7. More Seniors Are Turning to Cannabis</strong></p><p dir="ltr">More seniors are becoming stoners. According to population data published in November in the journal Addiction, marijuana use by those age 50 and older has spiked significantly since 2006. Specifically, authors <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.13670/abstract">reported</a> that the prevalence of past-year cannabis has risen approximately 60 percent for those age 50 to 64, and increased 250 percent for those over 65 years of age. It’s understandable why. Older Americans are well aware of the <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/id/43141690/ns/health-health_care/t/average-drug-label-lists-whopping-side-effects#.WGWHFiMrKt8">multitude of the severe side effects</a> often associated with conventional medication whereas cannabis is recognized as to possess no risk of fatal overdose and is associated with <a href="http://www.cmaj.ca/content/178/13/1669.full">far fewer significant adverse events</a>.</p><p><strong>8. Maternal Marijuana Use Risks Likely Have Been Overstated</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The moderate use of cannabis during pregnancy is not an independent risk factor for adverse neonatal outcomes such as low birth weight, according to a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27607879">literature review </a>published in October in the journal Obstetrics &amp; Gynecology. Investigators at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reviewed outcomes from more than two-dozen relevant case-control studies published between 1982 and 2015. They reported that the maternal use of tobacco, not marijuana, is likely responsible for adverse events such as pre-term births or children born at a weight below normal for their gestational age. Researchers concluded: "[T]he results of this systematic review and meta-analysis suggest that the increased risk for adverse neonatal outcomes reported in women using marijuana in pregnancy is likely the result of coexisting use of tobacco and other cofounding factors and not attributable to marijuana use itself. Although these data do not imply that marijuana use during pregnancy should be encouraged or condoned, the lack of a significant association with adverse neonatal outcomes suggests that attention should be focused on aiding pregnant women with cessation of substances known to have adverse effects on the pregnancy such as tobacco."</p><p><strong>9. Unlike Drinking Booze, Smoking Pot Decreases Aggression</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It’s long been presumed that consuming alcohol increases user’s feelings of aggression while cannabis exposure does just the opposite. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27422568">Data</a> published in July in journal Psychopharmacology confirms it. Investigators from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and Frankfurt University in Germany evaluated subjects' response to aggressive stimuli following exposure to alcohol, cannabis, or placebo. Predictably, researchers reported that alcohol and cannabis intoxication resulted in disparate responses among participants. They concluded, "The results in the present study support the hypothesis that acute alcohol intoxication increases feelings of aggression and that acute cannabis intoxication reduces feelings of aggression following aggression exposure."</p><p><strong>10. Fewer Teens Are Abusing Pot In the Era of Legalization</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Fewer adolescents are consuming cannabis; among those who do, fewer are engaging in problematic use of the plant, according to <a href="http://www.jaacap.com/article/S0890-8567%2816%2930101-0/abstract">data</a> published in July in the Journal of the American Academy of Child &amp; Adolescent Psychiatry. Investigators at Washington University's School of Medicine in St. Louis evaluated government survey data regarding adolescents' drug use habits during the years 2002 to 2013. Researchers reported that the percentage of respondents who said that they had used cannabis over the past year fell by ten percent during the study period. The number of adolescents reporting marijuana-related problems, such as engaging in habitual use of the plant, declined by 24 percent from 2002 to 2013. The study's findings are consistent with previous evaluations reporting <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/06/18/federal-study-passage-of-medical-marijuana-laws-not-responsible-for-increased-marijuana-use">decreased</a> marijuana use and <a href="http://norml.org/news/2016/02/25/study-no-increase-in-problematic-cannabis-use">abuse</a> by young people over the past decade and a half – a period of time during which numerous states have liberalized their cannabis policies.</p> <p> </p> Thu, 29 Dec 2016 23:47:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1069687 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health marijuana prescription drugs seniors teens driving pregnancy traffic fatalities bmi Here Are Some of the Obvious Ways Marijuana Benefits Society http://www.alternet.org/drugs/medical-marijuana-good-society <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Less obesity and greater workforce participation are just two of the many benefits. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/med_mj_denver_co_wikim_0.jpg?itok=mku6Dz5J" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Access to medicinal cannabis is improving Americans’ quality of life in ways few advocates could have initially predicted. As the number of people utilizing marijuana grows, so too does our understanding of its societal benefits. Here are some of the latest scientific findings:</p>• More Pot, Fewer Opioids: Medical cannabis legalization is associated with lower rates of opioid abuse and mortality. According to <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w21345">data</a> compiled by the RAND Corporation in 2015, patients are far less likely to become addicted to opiate pain relievers in jurisdictions that permit medical marijuana. Fewer opioid addicts mean fewer deaths, says the Journal of the American Medical Association. Their 2014 <a href="http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1898878">study</a> determined that opioid-related overdose deaths fall 20% in the first year after the implementation of legalization and decline by as much as 33% by the sixth year. • Reduced Prescription Drug Spending: It’s not just patients’ use of opiates that’s declining. According to a University of Georgia <a href="http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/35/7/1230.abstract">study</a>, patients’ use of all varieties of prescription drugs drops when medical cannabis is an option. Researchers assessed the relationship between medical marijuana legalization laws and physicians’ prescribing patterns in 17 states from 2010–2013. Specifically, they assessed patients’ consumption of and spending on prescription drugs approved under Medicare Part D in nine domains: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity. They reported that pharmaceutical drug use fell significantly in seven of those domains, resulting in an annual savings of $165.2 million in prescription drug spending. • Less Obesity: Those with access to cannabis tend to be more active and are less likely to drink alcohol. So argue the authors of a 2015 study published in Health Economics. Investigators at San Diego State University reviewed 12 years of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to examine the effects of medical marijuana laws on body weight, wellness and exercise.<p dir="ltr">“The enforcement of MMLs (medical marijuana laws) is associated with a 2% to 6% decline in the probability of obesity,” they <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hec.3267/abstract">reported</a>. “Our estimates suggest that MMLs induce a $58 to $115 per-person annual reduction in obesity-related medical costs.” For those age 35 or older, authors determined that the passage of medical pot laws is "associated with an increase in physical wellness and frequent exercise.” For younger adults, researchers theorized that obesity declines were likely due to a decrease in alcohol consumption.</p><p dir="ltr">• Greater Workforce Participation: Increased medical cannabis access is also having a positive impact in the workplace. According to another <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1002/hec.3390">study</a> published in Health Economics in 2016, full-time employees between the ages of 50 and 59 were 13% less likely to report absences due to illness following medical marijuana legalization. Those ages 40 to 49 were 11% less likely to do so, and those ages 30 to 39 were 16% less likely to report a medical-related absence.</p><p dir="ltr">“Although there is not a direct identification of those who use marijuana for medical purposes in the data, overall sickness absence is reduced for those in age and gender groups most likely to be cardholders,” the study concluded. “The results of this paper therefore suggest that medical marijuana legalization would decrease costs for employers as it has reduced self-reported absence from work due to illness/medical issues."</p><p dir="ltr">A separate <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w22688">study</a>, published in October by the National Bureau of Economic Research, reported that the enactment of statewide medicinal cannabis programs is associated with greater participation in the workforce by those aged 50 and older. “Health improvements experienced by both groups (older men and women) permit increased participation in the labor market,” the authors wrote. Specifically, investigators determined that the enactment of medical pot laws was associated with a “9.4% increase in the probability of employment and a 4.6%–4.9% percent increase in hours worked per week” among those over the age of 50.</p><p dir="ltr">“Medical marijuana law implementation leads to increases in labor supply among older adult men and women,” they concluded. “These effects should be considered as policymakers determine how best to regulate access to medical marijuana.”</p><p dir="ltr"><em>A version of this story also appears in the November edition of <a href="http://www.freedomleaf.com/">Freedom Leaf</a> Magazine.</em></p> <p> </p> Wed, 30 Nov 2016 13:58:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, Freedom Leaf 1068115 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Documentaries Drugs marijuana medical marijuana drugs economy health Prohibitionists Are Trying to Strike Back Against the Marijuana Landslide of 2016 http://www.alternet.org/drugs/prohibitionists-are-trying-strike-back-against-marijuana-landslide-2016 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Elected officials try to undo the one bright spot of November 8th.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/dea_pot_raid_dea_0.jpg?itok=WV3Su8u0" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Political leaders in several states are threatening to thwart the implementation of voter-approved initiatives specific to the regulation of marijuana.</p><p>In Massachusetts, where voters <a href="http://norml.org/election-2016">decided</a> 54 percent to 46 percent on election day to legalize the cultivation, use, and retail sale of cannabis by adults, politicians have suggested <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/11/09/after-pot-legalization-public-officials-scramble/ZObbGJyw6KsMWfTWrU1SFK/story.html?p1=Article_Recommended_ReadMore_Pos3">amending</a> the law and <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/11/24/pot-shops-may-not-open-till-mid-some-lawmakers-have-their-way/Hb1DRhvdLCnacwDU7rrK5O/story.html">delaying</a> its implementation. Specifically, lawmakers have called for <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/11/24/pot-shops-may-not-open-till-mid-some-lawmakers-have-their-way/Hb1DRhvdLCnacwDU7rrK5O/story.html">pushing back</a> the date when adults may legally begin growing cannabis from December 15, 2016 to an unspecified point in time. Legislators have also called for delaying retail sales of cannabis until late 2018, and have proposed increasing marijuana-specific sales taxes. “I believe that when voters vote on most ballot questions, they are voting in principle. They are not voting on the fine detail that is contained within the proposal,” Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/11/09/after-pot-legalization-public-officials-scramble/ZObbGJyw6KsMWfTWrU1SFK/story.html?p1=Article_Recommended_ReadMore_Pos3">said</a> in regard to the proposed changes.</p><p>In Maine, where voters <a href="http://norml.org/news/2016/11/17/maine-legalization-opponents-request-recount">narrowly approved</a> a similar ballot measure, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has said that he will seek federal guidance before moving forward with the law’s implementation. Governor LePage, who <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dg9wHovN5FI">adamantly opposed</a> the measure, <a href="http://www.sunjournal.com/news/maine/2016/11/11/gov-paul-lepage-eyes-delay-marijuana-laws/2028126">said</a> that he “will be talking to Donald Trump” about how the incoming administration intends to address the issue, and pronounced that he “will not put this (law) into play” unless the federal government signs off on it.</p><p>Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson made similar statements following voters’ decision to <a href="http://norml.org/election-2016">legalize</a> the medical use of cannabis. “I don’t like the idea of implementing laws in Arkansas that violate federal law,” the Republican Governor and former head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration <a href="http://m.nwaonline.com/news/2016/nov/10/governor-pot-issue-needs-u-s-resolution/">said</a>. “This does not call for a state-by-state solution, it calls for … a national solution.”</p><p>During the Presidential campaign, Donald Trump voiced support for the authority of individual states to impose regulatory policies specific to the use and dispensing of medical cannabis, but was <a href="http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2015/04/where-do-presidential-candidates-stand-on-marijuana/">less clear</a> with regard to whether he believed that state lawmakers ought to be able to regulate the adult use of cannabis absent federal interference. His nominee for US Attorney General, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, strongly opposes any liberalization in cannabis policy, <a href="http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2016/11/trump-picks-marijuana-opponent-for-attorney-general/">stating</a> in April, “[M]arijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”</p><p>In 2013, the Obama administration <a href="http://norml.org/news/2013/08/29/justice-department-says-it-won-t-challenge-state-laws-permitting-marijuana-legalization-and-sales">issued a memorandum</a> directing US prosecutors not to interfere with statewide marijuana legalization efforts, provided those efforts did not undermine specific federal priorities – such as the diversion of cannabis to non-legal states. According to Gallup <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2012/12/11/gallup-most-americans-want-the-federal-government-to-butt-out-of-state-marijuana-laws/">pollsters</a>, nearly two-thirds of Americans support allowing states to decide their own cannabis policies.</p><p>Voters in <a href="http://norml.org/election-2016">eight states</a> – Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota – approved statewide ballot measures this November regulating marijuana for either medicinal or social use.</p><p> </p> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 09:35:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, NORML 1068022 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Election 2016 marijuana laws ballot initiatives legalization paul lepage drugs election 2016 Did the DEA Just Kick Open the Door for the Pharmaceuticalization of Pot? http://www.alternet.org/drugs/did-dea-kick-open-door-phamaceuticalization-pot <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The news coverage emphasized DEA&#039;s refusal to reschedule marijuana, but there&#039;s something else going on, too. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/medical_cannabis_drying.jpg?itok=hAR0u9Op" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">While much ink has been spilled over the last few days regarding DEA’s <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/11/dea-doesn_t-budge-on-schedule-1-marijuana--but-bends-a-bit-on-re.html">refusa</a>l to recognize marijuana as a medicine and its unwillingness to reclassify it under federal law, far less attention has been paid to a separate decision by the agency to create, for the first time, a “clear legal pathway” for pharmaceutical companies to engage in cannabis-specific “drug product development.”</p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p dir="ltr">The DEA’s intent is articulated in the August 11 edition of the US Federal Register, available online <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2016-17955.pdf">here</a>, in a notice entitled ‘Applications to Become Registered Under the Controlled Substances Act to Manufacture Marijuana to Supply Researchers in the United States.’ A summary of the document provided by the agency states, “To facilitate research involving marijuana and its chemical constituents, DEA is adopting a new policy that is designed to increase the number of entities registered under the Controlled Substances Act to grow (manufacture) marijuana to supply legitimate researchers in the United States.” </p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p dir="ltr">At first glance, this change would appear to be a welcome one. After all, since 1968 federal bureaucrats have permitted only a single agency – the <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/12/28/medical-marijuana-lab-in-mississippi/1796475/">University of Mississippi</a> via an exclusive contract with the US National Institute of Drug Abuse – to legally produce cannabis for FDA-approved research trials, an arbitrary prohibition that <a href="http://www.alternet.org/drugs/nida-directors-tells-congress-its-easier-study-heroin-or-cocaine-marijuana">does not exist for other controlled substances</a> and that has led to <a href="https://www.drugabuse.gov/researchers/research-resources/nida-drug-supply-program-dsp/marijuana-plant-material-available-nida-drug-supply-program">limited drug supplies</a> and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/health/policy/19marijuana.html?_r=0">accusations</a> that federally-backed research is skewed largely toward identifying pot’s potential harms rather than it benefits. </p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p dir="ltr">But upon closer inspection, the DEA makes it clear that its new policy is motivated by more than simply a willingness to increase the nation’s federal supply of legal pot. Rather, the agency’s ultimate goal looks to be the domestic production of pharmaceutically produced medical cannabis products.</p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p dir="ltr">States the agency: “The historical system, under which NIDA relied on one grower to supply marijuana on a contract basis, was designed primarily to supply marijuana for use in federally funded research – not for commercial product development. Thus, under the historical system, there was no clear legal pathway for commercial enterprises to produce marijuana for product development. In contrast, under the new approach explained in this policy statement, persons may become registered with DEA to grow marijuana not only to supply federally funded or other academic researchers, but also for strictly commercial endeavors funded by the private sector and aimed at drug product development (emphasis mine). … In other words, in lieu of requiring the growers to operate under a contract with NIDA, a registered grower will be permitted to operate independently, provided the grower agrees (through a written memorandum of agreement with DEA) that it will only distribute marijuana with prior, written approval from DEA. … [U]nder the new approach, should the state of scientific knowledge advance in the future such that a marijuana-derived drug is shown to be safe and effective for medical use, pharmaceutical firms will have a legal means of producing such drugs in the United States – independent of the NIDA contract process (emphasis mine).”</p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p dir="ltr">In short, the DEA is providing a roadmap for Big Pharma to enter the marijuana drug development market.</p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p dir="ltr">Of course, pharmaceutical companies have long been aware of marijuana’s market potential and have sought to capitalize from it. A 2006 NIH report, entitled ‘<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2241751/">The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy</a>” states, “The growing interest in the underlying science (surrounding the therapeutic effects of cannabis) has been matched by a growth in the number of cannabinoid drugs in pharmaceutical development from two in 1995 to 27 in 2004.” </p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p dir="ltr">Yet, historically, this interest in commercial drug development has largely been limited to the creation of synthetic agonists that mimic natural components of the plant – such as the FDA-approved drugs Marinol, Cesamet, and Syndros. (A synthetic version of the anti-convulsant cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) is also <a href="http://www.pharmabiz.com/NewsDetails.aspx?aid=83767&amp;sid=2">in development</a>.) But with the DEA’s newly adopted policy, US pharmaceutical firms can for the first time contemplate becoming involved with developing and/or patenting medicines derived from the actual plant itself – either in the form of standardized cannabis strains or extracts. (A British biotech licensed by the UK government to grow pot has already utilized this strategy to develop two specific cannabis plant-based extract drugs, Sativex and Epidiolex.)</p><p dir="ltr">Thursday’s notice from the DEA isn’t the first time that the anti-drug agency has courted Big Pharma. As <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/150009/if_the_feds_get_their_way,_big_pharma_could_sell_pot_--_but_your_dime_bag_would_still_send_you_to_jail">reported</a> in Alternet in 2011, the DEA previously acknowledged its intent to expand the federal government's schedule III listing to include pharmaceutical products containing plant-derived THC while simultaneously maintaining existing criminal prohibitions on the plant itself. </p><p>In the five years since then, it appears that attitudes at the nation’s largest anti-drug agency haven’t changed. Clinical investigations of the cannabis plant, a substance the DEA still sees as illegitimate, are largely to be discouraged, while the development of new marijuana-derived pharmaceuticals are to be encouraged. Consequently, it is apparent that the DEA’s longstanding refusal to recognize herbal cannabis as a legitimate therapeutic treatment is here to stay. Therefore it is incumbent that members of Congress act swiftly to amend cannabis’ criminal status so that federal law finally comports with <a href="http://norml.org/library/national-legalization-polls">public opinion</a>, <a href="http://norml.org/library/recent-research-on-medical-marijuana">scientific consensus</a>, and the plant’s rapidly changing legal status under state laws.</p><p> </p> Fri, 12 Aug 2016 13:50:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1061832 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics Personal Health dea big pharma pharmacueticalization marijuana cannabis CBD thc Want to Reduce Opiate Abuse? Legalize Pot http://www.alternet.org/drugs/want-reduce-opiate-abuse-legalize-pot <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In states where medical marijuana is legal, prescription drug abuse is less rampant. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/4769506826_52099fa3d6_z.jpg?itok=sG-QljSq" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Rates of prescription opioid abuse are significantly lower in jurisdictions that permit medical marijuana access, according to <a href="http://www.castlighthealth.com/typ/the-opioid-crisis/">data</a> reported by <a href="http://www.castlighthealth.com/">Castlight Health</a>, an employee health benefits platform provider.</p><p>Investigators assessed anonymous prescription reporting data from over one million employees between the years 2011 and 2015.</p><p>In states that did not permit medical marijuana access, 5.4 percent of individuals with an opioid prescription qualified as abusers of the drug. (The study’s authors defined “abuse” as opioid use by an individual who was not receiving palliative care, who received greater than a 90-day cumulative supply of opioids, and received an opioid prescription from four or more providers.) By contrast, only 2.8 percent of individuals with an opioid prescription living in medical marijuana states met the criteria.</p><p>The findings are similar to those reported by the RAND Corporation in 2015, which <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/07/16/study-medical-cannabis-access-associated-with-reduced-opioid-abuse">determined</a>, “[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”</p><p>Data published in 2014 in the <em>Journal of the American Medical Association</em> (JAMA) <em>Internal Medicine</em> also reported that the enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, <a href="http://norml.org/news/2014/08/28/study-state-medical-marijuana-laws-associated-with-lower-rates-of-opiate-induced-fatalities">finding</a>, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”</p><p><em>Full text of the new study, “The opioid crisis in America’s workforce,” appears online <a href="http://www.castlighthealth.com/typ/the-opioid-crisis/">here</a>.</em></p> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 07:09:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, NORML 1055377 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health medical marijuana opiods opiod use drugs This Is the Big Demand on Marijuana We Should Make of the Federal Govt. http://www.alternet.org/drugs/deschedule-not-reschedule-cannabis <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Rescheduling cannabis would be helpful in some respects, but does not go nearly far enough toward ending federal pot prohibition. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/marijuana_purple_shant_shantis_favorites_2_flickr.jpg?itok=_NXG74Jm" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>A recent <a href="http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/dearesponse.pdf">memorandum </a>from the US Drug Enforcement Administration to several United States Senators indicates that the agency is <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/04/06/the-dea-will-decide-whether-to-change-course-on-marijuana-by-july/">prepared to respond</a> in the coming months to a <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/govs-chafee-gregoire-lobby-for-reclassification-of-marijuana/">five-year-old petition</a> seeking to amend the plant’s status as a schedule I prohibited substance.</p><p>Under the US Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the cannabis plant and its organic cannabinoids are classified as <a href="http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml">schedule I prohibited</a> <a href="http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml">substances</a> — the most restrictive category available under the law. As <a href="http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml">summarized</a> by the DEA, “Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”</p><p>Explicitly, substances in this category must meet three specific inclusion criteria: The substance must possess “a high potential for abuse”; it must have “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States; and the substance must lack “accepted safety for use … under medical supervision.” Substances that do not meet these criteria must, by law, be categorized in less restrictive federal schedules (schedule II through schedule V) and are legally regulated accordingly. (For example, schedule II substances like morphine or methadone are available by prescription.) Alcohol and tobacco, two substances that possess far greater dangers to health than does cannabis, are not subject to federal classification under the CSA.</p><p>Federal law grants power to the US Attorney General to reclassify a controlled substance if the available scientific evidence no longer supports that drug’s classification. In practice, however, this power has been delegated to the DEA, with input from both FDA and the US Department of Health and Human Services. Federal law also allows third parties to petition these agencies to consider reclassifying controlled substances.</p><p>The petition now before the DEA was filed in 2011 by then-governors Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Other recent rescheduling petitions, such as a <a href="http://www.drugscience.org/petition_intro.html">2002 petition</a> filed by a coalition of marijuana law reform and health advocacy organizations, have been rejected outright by the agency. In 1990, the DEA set aside <a href="http://www.druglibrary.org/olsen/MEDICAL/YOUNG/young.html">the decision</a> of its own administrative law judge, who had <a href="http://norml.org/news/2013/09/05/25-years-ago-dea-s-own-administrative-law-judge-ruled-cannabis-should-be-reclassified-under-federal-law">responded in 1988</a> to a petition effort initiated by NORML, after he called for reclassifying the plant.</p><p>While it remains unknown at present time if the DEA will respond favorably to this current rescheduling effort, it has become apparent in recent years that reclassifying cannabis from schedule I to schedule II – the same category as cocaine – falls well short of the sort of federal reform necessary to reflect America’s emerging reefer reality. Specifically, reclassifying the pot plant from I to II (or even to schedule III) continues to misrepresent the plant’s safety relative to other controlled substances such as methamphetamine (schedule II), anabolic steroids (schedule III), or alcohol (unscheduled), and fails to provide states with the ability to fully regulate it free from federal interference.</p><p>Further, the federal policies in place that make clinical trial work with cannabis more onerous than it is for other controlled substances — such as the requirement that <a href="https://www.drugabuse.gov/researchers/research-resources/nida-drug-supply-program-dsp/marijuana-plant-material-available-nida-drug-supply-program">all source material</a> be purchased from NIDA’s University of Mississippi marijuana cultivation program — are <a href="http://www.alternet.org/drugs/nida-directors-tells-congress-its-easier-study-heroin-or-cocaine-marijuana">regulatory requirements</a> that are specific to cannabis, not to Schedule I drugs in general. Simply rescheduling cannabis from I to II does not necessarily change these regulations, at least in the short-term.</p><p>In addition, the sort of gold-standard, large-scale, long-term Phase III safety and efficacy trials that are typically necessary prior to bringing therapeutic drugs to market are prohibitively expensive. As a result, trials of this kind are typically are funded by private pharmaceutical companies aspiring to bring a new product to market. In some cases, the federal government may assist in sharing these costs, such as was the case with the research and development of the synthetic THC pill Marinol (dronabinol). However, political reality dictates that neither entity is likely to pony up the tens of millions of dollars necessary to conduct such trials assessing the efficacy of herbal cannabis any time soon, if ever, regardless of the plant’s federal scheduling.</p><p>This is not to say that rescheduling cannabis would not have any positive tangible effects. At a minimum, it would bring an end to the federal government’s longstanding intellectual dishonesty that marijuana ‘lacks accepted medical use.’ It would also likely <a href="http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2016/04/dea-will-act-on-marijuana-rescheduling-before-obama-leaves-office-what-could-it-mean/">permit banks</a> and other financial institutions to work with state-compliant marijuana-related businesses, and permit employers in the cannabis industry to take tax deductions similar to those enjoyed by other businesses. Rescheduling would also likely bring some level of relief to federal employees subject to random workplace drug testing for off-the-job cannabis consumption.</p><p>But ultimately, such a change would do little to significantly loosen federal prohibition or to make herbal cannabis readily accessible for clinical study. These goals can arguably only be accomplished by federally decsheduling cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco, such as is proposed by US <a href="http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=17703">Senate Bill 2237</a>, The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. Doing so will finally provide states the power to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal intrusion.</p> Tue, 12 Apr 2016 09:30:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, NORML 1054429 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs marijuana rescheduling deschedule controlled substances act dea cannabis Latest Science Debunks Old Myths About Marijuana's Effect on Health, Driving and Depression http://www.alternet.org/drugs/latest-scince-debunk-marijuana-myths <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">At some point, enough conclusive evidence will shatter the old myths.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_science.jpg?itok=64xcuj5U" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Contentions that scientists have failed to conduct sufficient research on the health and societal effects of cannabis are unfounded. A keyword search on the National Library of Medicine database reveals <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gquery/?term=marijuana">over 23,000 peer-reviewed papers</a> specific to the marijuana plant, and new scientific discoveries are published almost daily debunking the federal government’s claims that the herb is a highly dangerous substance lacking therapeutic efficacy. Here are five new cannabis-centric studies that challenge longstanding marijuana myths.</p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p dir="ltr">Marijuana abuse is on the decline</p><p>Contrary to what you <a href="http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/853145">may have heard</a>, the percentage of Americans reporting having experienced pot-related problems is declining. That’s according to the results of a newly published study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.</p><p dir="ltr">Investigators at the Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis assessed trends in marijuana use and in the prevalence of marijuana use disorders during the years 2002 to 2013. Researchers found that the self-reported use of cannabis by adults increased an estimated 19 percent, but that reports of cannabis-related problems actually declined during this period.<br class="kix-line-break" /> </p><p dir="ltr">"We're certainly seeing some increases in marijuana use," the lead researcher of the study<a href="http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-02-marijuana-high-previously.htm"> said</a> . "But our survey didn't notice any increase in marijuana-related problems. Certainly, some people are having problems so we should remain vigilant, but the sky is not falling."<br class="kix-line-break" /> </p><p dir="ltr">Separate evaluations of self-reported marijuana use by young people have determined that rates of cannabis use by high-school students are <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/10/08/studies-fewer-teens-using-marijuana-younger-adolescents-more-likely-to-voice-disapproval">significantly lower today</a> than they were 15 years ago.<br class="kix-line-break" /> </p><p dir="ltr">The study's findings contradict those of <a href="http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-10-marijuana-disorders.html">a widely publicized 2015 paper</a> which alleged that the use of marijuana had doubled over the past decade and that an estimated one-third of those who consumed cannabis did so problematically. Predictably, while the 2015 study received widespread coverage, only a handful of media outlets have published follow up stories highlighting the revised data. </p><p><br />Pot is associated with compensatory driving behavior; booze is not</p><p>Stoned drivers are slower drivers. That is the finding of a just published <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jat.3295/abstract">federal study</a> in the Journal of Applied Toxicology. Its conclusions mimic those reported in a series of <a href="http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/25000/25800/25867/DOT-HS-808-078.pdf">on-road driving studies</a> performed by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the 1990s.</p><p>Investigators affiliated with the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Iowa assessed the effects of vaporized cannabis on simulated driving performance. Researchers report that cannabis-positive subjects decreased their speed and increased the distance between their vehicle and the car in front of them, while alcohol-positive participants did the opposite. </p><p>“The compensatory behavior exhibited by cannabis-influenced drivers distinctly contrasts with an alcohol-induced higher risk behavior,” authors concluded. </p><p>While some studies have reported that THC-positive drivers possess <a href="http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e536">a nearly two-fold risk</a> of motor vehicle accident compared to drug-free drivers, other reviews have reported <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.13347/abstract?campaign=wolacceptedarticle">comparatively less risk</a> and, in some cases, <a href="http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/nation/2015/02/06/us-evidence-marijuana-leads-higher-crash-risk/23004549/">no elevated risk</a> after adjusting for confounding variables such as age and gender. By contrast, driving with legal amounts of booze in one’s system is associated with <a href="http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/pdf/812117-Drug_and_Alcohol_Crash_Risk.pdf">a four-fold increased crash risk</a>, while operating a motor vehicle with two or more passengers <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000145750700036X">more than doubles one’s risk</a> of a motor vehicle crash.</p><p>Smoking pot won’t make you depressed, but some depressed people smoke pot</p><p><a href="http://adai.uw.edu/marijuana/factsheets/mentalhealth.htm">Longstanding claims</a> that smoking pot leads to depression have been rejected in <a href="http://www.jad-journal.com/article/S0165-0327(15)31030-2/abstract">a new longitudinal study</a> published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. </p><p>A team of Swedish investigators conducted a three-year prospective study in a cohort of 8,600 men between the ages of 20 and 64 to assess whether cannabis use was associated with increased incidences of depression later in life. After scientists adjusted for potentially confounding variables, such as other illicit drug use and family tension, they reported no link between pot use and symptoms of clinical depression or anxiety. </p><p>Investigators did find that subjects who reported suffering from depression during their baseline interviews were more likely to be pot smokers at follow up. However, these respondents were also more likely to consume other illicit drugs as well.</p><p>Pot mitigates chronic pain, reduces patients’ need for opioids</p><p>When New York lawmakers signed off on legislation in 2014 authorizing the use of medical marijuana, they refused to permit chronic pain patients the opportunity to utilize cannabis therapy. Their decision, which is now codified in New York state law, flies in the face of compassion and science. That’s because the daily use of cannabis provides pain relief and reduces opioid use in patients with treatment-resistant chronic pain conditions, according to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26889611">clinical trial data</a> reported online ahead of print in The Clinical Journal of Pain.</p><p dir="ltr">Investigators with Hebrew University in Israel evaluated the use of cannabis on pain in a cohort of 176 patients, each of whom had been previously unresponsive to all conventional pain medications. Subjects inhaled THC-dominant cannabis daily (up to 20 grams per month) for a period of at least six months.</p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p dir="ltr">A majority of the study’s participants (66 percent) experienced improvement in their pain symptom scores after cannabis therapy, and most reported "robust" improvements in their quality of life. Subjects' overall consumption of opioid drugs declined 44 percent by the end of the trial, and a significant percentage of participants discontinued opioid therapy altogether over the course of the study.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />The Israeli results are similar to those reported in <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/10/01/study-daily-cannabis-use-is-safe-effective-for-chronic-pain">a 2015 Canadian trial</a> which concluded that chronic pain patients who use herbal cannabis daily for one-year experienced reduced discomfort and increased quality of life compared to controls, and did not possess an increased risk of serious side effects.<br class="kix-line-break" /> </p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://norml.org/news/2014/08/28/study-state-medical-marijuana-laws-associated-with-lower-rates-of-opiate-induced-fatalities">Separate data</a> published in 2014 in The Journal of the American Medical Association determined that states with medical marijuana laws experience far fewer opiate-related deaths than do states that prohibit the plant. Investigators from the RAND Corporation reported <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/07/16/study-medical-cannabis-access-associated-with-reduced-opioid-abuse">similar findings</a> in 2015, concluding, "States permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”</p><p>One more time, with conviction: passing medical pot laws doesn’t increase marijuana use by teens</p><p><a href="http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865649041/My-view-Marijuana-is-not-a-medicine.html?pg=all">Repeated claims</a> that the enactment of medical cannabis laws is associated with spikes in youth marijuana use are categorically false. Want proof? According to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26895950">a new review</a> of US federal drug use data from the years 2002 to 2011, “[T]here is no evidence of a differential increase in past-month marijuana use in youth that can be attributed to state MML (medical marijuana laws).”</p><p>While the study’s authors acknowledged that many medical marijuana states have higher rates of cannabis use compared to non-medical states, they affirmed that these jurisdictions already possessed elevated use rates prior to any change in law and that the enactments of laws did not causally contribute to this change. They are hardly alone in their assessment. </p><p>In 2015, investigators at Columbia University in New York and the University of Michigan assessed the relationship between state medical marijuana laws and rates of self-reported adolescent marijuana use over a 24-year period in a sampling of over one million adolescents in 48 states. Researchers reported no increase in teens’ overall pot use that could be attributable to changes in law, and acknowledged a “robust” decrease in use among 8th graders. <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(15)00217-5/fulltext">They concluded</a>: “[T]he results of this study showed no evidence for an increase in adolescent marijuana use after the passage of state laws permitting use of marijuana for medical purposes. … [C]oncerns that increased marijuana use is an unintended effect of state marijuana laws seem unfounded.” </p><p>And they weren’t alone either. In fact, their conclusions were consistent with the findings of nearly a dozen similar studies -- such as those available <a href="//www.nber.org/papers/w20332">here</a>, <a href="http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X%2814%2900107-4/abstract">here</a>, <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4007871/">here</a>, <a href="//www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22285867">here</a>, and <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17689362">here</a>.</p> <p> </p> Sat, 05 Mar 2016 11:32:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1051863 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs marijuana medical marijuana opioids driving depression marijuana use science Poll: 60% of Likely California Voters Support Initiative Effort To Legalize Marijuana http://www.alternet.org/drugs/60-percent-california-voters-support-legalize-marijuana-initiative <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Signatures are still being gathered, but the nation&#039;s most populous state appears poised to free the weed in November. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/california_marijuana_template.jpg?itok=ne__MAsL" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>A majority of likely California voters say that they intend to vote ‘yes’ this November for an initiative to regulate the retail production and sale of marijuana by adults, according to the results of a Probolsky Research <a href="http://www.probolskyresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/California-Statewide-Voter-Survey-Recreational-Marijuana-Report-on-Results.pdf">poll</a> released late last week.</p><p>Sixty percent of respondents say that they will vote in favor of an initiative this November “that would legalize marijuana for recreational use under California law and allow government to tax” its retail sales. Thirty-seven percent said that they would vote ‘no.’</p><p>Support was strongest among those between the ages of 18 to 34 (80 percent) and self-identified Democrats (69 percent). Republicans (38 percent) and those over the age of 65 (46 percent) were least likely to express support.</p><p>The <a href="http://chrisconrad.com/category/adult-use-act-2016/">Adult Use of Marijuana Act</a> (AUMA), which is expected to appear on the November ballot, permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possession and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes. Both the <a href="http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/marijuana/article57799473.html">California Medical Association</a> and the <a href="https://www.regulatecalifornia.com/california-naacp-gets-behind-marijuana-legalization-initiative/">state chapter of the NAACP</a> have endorsed the measure.</p><p>On February 20, a majority of the NORML Board of Directors <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2016/02/22/national-norml-board-endorses-auma-marijuana-legalization-initiative-in-ca/">endorsed</a> the AUMA, along with separate initiatives that are anticipated to appear on the November 2016 ballot in Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Arizona, as well as medical use initiatives expected to appear on the ballot in Missouri and Florida.</p> Mon, 29 Feb 2016 11:26:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1051641 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Election 2016 california marijuana legalization initiatives auma adult use of marijuana act polling Why Hillary Clinton's Plan for Marijuana Simply Doesn't Go Far Enough http://www.alternet.org/drugs/why-hillary-clintons-plan-marijuana-simply-doesnt-go-far-enough <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Moving from Schedule I to Schedule II doesn&#039;t go far enough towards legalization. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_126159383.jpg?itok=zMlaGreU" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Speaking late last year at a campaign stop in South Carolina, Democrat Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton <a href="http://&lt;http://whotv.com/2015/11/08/hillary-clinton-proposes-loosening-restrictions-on-marijuana/&gt;">pledged</a> if elected President to reclassify marijuana under federal law from a <a href="http://&lt;http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml&gt;">Schedule I</a><a href="http://&lt;http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml&gt;"> substance</a>– the most restrictive category – to a Schedule II substance. <br /> <br />Said Clinton: "The problem with medical marijuana is there is a lot of anecdotal evidence about how well it works for certain conditions. But we haven't done any research. Why? Because it is considered that is called a schedule one drug and you can't even do research in it."<br /><br />She added, "I would like to move it from what is called Schedule I to Schedule II so that researchers at universities, national institutes of health can start researching what is the best way to use it, how much of a dose does somebody need, how does it interact with other medications."<br /><br />Although Clinton’s call for rescheduling represents an improved willingness on her part to advocate for marijuana law reform, her newfound stance is hardly progressive. Various advocacy organizations, including <a href="http://&lt;http://www.norml.org&gt;">NORML</a>, <a href="http://&lt;http://www.hightimes.com&gt;">High Times</a>, and <a href="http://&lt;http://www.safeaccessnow.org&gt;">Americans for Safe Access</a>, have filed administrative petitions over the past decades seeking to amend cannabis’ Schedule I status. Even among her peers, Clinton’s position isn’t unique. This past spring, former Republican Presidential candidate Rand Paul (KY) co-sponsored Congressional legislation, The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and <a href="http://&lt;http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15905&gt;">Respect States (CARERS) Act</a>, to move marijuana from Schedule I to II and to permit VA doctors to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans. One-time Democrat Presidential hopeful Martin O'Malley also <a href="http://&lt;http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2015/09/2016-contender-martin-omalley-courts-marijuana-activists/&gt;">campaigned</a> on the pledge that he would use his executive powers to move cannabis to Schedule II. Most notably, Clinton’s leading Democrat Presidential rival Bernie Sander (I-VT) introduced Senate legislation, S. 2237, the <a href="http://&lt;http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=17703&gt;">Ending Federal Marihuana Prohibition Act</a>, to strike both marijuana and ‘tetrahydrocannabinols’ (aka THC) from the federal criminal code, thus leaving the decision of whether or not to legalize and regulate cannabis solely up to the individual states.<br /> <br />While Sanders’ proposal would significantly transform America’s marijuana policies, Clinton’s rescheduling plan would actually do little to change the existing legal landscape. Moreover, Clinton’s premise that scientists have yet to do any research on cannabis is woefully incorrect.<br /> <br />Unlike conventional pharmaceuticals, the marijuana plant possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy. Moreover, despite cannabis’ modern day politicization, the plant and its compounds have nonetheless been subject to extensive scientific scrutiny. A <a href="http://&lt;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gquery/?term=marijuana&gt;">search using the term “marijuana”</a>on the website of the National Library of Medicine, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, yields more than 23,000 scientific papers referencing the plant and/or its constituents. Among this extensive body of literature are over 100 randomized controlled studies, involving thousands of subjects, evaluating the safety and efficacy of cannabis or individual cannabinoids. A <a href="http://&lt;https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3358713/&gt;">2012 review</a> of several FDA-approved gold-standard cannabis clinical trials concluded, “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification (for cannabis) is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.” <br /> <br />In short, Clinton’s presumption that it is the absence of scientific research that necessitates the need to remove cannabis from Schedule I is both ill informed and unpersuasive. In truth, marijuana does not belong in Schedule I because ample scientific evidence already exists disproving the government’s claim that it is among the most dangerous substances known to man and that it lacks therapeutic utility. Moreover, reclassifying cannabis from I to II – the same category as cocaine – continues to misrepresent the plant’s safety relative to other controlled substances, and fails to provide states with the ability to regulate it free from federal interference.<br /> <br />Further, the federal policies in place that make clinical trial work with cannabis more onerous than it is for other controlled substances — such as the requirement that all <a href="http://&lt;https://www.drugabuse.gov/researchers/research-resources/nida-drug-supply-program-dsp/marijuana-plant-material-available-nida-drug-supply-program&gt;">source material</a> be purchased from NIDA’s University of Mississippi pot program — are <a href="http://&lt;http://www.alternet.org/drugs/nida-directors-tells-congress-its-easier-study-heroin-or-cocaine-marijuana&gt;">regulatory requirements</a> that are specific to cannabis, not to Schedule I drugs in general. Simply rescheduling cannabis from I to II does not necessarily change these regulations. <br /> <br />In addition, the sort of gold-standard, large-scale, long-term Phase III safety and efficacy trials Ms. Clinton ostensibly advocates for are prohibitively expensive. As a result, trials of this kind are typically are funded by private pharmaceutical companies aspiring to bring a new product to market. In some cases, the federal government may assist in sharing these costs. However, political reality dictates that neither entity is likely to pony up the tens of millions of dollars necessary to conduct such trials any time soon, if ever. <br /> <br />This is not to say that rescheduling cannabis would not have any positive tangible effects. At a minimum, it would bring an end to the federal government’s longstanding intellectual dishonesty that marijuana ‘lacks accepted medical use.’ It would also likely permit banks and other financial institutions to work with state-compliant marijuana-related businesses, and permit employers in the cannabis industry to take tax deductions similar to those enjoyed by other businesses. But ultimately, such a change would do little to significantly loosen federal prohibition or to make herbal cannabis readily accessible for clinical study. These goals can only be accomplished by federally decsheduling cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco, thus providing states the power to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal intrusion.<br /> </p><p> </p> Thu, 25 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, High Times 1051308 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics hillary clinton election 2016 marijuana 5 Major Developments That Change How We Should Think About Marijuana http://www.alternet.org/drugs/marijuana-health-five-new-scientific-developments <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Here&#039;s the latest research on pot and drinking, pot and opiate dependency, pot and IQ, pot and migraines, and pot and obesity.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/pot_user_1.jpg?itok=QJlhW7hM" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Scientific discoveries are published almost daily <a href="http://www.alternet.org/drugs/latest-cannabis-science-you-need-know">rebuking</a>  the federal government’s contention that cannabis is a highly dangerous substance lacking therapeutic efficacy. But most of these findings are relegated to obscure, peer-reviewed journals and, therefore, often go unnoticed by the major media and the general public. Here are five new cannabis-centric studies that warrant mainstream attention.</p><p><strong>Consumers Seldom Combine Marijuana With Alcohol</strong></p><p>Marijuana consumers don’t typically mix pot and booze together, regardless of whether they are consuming cannabis for medicinal or social purposes, according to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26687431">data</a> published online in December in the journal <em>Addiction</em>.</p><p>Investigators at the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and the University of California, Irvine surveyed the habits of marijuana consumers residing Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Authors reported, "Individuals who use cannabis do not commonly use it with alcohol, irrespective of whether they are consuming cannabis recreationally or medically."<br /><br />They concluded, "Fewer than one in five recreational users report simultaneous use of alcohol and cannabis most or all of the time and less than three percent of medicinal users report frequent simultaneous use of alcohol and cannabis."<br /><br /><a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6448a1.htm?s_cid=mm6448a1_e">Separate data</a> provided last month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention further reports that young people avoid mixing the two substances if they intend to drive. The agency reports that between the years 2002 through 2014, the prevalence of marijuana and alcohol use prior to driving fell from 2.3 percent to 1.4 percent among those age 16 to 20 and from 3.1 percent to 1.9 percent among those age 21 to 25.</p><p><strong>Consuming Cannabis Helps Kick Opioid Dependence</strong></p><p>Smoking pot is associated with <a href="http://reset.me/study/study-kicking-the-opiate-habit-with-cannabis/">improved outcomes</a> in opioid-dependent subjects undergoing outpatient treatment, according to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26187456">data</a>  published online this past September in the journal <em>Drug and Alcohol Dependence</em>.</p><p>Researchers at Columbia University studied marijuana’s effects on opioid-dependent subjects undergoing in-patient detoxification and outpatient treatment with naltrexone, an opiate receptor antagonist. "One of the interesting study findings was the observed beneficial effect of marijuana smoking on treatment retention," authors concluded. "Participants who smoked marijuana had less difficulty with sleep and anxiety and were more likely to remain in treatment as compared to those who were not using marijuana."</p><p>The findings replicate those of two prior studies, <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1081/ada-100104511#.VlT0-WSrSt8">one from 2001</a> and <a href="http://norml.org/news/2009/05/21/cannabis-use-associated-with-greater-adherence-to-heroin-treatment-study-says">one from 2009</a>, reporting greater treatment adherence among subjects who consumed cannabis intermittently during outpatient therapy.</p><p>Population data from states where medicinal cannabis is permitted report lower rates of opioid-related <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/07/16/study-medical-cannabis-access-associated-with-reduced-opioid-abuse">abuse</a> and <a href="http://norml.org/news/2014/08/28/study-state-medical-marijuana-laws-associated-with-lower-rates-of-opiate-induced-fatalities">mortality</a> as compared to those states where weed remains prohibited. </p><p> </p><p><strong>Marijuana Mitigates Migraine Frequency</strong></p><p>Can marijuana provide migraine relief? Newly published data indicates that the answer could be ‘yes.’</p><p>Investigators at the University of Colorado, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences retrospectively assessed cannabis' effects on monthly migraine headache frequency in a group of 121 adults. Study participants had a primary diagnosis of migraine headache, had been recommended cannabis by a physician for migraine treatment, and had participated in at least one follow up medical visit.</p><p><a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26749285">Authors reported</a> that 85 percent of subjects reported a decrease in migraine frequency and 12 percent indicated that the use of cannabis prior to migraine onset would abort headaches.</p><p>"Migraine headache frequency decreased from 10.4 to 4.6 headaches per month with the use of medical marijuana," researchers concluded. "Further research should be performed to determine if there is a preferred delivery method, dose, and strain of medical marijuana for migraine headache therapy as well as potential long-term effects of medical marijuana."</p><p><strong>Cumulative Cannabis Use Isn’t Associated With Lower IQ</strong></p><p>The cumulative use of cannabis by adolescents has no direct, short-term effect on intelligence decline, according to <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/01/13/1516648113.abstract">longitudinal data</a> published this week in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em>.</p><p>Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Minnesota evaluated whether pot use was associated with changes in intellectual performance in two longitudinal cohorts of adolescent twins. Participants were assessed for intelligence at ages 9 to 12, before marijuana involvement, and again at ages 17 to 20.</p><p>Researchers reported no dose-response relationship between cannabis use and IQ decline. They also found no significant differences in performance among marijuana using subjects when compared to their non-using twins.</p><p>Investigators concluded: “In the largest longitudinal examination of marijuana use and IQ change, … we find little evidence to suggest that adolescent marijuana use has a direct effect on intellectual decline. … [T]he lack of a dose–response relationship, and an absence of meaningful differences between discordant siblings lead us to conclude that the deficits observed in marijuana users are attributable to confounding factors that influence both substance initiation and IQ rather than a neurotoxic effect of marijuana.”</p><p>The findings come just days after the publication of <a href="http://intl-jop.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/01/06/0269881115622241.full">a separate longitudinal study</a> in the <em>Journal of Pharmacology</em> which concluded that cumulative adolescent marijuana use is not associated with lower IQ or poorer educational performance once adjustments are made for potential confounders, specifically cigarette smoking. The studies contrast with the findings of a widely publicized <a href="http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/jul/27/ruth-marcus/marcus-if-tee-use-marijuana-regularly-the-drop-8-i/">2012 study</a> that alleged that youthful pot use was associated with declines in IQ later in life.</p><p><strong>THC Inhibits Weight Gain</strong></p><p>THC administration prevents weight gain in mice fed a high fat diet. So reported a team of Canadian researchers this past December in the journal <em>PLOS ONE</em>.</p><p>Investigators at the University of Calgary <a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0144270">assessed the impact</a> of small, daily doses of THC in diet-induced obese mice. They reported that THC intake was associated with the inhibition of increased fat. They concluded, “Chronic THC treatment … prevented high fat diet-induced increases in body weight.”</p><p>While the findings may run counter to certain stoner stereotypes, they are consistent with the conclusions of several recent population-based observational studies. Specifically, a <a href="http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/174/8/929.long">2011 review</a> of over 50,000 US citizens age 18 or older concluded, “[T]he prevalence of obesity is lower in cannabis users than in nonusers.” Similarly, Canadian researchers assessing the health of over 750 Inuit adults <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20973/abstract">reported</a> that subjects who possessed a history of cannabis use had a lower body mass index than those who abstained from pot.</p><p>Most recently, investigators at the University of Miami analyzed the association between cannabis use and metabolic syndrome in a cohort of nearly 8,500 subjects. They <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26548604">found</a> that those who consume cannabis are 50 percent less likely to be overweight and to suffer from high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels as compared to those subjects with no history of marijuana use.</p><p> </p> Thu, 21 Jan 2016 11:08:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1049336 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health marijuana cannabis opiods migraines iq obesity alcohol Marijuana Reduces Alzheimers Symptoms, Scientists Say http://www.alternet.org/drugs/marijuana-reduces-alzheimers-symptoms-scientists-say <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A study has found that cannabis oil ingestion corresponded with decreased levels of aggression, irritability, apathy and delusions.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_328567031.jpg?itok=3mJsAHGD" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The administration of liquid cannabis extracts containing THC is associated with the mitigation of various symptoms of Alzheimer’s-related agitation and dementia, according to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26757043">observational trial data</a> published online ahead of print in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.</p><p>Israeli investigators assessed the use of cannabis oil as an adjunct pharmacotherapy treatment in ten Alzheimer’s disease patients over a period of several weeks. Researchers reported that drug administration was associated with a significant reduction in patients’ symptom severity scores. Specifically, cannabis oil ingestion corresponded with decreased levels of aggression, irritability, apathy, and delusions.</p><p>Investigators concluded, “Adding medical cannabis oil to Alzheimer’s disease patients pharmacotherapy is safe and a promising treatment option.”</p><p>The administration of dronabinol (oral synthetic THC in pill form) has previously been reported to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16521031?dopt=Abstract">reduce Alzheimer’s-induced agitation</a> and <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9309469">improve weight gain</a>, while preclinical studies have <a href="http://norml.org/library/item/alzheimer-s-disease">theorized</a> that cannabinoids may be neuroprotective against the onset of the disease.</p><p><em>An abstract of the study, “Safety and efficacy of medical cannabis oil for behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia: An open label, add-on, pilot study,” appears online <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26757043">here</a>.</em></p><em>This <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2016/01/19/study-cannabis-oil-mitigates-symptoms-of-alzheimers-induced-dementia/">article</a> first appeared on NORML.</em> Wed, 20 Jan 2016 12:00:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1049215 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health dementia cannabis oil Alzheimer’s Disease Twin Study: Marijuana Use Has No Direct Effect on IQ http://www.alternet.org/drugs/twin-study-marijuana-use-has-no-direct-effect-iq <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Researchers reported no dose-response relationship between cannabis use and IQ decline.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_209693806.jpg?itok=3RHXv2BF" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The cumulative use of cannabis by adolescents has no direct effect on <a href="http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/marijuana-does-not-cause-decline-intelligence-among-teenage-users-1538607">intelligence decline</a>, according to <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/01/13/1516648113.abstract">longitudinal data</a> published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.</p><p>Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Minnesota <a href="http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/iq-dip-not-caused-by-marijuana-study-findsds-to-lower-iq-study-says-707098.html">evaluated</a> whether marijuana use was associated with changes in intellectual performance in two longitudinal cohorts of adolescent twins. Participants were assessed for intelligence at ages 9 to 12, before marijuana involvement, and again at ages 17 to 20.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/18/scientists-have-found-that-smoking-weed-does-not-make-you-stupid-after-all/">reported</a> no dose-response relationship between cannabis use and IQ decline. They also found no significant differences in performance among marijuana using subjects when compared to their non-using twins.</p><p>Investigators concluded: “In the largest longitudinal examination of marijuana use and IQ change, … we find little evidence to suggest that adolescent marijuana use has a direct effect on intellectual decline. … [T]he lack of a dose–response relationship, and an absence of meaningful differences between discordant siblings lead us to conclude that the deficits observed in marijuana users are attributable to confounding factors that influence both substance initiation and IQ rather than a neurotoxic effect of marijuana.”</p><p>The findings follow the publication of a <a href="http://norml.org/news/2016/01/14/study-cannabis-use-not-predictive-of-lower-iq">separate longitudinal study</a> in the Journal of Pharmacology which concluded that cumulative adolescent marijuana use is not associated with lower IQ or poorer educational performance once adjustments are made for potential confounders, specifically cigarette smoking.</p><p>An abstract of the study, “Impact of adolescent marijuana use on intelligence: Results from two longitudinal twin studies,” is available <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/01/13/1516648113.abstract">online</a>.</p><em>This <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2016/01/18/twin-study-marijuana-use-has-no-direct-effect-on-iq/">article</a> first appeared on NORML.</em> Tue, 19 Jan 2016 12:44:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1049214 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs marijuana intelligence iq cannabis Debunking The Myth That Pot Fries Your Brain http://www.alternet.org/drugs/debunking-myth-pot-fries-brain <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Misleading and scientifically illiterate claims notwithstanding, there&#039;s little definitive evidence marijuana makes you dumb, dense, or crazy.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_4.jpg?itok=nqn2tA9c" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Scare-mongering headlines touting the alleged adverse effects of marijuana’s impact on brain appear in the mainstream media almost daily. But a careful investigation of the relevant science reveals many of these fears to be overblown at best and illegitimate at worst.</p><p><strong>Pot Permanently Damages the Brain</strong></p><p>“Even occasional marijuana can change your brain.” So claimed the <a href="http://news.health.com/2014/04/16/study-links-casual-marijuana-use-to-changes-in-brain/">headlines</a> surrounding a highly publicized 2014 study by researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Addiction Medicine. Authors took images of the brains of college-aged cannabis users and non-users and acknowledged differences in the brain morphology of the two groups.</p><p>However, because the study was based on a single set of images, researchers had no way to determine whether the differences predated subjects cannabis use or whether they would remain if they ceased using pot. Further, investigators failed to assess either groups’ cognitive or academic performance to ascertain whether these changes were associated with any adverse real-world outcomes. (All of the participants in the study were enrolled in higher education and none of the participants met criteria for drug dependence.) Nonetheless, investigators pronounced that the observed differences were “abnormal” and indicated that such ‘brain alterations’ would likely lead to more serious drug abusing behaviors down the road.</p><p>Or not. In fact, when a separate team of scientists tried to replicate these results in a larger, better-controlled cohort of subjects, <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/02/19/study-marijuana-use-not-associated-with-previously-reported-changes-in-brain-morphology">they couldn’t</a>. </p><p>“We acquired high-resolution MRI scans, and investigated group differences in gray matter using voxel-based morphometry, surface-based morphometry, and shape analysis in structures suggested to be associated with marijuana use, as follows: the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus, and cerebellum,” <a href="http://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/4/1505.short">researchers summarized</a> last year in the <em>The Journal of Neuroscience</em>. “No statistically significant differences were found between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest. Effect sizes suggest that the failure to find differences was not due to a lack of statistical power, but rather was due to the lack of even a modest effect.”</p><p>Further, authors theorized that the observed differences reported in 2014 were likely due to the participants’ consumption of alcohol, not pot. They concluded: “[T]he results indicate that, when carefully controlling for alcohol use, gender, age, and other variables, there is no association between marijuana use and standard volumetric or shape measurements of subcortical structures. … [I]t seems unlikely that marijuana use has the same level of long-term deleterious effects on brain morphology as other drugs like alcohol.”</p><p><strong>Marijuana Lowers IQ</strong></p><p>Smoking cannabis leads to an eight-point drop in intelligence quotient. So says the US National Institute on Drug Abuse on their webpage ‘<a href="https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana">Marijuana: Get the Facts</a>.’ But the facts in this instance are far from definitive.</p><p>NIDA’s claim, which has since been repeated by <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ruth-marcus-the-perils-of-legalized-pot/2014/01/02/068cee6e-73e9-11e3-8b3f-b1666705ca3b_story.html%3e">numerous pundits</a> and <a href="https://learnaboutsam.org/marijuana-use-linked-with-significant-iq-loss">anti-drug reform groups</a> is taken from a <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/109/40/E2657.abstract">Duke University study</a> published in 2012 in <em>The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em>. The study’s authors reported that the persistent use of cannabis by those in their early teens, but not others, was associated with as high as an eight-point drop in IQ by age 38. However, a separate, far less publicized <a href="///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/%3c%20http:/www.pnas.org/content/110/11/4251">review of the data</a> that appeared later in the same journal suggested that the results were likely because of socioeconomic differences, not subjects’ use of cannabis. It determined: “The association [between heavy adolescent marijuana use and lower IQ by middle age] is given a causal interpretation by the authors, but existing research suggests an alternative confounding model based on time-varying effects of socioeconomic status on IQ. A simulation of the confounding model reproduces the reported associations from the Dunedin cohort, suggesting that the causal effects estimated in Meier et al. are likely to be overestimates, and that the true effect could be zero.”</p><p>More recent analyses further support the notion that cannabis use alone does not have an adverse causal effect on either IQ or academic performance. A <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871615016580">2015 study</a> by Meier and colleagues published in the journal <em>Drug and Alcohol Dependence</em> reports that the effects of persistent adolescent cannabis use on academic performance is “non-significant after controlling for persistent alcohol and tobacco use.” Similarly, a <a href="http://intl-jop.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/01/06/0269881115622241.full">study published this month</a> in the <em>Journal of Psychopharmacology</em>concludes that cumulative teen pot use is not associated with lower IQ scores or with poorer educational performance once adjustments are made for confounding variables, specifically cigarette smoking. “[T]hose who had used cannabis [greater than or equal to] 50 times did not differ from never-users on either IQ or educational performance,” investigators determined.</p><p><strong>Cannabis Adversely Effects Cognition</strong></p><p>Indeed, some stupid people may smoke pot. But the relevant science suggests that they were stupid long before ever coming in contact with the herb.</p><p>Specifically, Boston University researchers performed a battery of cognitive tests on a cohort of marijuana-using twins and their non-using co-twins. <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15697050">They reported</a> “an absence of marked long-term residual effects of marijuana use on cognitive abilities.”</p><p>Similarly, a study published in the journal <em>Archives of General Psychiatry</em> found that long-term cannabis smokers (identified as consumers who had smoked cannabis at least 5000 times during their lives) who abstained from pot for several weeks showed virtually no significant differences from control subjects (those who had smoked marijuana less than 50 times in their lives) on ten distinct neuropsychological tests. “]T]here were virtually no significant differences among the groups on any of the test results, and no significant associations between cumulative lifetime cannabis use and test scores,” <a href="http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=481834">investigators reported</a>.</p><p>Likewise, a <a href="///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/%3c%20http:/www.cmcr.ucsd.edu/images/pdfs/Grant_2003.pdf">2012 literature review</a> of 11 peer-reviewed studies evaluating pot’s potential long-term impact on cognitive function, involving over 1,000 subjects, concluded, “The results of our meta-analytic study failed to reveal a substantial, systematic effect of long-term, regular cannabis consumption on the neurocognitive functioning of users who were not acutely intoxicated.”</p><p>Finally, a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22731735">separate meta-analysis</a> published in the journal <em>Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacolog</em><em>y</em> concludes that cannabis is not associated with "enduring negative effects" on the cognitive skills in moderate to heavy marijuana consumers. Researchers from the University of Central Florida reviewed various, peer-reviewed studies assessing whether pot use is associated with lasting adverse residual effects on cognition. They reported that chronic cannabis consumption was associated with "small but significant" effects on neurocognitive skills for limited periods of time, but that these effects discontinued following abstinence. Authors reported "no evidence of lasting effects on cognitive performance due to cannabis use" in subjects whose abstention period was at least 25 days. They concluded, “These results fail to support the idea that heavy cannabis use may result in long-term, persistent effects on neuropsychological functioning."</p><p><strong>Marijuana Causes Mental Illness</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.vancouversun.com/health/marijuana+could+produce+schizophrenia+like+conditions/11646612/story.html">Claims persist</a> that cannabis use can trigger mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, in otherwise healthy individuals. But data to substantiate these claims is lacking.</p><p>Specifically, a 2009 paper in the journal <em>Schizophrenia Research </em>compared trends in marijuana use and incidences of schizophrenia in the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2005. <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19560900%3e">Authors reported</a> that "incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining" during this period, even though pot use among the general population was rising. They concluded: "This study does not therefore support the specific causal link between cannabis use and incidence of psychotic disorders. ... This concurs with other reports indicating that increases in population cannabis use have not been followed by increases in psychotic incidence."</p><p>Similarly, a <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02846.x/abstract">review paper</a> published by a pair of British scientists in the journal <em>Addiction</em> reported that there exists little clinical evidence indicating that marijuana use is casually linked to incidences of schizophrenia or other psychological illnesses. Authors wrote: "We continue to take the view that the evidence that cannabis use causes schizophrenia is neither very new, nor by normal criteria, particularly compelling. ... For example, our recent modeling suggests that we would need to prevent between 3000 and 5000 cases of heavy cannabis use among young men and women to prevent one case of schizophrenia, and that four or five times more young people would need to avoid light cannabis use to prevent a single schizophrenia case. ... We conclude that the strongest evidence of a possible causal relation between cannabis use and schizophrenia emerged more than 20 years ago and that the strength of more recent evidence may have been overstated."</p><p>More recently, researchers at Harvard University published a <a href="http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/10/harvard-marijuana-doesnt-cause-schizophrenia/63148.html">study</a>  further rebutting the ‘pot equals schizophrenia’ allegation. Writing in 2013 in <em>Schizophrenia Research</em>, investigators compared the family histories of 108 schizophrenia patients and 171 individuals without schizophrenia to assess whether youth cannabis consumption was an independent factor in developing the disorder. Researchers reported that a family history of schizophrenia increased the risk of developing the disease, regardless of whether or not subjects consumed marijuana as adolescents. <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24309013">They concluded</a>: “The results of the current study, both when analyzed using morbid risk and family frequency calculations, suggest that having an increased familial risk for schizophrenia is the underlying basis for schizophrenia in these samples and not the cannabis use.  While cannabis may have an effect on the age of onset of schizophrenia it is unlikely to be the cause of illness.”</p><p>Most recently, a <a href="http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v41/n2/full/npp2015251a.html">pair of just published commentaries</a> in the journal <em>Nature Neuropsychopharmacology</em> suggests that while THC may be associated with increase psychiatric risks in already vulnerable populations, “there are sufficient reasons to question the causality of this relationship,” such as the possibility of self-medication or shared genetic and environmental risk factors. “To conclude, public perception and popular media often interpret associations shown in longitudinal studies as demonstrating causation, so the scientific community has to consistently emphasize the distinction between association and causation. Given the low odds ratio and evidence that schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder, the most scientifically conservative stance is that the association between cannabis and psychotic disorders is not causal.”</p> Wed, 13 Jan 2016 23:51:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1048919 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health marijuana intelligence psychosis brain damage Marijuana Is Not a Gateway Drug, So Why Do Leading Republicans and Democrats Say Otherwise? http://www.alternet.org/drugs/marijuana-not-gateway-drug-so-why-do-leading-republicans-and-democrats-say-otherwise <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Politicians such as Chris Christie and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have long been against marijuana law reform.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/AFP/photo_1342458829815-11-0.jpg?itok=WY7pP9Co" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie and Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz may be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but they share a mutual antipathy for marijuana law reform.</p><p>As New Jersey governor, Christie has spent years undermining the state’s beleaguered medical cannabis program. As a presidential candidate, Christie has upped the ante, promising to roll back voter-approved legalization laws in states like Colorado and Oregon. “I will crack down [on states where marijuana sales are legal] and not permit it,” Christie has <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/14/chris-christie-marijuana_n_7066636.html">said</a>, adding on numerous occasions that his opposition to pot stems from his <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/watch/christie-i-believe-marijuana-is-a-gateway-drug-548908611837">belief</a> that it is a “destructive…gateway drug…that causes our children…to use other drugs.”</p><p>Likewise, as a member of Congress, Schultz has a long <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3nYdQ4GYoA">history</a> of voting in favor of continued cannabis criminalization and repression. She is one of a handful of Democrats who <a href="http://www.vice.com/read/why-wont-the-us-government-let-veterans-smoke-weed">voted</a> in opposition to an amendment that sought to permit VA doctors to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that already permit the plant’s medical use. Increasing legal access to a “mind altering substance” like marijuana will lead more people to “travel down the path toward using more drugs,” Wasserman-Schultz <a href="http://extract.suntimes.com/news/10/153/11412/debbie-wasserman-schultz-opposes-marijuana-legalization-links-to-hard-drugs">argues</a>.</p><p>Both politicians' positions are not only out of touch with <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/186260/back-legal-marijuana.aspx">public opinion</a>, they are equally out of touch with the available science, which has long <a href="http://www.factcheck.org/2015/04/is-marijuana-really-a-gateway-drug/">dismissed</a> the notion that cannabis in any way primes the brain toward experimentation with other illicit substances.</p><p>“There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other drugs,” authors of the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine <a href="http://www.nap.edu/catalog/6376/marijuana-and-medicine-assessing-the-science-base">concluded</a> nearly two decades ago. Shortly thereafter, a report issued by the RAND Corporation, titled "Reassessing the Marijuana Gateway Effect,” <a href="http://www.rand.org/pubs/external_publications/EP20021208.html">affirmed</a>, “[M]arijuana has no causal influence over hard drug initiation.” Authors <a href="http://norml.org/news/2002/12/03/marijuana-not-a-gateway-to-hard-drug-use-rand-study-saysconclusions-raise-serious-doubts-regarding-the-legitimacy-of-us-drug-policy">concluded</a>: "While the gateway theory has enjoyed popular acceptance, scientists have always had their doubts. Our study shows that these doubts are justified."</p><p>Despite the recent rise in adult use of marijuana in past years, nationwide use of most other illicit substances, particularly <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.12738/abstract">cocaine</a>, has fallen dramatically. Moreover, surveys of legal cannabis consumers now consistently report that they substitute pot in place of other psychoactive substances, specifically <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/10/08/study-patients-substitute-cannabis-for-booze-prescription-drugs">alcohol</a> and prescription pharmaceuticals like <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/03/12/study-majority-of-medical-marijuana-patients-substitute-cannabis-for-prescription-drugs">opioids</a> – behavior that indicates the herb is more often than not consumed as an exit drug rather than a gateway to substance abuse. Recent <a href="http://reset.me/study/study-kicking-the-opiate-habit-with-cannabis/">studies</a> show that cannabis is associated with more favorable outcomes among opioid-dependent people seeking outpatient treatment. Additionally, states that permit patient use and access to medicinal marijuana report lower rates of <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w21345">opiate abuse</a> and <a href="http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1898878">mortality</a> as compared to states that continue to prohibit the plant.</p><p>As for the longstanding belief that cannabis use sequentially precedes the use of other illicit substances, newly published research refutes this claim as well. Writing this month in the <em>Journal of School Health</em>, investigators at Texas A&amp;M University and the University of Florida, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/06/the-real-gateway-drug-thats-everywhere-and-legal/">reported</a> that the use of alcohol and tobacco typically precedes cannabis exposure in polydrug consuming subjects. The <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26645418">study</a> concludes, “[A]lcohol was the most widely used substance among respondents, initiated earliest, and also the first substance most commonly used in the progression of substance use.”</p><p>But don’t expect these latest findings to sway the rhetoric spewed by pot-hating pols like Christie and Schultz. As governor, Christie signed legislation to <a href="http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2013/08/new_jersey_distilled_gov_chris_christie_signs_craft_distillery_bill_into_law.html">stimulate</a> increased hard liquor production in the Garden State, which is also <a href="http://www.state.nj.us/njbusiness/industry/pharmaceutical/">home</a> to 14 of the world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical companies. Similarly, the DNC chair is no stranger to coddling up to Big Booze. Presently, representatives of the beer and wine industry rank as the <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00026106">fifth</a> largest donor to Wasserman-Schultz’s re-election campaign. Until leading politicians wean themselves off booze, expect them to keep maligning pot.</p> Wed, 13 Jan 2016 14:45:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1048907 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics marijuana gateway drug chris christie debbie wasserman schultz Study: Cannabis Use Not Predictive Of Lower IQ, Poorer Educational Performance http://www.alternet.org/drugs/study-cannabis-use-not-predictive-lower-iq-poorer-educational-performance <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">By contrast, teen cigarette smoking was associated with poorer educational outcomes.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_162873131-edited.jpg?itok=ZpeVkf4Q" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Marijuana use by adolescents is not associated with lower IQ or poorer educational performance once adjustments are made for potential confounders, specifically cigarette smoking, according to longitudinal <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26739345">data</a> published online ahead of print in the <em>Journal of Psychopharmacology</em>.</p><p>British investigators assessed the relationship between cumulative cannabis use and IQ at the age of 15 and educational performance at the age of 16 in a cohort of 2,235 adolescents.</p><p>After researchers adjusted for potentially confounding variables, such as childhood depression and cigarette use, they reported, “[T]hose who had used cannabis [greater than or equal to] 50 times did not differ from never-users on either IQ or educational performance.”</p><p>By contrast, teen cigarette smoking was associated with poorer educational outcomes even after researchers adjusted for other confounding variables.</p><p>Researchers concluded, “In summary, the notion that cannabis use itself is causally related to lower IQ and poorer educational performance was not supported in this large teenage sample.”</p><p>A <a href="http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/jul/27/ruth-marcus/marcus-if-tee-use-marijuana-regularly-the-drop-8-i/">widely publicized</a> New Zealand <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/109/40/E2657.abstract">study</a> published in 2012 in <em>The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em> reported that frequent use of cannabis by those under the age of 18 was associated with lower IQ by age 38. However, a <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/110/11/4251">separate review of the data</a> published later in the same journal suggested that the changes were likely the result of socioeconomic differences, not cannabis use.</p><p>More recently, the results of a <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871615016580">2015 study</a> in the journal <em>Drug and Alcohol Dependence</em> reported that the effects of persistent adolescent cannabis use on academic performance “became non-significant after controlling for persistent alcohol and tobacco use.”</p><p><em>Full text of the study, “Are IQ and educational outcomes in teenagers related to their cannabis use? A prospective cohort study,” appears online <a href="http://intl-jop.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/01/06/0269881115622241.full">here</a>.</em></p><p><em>This article originally appeared in <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2016/01/12/study-cannabis-use-not-predictive-of-lower-iq-poorer-educational-performance/">NORML</a> blog.</em></p><p> </p> Tue, 12 Jan 2016 11:36:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1048827 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Education cannabis education iq intelligence marijuana What Are the Risks of Marijuana Smoke, Compared to Tobacco? http://www.alternet.org/drugs/what-are-risks-marijuana-smoke-compared-tobacco <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">All smoke is not created equal. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/903450bdaeaca6e45f4c6391a8308e71b2a10e22.jpg?itok=hkS46nGV" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Long-term exposure to tobacco smoke is demonstrably harmful to health. According to the United States Center for Disease Control, tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and chronic exposure to tobacco smoke is linked to increased incidences of cancer as well as vascular disease. Inhaling tobacco smoke is also associated with a variety of adverse pulmonary effects, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). </p><p>Does smoking cannabis pose similar dangers to lung health? According to a number of recent scientific findings, marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke vary considerably in their health effects. So then why are lawmakers in various states, such a Minnesota and New York, imposing new restrictions explicitly prohibiting the inhalation of herbal preparations of cannabis? </p><p><strong>Marijuana Smoke vs. Tobacco Smoke</strong></p><p>Writing in the Harm Reduction Journal in 2005, noted cannabis researcher Robert Melamede <a href="http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/2/1/21">explained</a>that although tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke have some similar chemical properties, the two substances possess different pharmacological activities and are not equally carcinogenic. Specifically, he affirmed that marijuana smoke contains multiple cannabinoids – many of which possess <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14570037">anti-cancer activity</a> – and therefore likely exerts “a protective effect against pro-carcinogens that require activation.” Melamede concluded, “Components of cannabis smoke minimize some carcinogenic pathways whereas tobacco smoke enhances some.”<br /><br /><strong>Marijuana Smoke and Cancer</strong></p><p>Consequently, studies have so far failed to identify an association between cannabis smoke exposure and elevated risks of smoking-related cancers, such as cancers of the lung and neck. In fact, the largest case-controlled <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17035389">study</a> ever to investigate the respiratory effects of marijuana smoking reported that cannabis use was not associated with lung-related cancers, even among subjects who reported smoking more than 22,000 joints over their lifetime. Summarizing the study’s findings in The Washington Post, pulmonologist Dr. Donald Tashkin, Professor Emeritus at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/25/AR2006052501729.html">concluded</a>: “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use. What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”</p><p>A <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24947688">meta-analysis</a> of additional case-control studies, published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2014, similarly reported, “Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers,” while a 2009 Brown University <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2812803/">study</a>determined that those who had a history of marijuana smoking possessed a significantly decreased risk of head and neck cancers as compared to those subjects who did not. </p><p><strong>Marijuana Smoke and Pulmonary Function</strong></p><p>According to a 2015 <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25521349">study</a> conducted at Emory University in Atlanta, the inhalation of cannabis smoke, even over extended periods of time, is not associated with detrimental effects on pulmonary function, such as forced expiratory volume (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FCV). Assessing marijuana smoke exposure and lung health in a large representative sample of U.S. adults, age 18 to 59, they maintained, “The pattern of marijuana’s effects seems to be distinctly different when compared to that of tobacco use.” Subjects had inhaled the equivalent of one marijuana cigarette per day for 20 years, yet did not experience FEV1 decline or deleterious change in spirometric values of small airways disease. </p><p><strong>Marijuana Smoke and COPD</strong></p><p>While tobacco smoking is recognized as a major risk factor for the development of COPD – a chronic inflammation of the airways that may ultimately result in premature death – marijuana smoke exposure (absent concurrent tobacco smoke exposure) appears to present little COPD risk. In 2013, McGill University professor and physician Mark Ware <a href="http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201302-034ED#.VMm6OCjnCB8">wrote</a> in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society: “Cannabis smoking does not seem to increase risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or airway cancers… Efforts to develop cleaner cannabinoid delivery systems can and should continue, but at least for now, (those) who smoke small amounts of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes can breathe a little bit easier.”</p><p><strong>Mitigating Marijuana Smoke Exposure</strong></p><p>The use of a water-pipe filtration system primarily cools cannabis smoke, which may reduce throat irritation and cough. However, this technology is not particularly efficient at eliminating the potentially toxic byproducts of combustion or other potential lung irritants.</p><p>By contrast, vaporization heats herbal cannabis to a point where cannabinoid vapors form, but below the point of combustion – thereby reducing the intake of combustive smoke or other pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and tar. Observational studies show that vaporization allows consumers to experience the rapid onset of effect while <a href="http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/4/1/11/abstract">avoiding</a> many of the associated respiratory hazards associated with smoking – such as <a href="http://norml.org/news/2007/02/15/minor-respiratory-complications-no-decrease-in-pulmonary-function-associated-with-long-term-marijuana-smoking-study-says">coughing, wheezing, or chronic bronchitis</a>. Clinical trials also report that vaporization results in the delivery of <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17429350">higher plasma concentrations</a> of THC (and likely other cannabinoids) compared to smoked cannabis. As a result, the authors affiliated with the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research and elsewhere now acknowledge that vaporizers provide a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17429350">“safe and effective”</a> way to for consumers to inhale herbal cannabis. </p><p><strong>The Bottom Line</strong></p><p>Based on this scientific record, it makes little sense for lawmakers to impose legislative bans on herbal cannabis products, such as those that presently exist for patients in <a href="http://norml.org/legal/item/minnesota-medical-marijuana-law?category_id=835">Minnesota</a> and <a href="http://norml.org/legal/item/new-york-medical-marijuana-law?category_id=835">New York</a> and which are now being proposed in several other states (e.g., <a href="http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18058">Georgia</a> and <a href="http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15933">Pennsylvania</a>). Oral cannabis preparations, such as capsules and edibles, possess <a href="http://norml.org/aboutmarijuana/marijuana-a-primer">delayed onset</a> compared to inhaled herbal cannabis, making these options less suitable for patients desiring rapid symptomatic relief. Further, oral administration of cannabis-infused products is associated with significantly greater bioavailability than is inhalation – resulting in more pronounced variation in drug effect from dose to dose (even in cases where the dose is standardized). These restrictions unnecessarily limit patients’ choices and deny them the ability to obtain rapid relief from whole-plant cannabis in a manner that has long proven to be relatively safe and effective.</p> Fri, 08 Jan 2016 07:06:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, NORML 1048612 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs drugs pot weed tobacco health People Don't Mix Alcohol & Marijuana as Often as You Might Think http://www.alternet.org/drugs/people-dont-mix-alcohol-marijuana-often-you-might-think <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">New data upends a common assumption.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_126159383.jpg?itok=zMlaGreU" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Marijuana consumers do not typically use cannabis and alcohol in combination with one another, regardless of whether they are consuming cannabis for medicinal or social purposes, according to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26687431">data</a> published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.</p><p>Investigators with the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and the University of California, Irvine surveyed marijuana use patterns among participants between the ages of 18 and 91 in four states: Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. (The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is legal in New Mexico, while laws in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington permit adults to possess and purchase cannabis for both medicinal and/or recreational purposes.)</p><p>Authors reported, ”Individuals who use cannabis do not commonly use it with alcohol, irrespective of whether they are consuming cannabis recreationally or medically.” They concluded, “Fewer than one in five recreational users report simultaneous use of alcohol and cannabis most or all of the time and less than three of medicinal users report frequent simultaneous use of alcohol and cannabis.”</p><p>Although <a href="http://norml.org/news/2014/02/20/cannabis-may-be-a-substitute-for-alcohol-study-says">some studies</a> indicate that cannabis can be a potential substitute for the use of alcohol, <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acer.12942/abstract">others</a> have implied that the two substances may be complementary.</p><p>An abstract of the study, “A baseline view of cannabis use among legalizing states and their neighbors,” appears online <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26687431">here</a>.</p><p>- See more at: <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2016/01/04/study-consumers-infrequently-combine-marijuana-and-alcohol/#sthash.HeMX4U6J.dpuf">http://blog.norml.org/2016/01/04/study-consumers-infrequently-combine-ma...</a></p> Mon, 04 Jan 2016 11:24:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, NORML Stash Blog 1048386 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs pot weed alcohol. Report: Criminal Justice Referrals Still Driving Marijuana ‘Treatment’ Admissions http://www.alternet.org/drugs/report-criminal-justice-referrals-driving-marijuana-treatment-admissions <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Drug treatment beds are a scarce resource. Why are judges filling them with pot smokers?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_law.jpg?itok=YtPTcRQp" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Over <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/14/courts-are-forcing-marijuana-users-to-get-drug-treatment-they-probably-dont-need/">half</a> of all people admitted to drug treatment programs for marijuana-related issues over the past decade were referred there by a criminal justice source, according to a <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/2003_2013_TEDS_National/2003_2013_Treatment_Episode_Data_Set_National.pdf">report</a> published this month by the US Department of Health and Human Services.</p><p>In the years 2003 through 2013, 52 percent of people in drug treatment for marijuana as their ‘primary substance of abuse’ were referred by the criminal justice system. Of those, almost half (44 percent) entered treatment as a component of their probation or parole.</p><p>Only 18 percent of marijuana treatment admissions were based upon self-referrals. Primary marijuana admissions were less likely than all other drug-related admissions combined to have been self- or individually referred to treatment.</p><p>The data mirrors those of <a href="http://norml.org/news/2010/05/27/criminal-justice-referrals-driving-marijuana-treatment-admissions-federal-report-finds">previous federal reports</a> finding that only a small percentage of those entering treatment for marijuana perceive that they are abusing cannabis or have even used the substance recently.</p><p>- See more at: <a href="http://blog.norml.org/#sthash.6jA0sJiF.dpuf">http://blog.norml.org/#sthash.6jA0sJiF.dpuf</a></p><p> </p> Thu, 17 Dec 2015 11:04:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, NORML 1047533 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health addiction treatment drug treatment marijuana criminal justice parole probation Is There a Link Between Consuming Marijuana and Decreased Obesity Rates? New Study Shows a Connection http://www.alternet.org/drugs/there-link-between-consuming-marijuana-and-decreased-obesity-rates-new-study-shows-connection <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Investigators reviewed twelve years of data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_126159383.jpg?itok=zMlaGreU" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The enactment of statewide laws permitting the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes is associated with an annual reduction in obesity-related medical costs, according to <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hec.3267/abstract">data</a> published online ahead of print in the journal <em>Health Economics</em>.</p><p>Investigators at Cornell University in New York and San Diego State University in California reviewed twelve years of data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to examine the effects of medical marijuana laws on body weight, physical wellness, and exercise.</p><p>Researchers reported, “[T]he enforcement of MMLs (medical marijuana laws) is associated with a 2% to 6% decline in the probability of obesity. … Our estimates suggest that MMLs induce a $58 to $115 per-person annual reduction in obesity-related medical costs.”</p><p>For those age 35 or older, authors determined that the passage of medical cannabis laws is “associated with an increase in physical wellness and frequent exercise consistent with the hypothesis of some medicinal use of marijuana.” For younger adults, researchers theorized that obesity declines were the result of less alcohol use.</p><p>They concluded, “These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that MMLs may be more likely to induce marijuana use for health-related reasons among older individuals, and cause substitution toward lower-calorie recreational ‘highs’ among younger individuals.”</p><p>The findings are similar to those of other recent observational studies, such as those <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/08/13/study-cannabis-users-less-likely-to-be-obese-possess-lower-diabetes-risk">here</a> and <a href="http://norml.org/news/2011/09/01/frequency-of-marijuana-use-associated-with-lower-prevalence-of-obesity-study-says">here</a>, concluding that cannabis use is associated with reduced body mass index and obesity.</p><p><em>The abstract of the study, “The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Body Weight,” appears online <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hec.3267/abstract">here</a>.</em></p><p> </p> Thu, 03 Dec 2015 05:59:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, NORML 1046703 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health medical marijuana cannabis marijuana legalization obesity Study: Marijuana Consumers Less Likely To Suffer From Metabolic Syndrome http://www.alternet.org/drugs/study-marijuana-consumers-less-suffer-metabolic-syndrome <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Pot smokers have a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_smoke_0.jpg?itok=nwW84ae9" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Current consumers of cannabis are 50 percent less likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome as compared to those who have never used the substance, according to findings published online ahead of print in The American Journal of Medicine. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat, which are linked to increased risk of heart disease and/or type 2 diabetes, among other serious health consequences.</p><p>Investigators from the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine analyzed the association between cannabis use and metabolic syndrome in a cohort of nearly 8,500 subjects aged 20 to 59 who participated in the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Researchers classified subjects as suffering from metabolic syndrome if they possessed more than three of the following symptoms: elevated fasting glucose levels, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, elevated systolic/diastolic blood pressure, and increased waist circumference.</p><p>Among subjects with no history of cannabis use, 19.5 percent met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. By contrast, 17.5 percent of former users and only 13.8 percent of current users met the criteria.</p><p>“Among emerging adults, current marijuana users were 54 percent less likely than never users to present with metabolic syndrome,” investigators reported. Specifically, mean fasting glucose levels were significantly lower among current marijuana users when compared to never users, while waist circumference was significantly lower among males who reported current marijuana use when compared to those with no cannabis use history.</p><p>“These findings have important implications for the nation as marijuana use becomes more accepted and we simultaneously face multiple epidemics of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” authors concluded.</p><p>The findings are consistent with those of previous observational studies showing <a href="http://norml.org/library/item/diabetes-mellitus">an inverse relationship between cannabis use and diabetic markers</a>, and support previous population data showing that those who use cannabis typically possess <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21868374">smaller waist circumference</a> and <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20973/abstract">lower body mass index</a> than those who do not.</p><p><em>An abstract of the study, “Metabolic Syndrome among Marijuana Users in the United States: An Analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data,” is online <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26548604">here</a>.</em></p><p>- See more at: <a href="http://blog.norml.org/#sthash.F6ouyOMd.dpuf">http://blog.norml.org/#sthash.F6ouyOMd.dpuf</a></p><p> </p> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 10:22:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1045875 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health marijuana metabolic syndrome high blood pressure high blood sugar Super Majorities Now Support Medical Pot in States Across America http://www.alternet.org/drugs/swing-states-super-majorities-endorse-medical-cannabis-access <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">New polls show strong support for marijuana in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania ahead of next year&#039;s national elections. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_21.jpg?itok=S7KDzQ51" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Super-majorities of voters believe that medical cannabis should be legal, and most men additionally support legalizing marijuana for all adults, according to the results of a Quinnipiac University Swing State <a href="http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/2016-presidential-swing-state-polls/release-detail?ReleaseID=2288">poll</a>.</p><p>Pollsters gauged support for marijuana law reform in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.</p><p>Florida voters backed legalizing cannabis therapy by a margin of 87 percent to 12 percent. A majority of male voters (57 percent) also supported broader legalization, while only 49 percent of women agreed.</p><p>Reform advocates are presently gathering signatures for a pair of potential ballot drives in 2016. The first, backed by <a href="http://www.unitedforcare.org/">United For Care</a>, seeks to permit the physician-authorized use of cannabis. The second effort, sponsored by <a href="http://www.regulateflorida.com/">Regulate Florida</a> and <a href="http://www.normlfl.org/norml/">NORML of Florida</a>, seeks to regulate the plant’s production, consumption, and sales to adults.</p><p>A 2014 amendment that sought to permit cannabis therapy garnered 58 percent of vote — <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/04/surge-of-young-voters-in-florida-points-to-the-political-power-of-pot/">two percent shy</a> of the threshold necessary for passage in Florida.</p><p>Ninety percent of Ohio voters say that marijuana should be legal for medicinal purposes. Fifty-nine percent of male voters additionally backed legalizing the plant for social use versus only 47 percent of female voters.</p><p>Ohio voters will decide this November on a proposed ballot measure (<a href="http://yeson3ohio.com/about/">Issue 3, the Marijuana Legalization Amendment</a>) to regulate the state-licensed production and sale of cannabis for both medical and retail purposes. The measure also permits adults to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis (up to four plants yielding no more than 8 ounces of usable product at any one time) at home. State lawmakers opposed to the plan have <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/08/20/ohio-measure-to-regulate-retail-cannabis-sales-qualifies-for-november-ballot">placed a competing measure</a>, Issue 2, on the November ballot that seeks to prohibit state regulators from permitting the limited production of “any Schedule I controlled substance.” If voters approved both measures, Issue 2 states that the “entire proposed constitutional [marijuana] amendment shall not take effect.”</p><p>In Pennsylvania, 90 percent of voters back medicalizing marijuana. Fifty-two percent of men also support legalization, versus 43 percent of women voters.</p><p>Senate lawmakers this year <a href="http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15933">approved compromised medical marijuana legislation</a>, but the measure remains stalled in the House. Separate senate legislation, <a href="http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15824">Senate Bill 528</a>, to permit the adult possession and retail sale of marijuana has not yet been heard by lawmakers.</p><p>- See more at: <a href="http://blog.norml.org/#sthash.u0p3LiSG.dpuf">http://blog.norml.org/#sthash.u0p3LiSG.dpuf</a></p><p> </p> Thu, 15 Oct 2015 11:30:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, NORML 1044148 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Activism Drugs News & Politics Personal Health marijuana legalization medical marijuana ohio pennsylvania florida 5 of the Latest Marijuana Studies That Upend Decades of Myths and Fearmongering http://www.alternet.org/drugs/latest-cannabis-science-you-need-know <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Reefer Madness-style propaganda is so last century. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/topstories_cannabisleaf460x276.jpg?itok=FAqi3diw" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Scientific discoveries are published almost daily <a href="http://www.alternet.org/drugs/latest-cannabis-science-need-know">rebuking</a> the federal government’s contention that cannabis is a highly dangerous substance lacking therapeutic efficacy. But most of these findings appear primarily in obscure, peer-reviewed journals and often go unnoticed by the major media and the general public. Here are five new cannabis-centric studies that warrant mainstream attention. </p><p><strong>Early Onset Pot Use Isn’t Associated With Adverse Outcomes in Adulthood</strong></p><p>Kids who experiment with weed are far less likely than non-users to be healthy and successful adults. So says the conventional wisdom. But new science says otherwise. Investigators from the Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Rutgers University <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871615016257">prospectively examined</a> whether male subjects who consumed cannabis between the ages of 15 and 26 differed in terms of socioeconomic, social, and life satisfaction outcomes by their mid-30s as compared to those who were either abstinent or only consumed it sparingly. After controlling for potential confounders, such as the use of alcohol and other illicit substances, researchers reported that pot consuming subjects– including those who used the substance habitually – were generally “not at a heightened risk for maladjustment in adulthood.”</p><p><a href="http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/adb-adb0000103.pdf">A separate evaluation</a> of this same cohort published in August in the journal <em>Psychology of Addictive Behaviors</em> reported that younger pot smokers were no more likely than their non-smoking peers to experience physical or mental health issues later in life. The finding defied researchers’ presumptions, as they acknowledged that their motivation for conducting the study was to "provide empirical evidence regarding the potential adverse consequences of marijuana legalization."</p><p><strong>Providing Medical Cannabis Access Reduces Opioid Abuses</strong></p><p>Is legalized pot a gateway to fewer opioid-related deaths? The data says ‘yes.’ According to <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w21345">findings</a> published in July by the National Bureau of Economic Research – a non-partisan think-tank -- states that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths as compared to those that do not.</p><p>Researchers from the RAND Corporation and the University of California, Irvine assessed the impact of medicinal cannabis laws on problematic opioid use, as measured by treatment admissions for opioid pain reliever addiction and by state-level opioid overdose deaths. They concluded, "[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”</p><p>The findings were not the first time that researchers have reported a relationship between increased medi-pot access and decreased opioid deaths. Research published in the <em>Journal of the American Medical Association</em> in 2014 also <a href="http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1898878">concluded</a>, "States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws." </p><p><strong>Pot Is a Frequent Substitute For Alcohol, Other Drugs</strong></p><p>Legalized pot isn’t just associated with the less frequent use of opiates. Data published this month in the journal <em>Drug and Alcohol Review</em> also reports that most people who consume weed also report reducing their use of alcohol, as well as their consumption of other licit and illicit drugs. “Substituting cannabis for one or more of alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drugs was reported by 87 percent of respondents” in the cohort, <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dar.12323/abstract">Canadian researchers reported</a>,  “with 80.3 percent reporting substitution for prescription drugs, 51.7 percent for alcohol, and 32.6 percent for illicit substances.” Rates of substitution were highest among respondents between the ages of 18 and 40.</p><p>Authors concluded, “The finding that cannabis was substituted for alcohol and illicit substances suggests that the medical use of cannabis may play a harm reduction role in the context of use of these substances, and could have implications for substance use treatment approaches requiring abstinence from cannabis in the process of reducing the use of other substances.”</p><p><strong>Forget ‘The Munchies’ – Pot Consumers Are Less Likely to Be Obese</strong></p><p>Smoking pot may stimulate appetite, but it isn’t likely to make you fat. That’s the conclusion of a recent study published in journal <em>Obesity</em>.</p><p>Investigators from the Conference of Quebec University Health Centers assessed cannabis use patterns and body mass index (BMI) in a cohort of 786 Inuit (Arctic aboriginal) adults ages 18 to 74. Researchers reported that cannabis users possessed an average BMI of 26.8 compared to an index of 28.6 for non-users, after controlling for age, gender and other factors. Investigators further discovered that pot users possessed fewer diabetic markers than non-users. They concluded: “In this large cross-sectional adult survey with high prevalence of both substance use and obesity, cannabis use in the past year was associated with lower BMI, lower percentage fat mass, lower fasting insulin, and HOMA-IR (insulin resistance). ... [C]annabinoids from cannabis may be viewed as an interesting avenue for research on obesity and associated conditions."</p><p>While these latest findings run counter to stoner stereotypes, they are hardly novel. Observational trial data published in 2012 in the<em> British Medical Journal </em><a href="http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/2/1/e000494.full">reported</a> that marijuana users possessed a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and possessed a lower risk of contracting the disease than did those with no history of cannabis consumption, even after researchers adjusted for social variables such as subjects' ethnicity, family history, and levels of physical activity. Additionally, cross-sectional data published in 2011 in the <em>American Journal of Epidemiology</em> <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21868374">similarly reported</a> that the prevalence of obesity in the general population is sharply lower among those who consume the herb compared to those who do not.</p><p><strong>Despite Legalization, Teens Aren’t Using More Pot (But They Are Consuming Far Less Alcohol and Tobacco)</strong></p><p>Proponents of pot prohibition repeatedly claim that liberalizing marijuana laws will increase young people’s use of the substance. And when the data refutes their claims – and it has <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150915141045.htm">time</a> after <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanpsy/PIIS2215-0366(15)00217-5.pdf">time</a> – they <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/09/12/leading-anti-marijuana-group-gets-its-facts-wrong/">simply lie</a> about it.</p><p>Nonetheless, the evidence is clear. According to the federal government’s own 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf">report</a>, current use of marijuana by those between the ages of 12 to 17 has remained largely unchanged over the past decade, while young people's self-reported consumption of alcohol and cigarettes has fallen to record lows.</p><p>Specifically, the percentage of respondents ages 12 to 17 who reported past-month use of marijuana remained steady from 7.6 percent in 2004 to 7.4 percent in 2014. By contrast, teens' use of tobacco, cigarettes, and alcohol fell dramatically during this same period. Over the past ten years, adolescents' use of tobacco fell from 14.4 percent to 7 percent, their use of cigarettes fell from 11.9 percent to 4.9 percent, and their use of alcohol fell from 17.6 percent to 11.5 percent. Binge drinking by young people fell from 11.1 percent in 2004 to 6.1 percent in 2014.</p><p>Separate data published by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.3109/00952990.2015.1049493">further reports</a> that a greater proportion of younger adolescents are now acknowledging “strong disapproval” of marijuana use.</p><p>In short, more teens <em>are</em> not turning to pot. But they are turning away from more dangerous substances like alcohol and tobacco like never before.</p><p> </p> Mon, 21 Sep 2015 11:23:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, NORML 1042764 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health marijuana cannabis diabetes obesity teens smoking alcohol Republican Presidential Candidates Engage In A Serious Discussion About Marijuana Policy — It’s A Start http://www.alternet.org/drugs/republican-presidential-candidates-engage-serious-discussion-marijuana-policy <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">You know that times have changed when the GOP is split on pot. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/cannabis_0.jpg?itok=pn3oGgVR" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The federal government ought not to interfere with state laws legalizing and regulating the use and distribution of marijuana, according to several Republican Presidential candidates <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2015/09/16/reefer-and-republican-debate/">who spoke on the issue</a> during tonight’s Presidential debate.</p><p>Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and business executive Carly Fiorina weighed in the issue. Consistent with previous statements, candidates Bush, Fiorina, and Paul expressed support for allowing states to move forward with marijuana policies that are divergent from federal prohibition — with Sen. Paul speaking most strongly in support of states’ authority to explore legalization alternatives. Senator Paul also spoke of the need for Congress to enact the <a href="http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15905">The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act</a> to strengthen statewide medical marijuana protections and impose various changes to federal law.</p><p>By contrast, Gov. Christie <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/14/chris-christie-marijuana_n_7066636.html">reaffirmed</a> his desire to use the power of the federal government to override state-approved laws legalizing the retail production and sale of cannabis, which he called a “gateway drug.” Governor Christie implied that he would not take such action in states that have regulated the use of medicinal cannabis, such as in his home state of New Jersey.</p><p>Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who <a href="http://www.theweedblog.com/marco-rubio-wants-to-roll-back-marijuana-legalization/">shares</a> Gov. Christie’s position, did not comment.</p><p>The fact that the majority of candidates who spoke on the issue expressed support for the sanctity of state marijuana laws is hardly surprising. According to the most recent Pew <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2015/04/14/in-debate-over-legalizing-marijuana-disagreement-over-drugs-dangers/">poll</a>, an estimated 60 percent of Americans agree that the government “should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states that allow use.” State-specific surveys from early primary states, including <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/08/27/gop-voters-in-early-primary-states-oppose-federal-interference-in-state-marijuana-laws">Iowa</a>, <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/08/27/gop-voters-in-early-primary-states-oppose-federal-interference-in-state-marijuana-laws">New Hampshire</a>, and <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2015/09/10/poll-south-carolina-voters-oppose-federal-interference-in-state-marijuana-laws/">South Carolina</a>, report even greater voter sentiment in favor of this position.</p><p>But while it is encouraging to see some, though not all, Republican candidates deferring to the principles of federalism in regard to the rising tide of public support in favor of marijuana law reform, far too many politicians in both parties continue to deny the reality that public and scientific opinion are in direct conflict with federal marijuana policy. In the 2016 Presidential race, it is inherent that the candidates from both political parties recognize that advocating for marijuana law reform is a political opportunity, not a political liability.</p><p><a href="http://norml.org/library/national-legalization-poll">National polls</a> now consistently show that majorities of voters — particularly male voters, Democrat voters, and younger (Millennial) voters — embrace ending cannabis criminalization altogether, and replacing it with a system of legalization and regulation. Yet, to date, no leading candidate from either political party has embraced this broader position. That is unfortunate. In the past Presidential election, marijuana legalization ballot measures in Colorado and Washington proved to be more popular at the polls than either Presidential candidate. The 2016 Presidential hopefuls ought to be more concerned with positioning themselves to be on the right side of history than on trying to appease a vocal minority that is woefully out of touch with both changing public and scientific opinion.</p> Wed, 16 Sep 2015 22:49:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, NORML 1042526 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics presidential debate gop republicans marijuana marijuana policy Two Major Studies Blast Apart Decades of Lies About Marijuana and Teenage Brains http://www.alternet.org/drugs/two-major-studies-blast-apart-decades-lies-about-marijuana-and-teenage-brains <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Two new JAMA studies largely fail to support past claims about marijuana and brain health.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/teensmokingpot.jpg?itok=54RmRlFJ" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Two new studies published online today in <em>JAMA</em> (Journal of the American Medical Association) <em>Psychiatry</em> <a href="http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/mixed-findings-on-pot-s-effect-on-the-developing-brain-702662.html">provide little support for previous claims</a> that cannabis exposure is significantly harmful to the developing brain.</p><p>The first <a href="http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2429550">study</a>, which assessed the effects of cannabis exposure on brain volume in exposed and unexposed sibling pairs, reported that any identifiable differences “were attributable to common predispositional factors, genetic or environmental in origin.” By contrast, authors found “no evidence for the causal influence of cannabis exposure” on brain morphology.</p><p>The trial is “the largest study to date examining the association between cannabis exposure (ever versus never used) and brain volumes.”</p><p>The study is one of two recent clinical trials to be published in recent months rebutting the claims of a widely publicized <a href="http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2014/04/casual-marijuana-use-linked-to-brain-abnormalities-in-students.html">2014 paper</a> which alleged that even casual marijuana exposure may be linked to brain abnormalities, particularly in the region of the brain known as the amygdala. In January, researchers writing in <em>The Journal of Neuroscience</em> <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/02/19/study-marijuana-use-not-associated-with-previously-reported-changes-in-brain-morphology">reported</a> “no statistically significant differences … between daily [marijuana] users and nonusers on [brain] volume or shape in the regions of interest” after researchers controlled for participants’ use of alcohol. Similarly, today’s <em>JAMA</em> study “casts considerable doubt on hypotheses that cannabis use … causes reductions in amygdala volumes.”</p><p>A second <a href="http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2429551">study</a> appearing today in the journal assessed whether cannabis use during adolescence is associated with brain changes that may be linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia. While researchers reported finding an association among male subjects who possessed a high genetic predisposition toward schizophrenia, authors reported that no such association existed among male subjects who were at low risk for the disease, or among females in either the high risk or low risk categories. The finding is <a href="http://norml.org/component/zoo/category/cannabis-mental-health-and-context-the-case-for-regulation">consistent with the theory</a> that early onset cannabis use may potentially exacerbate symptoms in a minority of subjects predisposed to the disease, but it contradicts <a href="https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/michaela/pages/87/attachments/original/1439387754/ICSDP-charts_1.pdf?1439387754">claims</a> that marijuana exposure is a likely cause of schizophrenia, particularly among those who are not already vulnerable to the disease.<br /><br /><em>Abstracts of both new studies appear online in JAMA Psychiatry <a href="http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2429550">here</a> and <a href="http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2429551">here</a>.</em></p><p> </p><p> </p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 14:11:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, NORML Stash Blog 1041506 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health marijuana brain jama teens So Much for the Munchies! Everything You Think You Knew About Pot And Weight Might Be Wrong http://www.alternet.org/drugs/so-much-munchies-everything-you-think-you-knew-about-pot-and-weight-might-be-wrong <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This latest study is not the first to link cannabis use with lower incidences of obesity and diabetes.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/f20615b8edb17f5a18a860dfbf5c6b416d317c97_0.jpg?itok=AisFhXGO" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>So much for the munchies. Recently published data from Canada shows that a steady diet of cannabis is actually associated with smaller waistlines.</p><p>Quebec <a href="http://www.adn.com/article/20150714/study-arctic-canada-finds-cannabis-users-less-obese-and-less-risk-diabetes" target="_blank">researchers assessed</a> body mass indexes in a cohort of 786 Inuit (Arctic aboriginal) adults aged 18 to 74. Over half of the subjects in the sample (57.4 percent) reported having used cannabis within the past year. On average, those adults who consumed cannabis possessed a significantly lower body mass index (BMI: 26.8) as compared to those with no history of pot use (BMI: 28.6). Marijuana users also possessed lower percentages of body fat mass (25 percent) compared to non-users (28 percent).</p><p>In addition, pot smokers possessed lower fasting insulin levels compared to non-users—an indicator that they were at a lower risk for developing diabetes.</p><p>The <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20973/abstract" target="_blank">researchers’ findings</a> appeared in the journal <em>Obesity</em>.</p><p>The study is not the first to link cannabis use with lower incidences of obesity and diabetes.</p><p>In 2011, French researchers analyzed data from a group of over 50,000 U.S. adults, finding: "The prevalence of <a href="http://norml.org/news/2011/09/01/frequency-of-marijuana-use-associated-with-lower-prevalence-of-obesity-study-says" target="_blank">obesity was significantly lower</a> in cannabis users than in nonusers.” Respondents who reported using the substance most often (three days per week or more) were least likely to be obese compared to those who reported no cannabis use in the past 12 months.</p><p>More recently, <a href="http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/2/1/e000494.full" target="_blank">data</a> published in the <em>British Medical Journal</em> in 2012 reported that adults with a history of marijuana use have a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and possess a lower risk of contracting the disease than those with no history of consumption. This decreased risk remained present even after investigators adjusted for potentially confounding social variables (ethnicity, level of physical activity, etc.) and despite both users and non-users sharing a similar family history of the disease.</p><p>Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston similarly determined that subjects who regularly consume pot possess favorable <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2013/05/21/marijuana-the-next-diabetes-drug/" target="_blank">indices related to diabetic control</a> as compared to occasional consumers or non-users of the substance.</p><p><a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130515085208.htm" target="_blank">Investigators reported</a>, "[S]ubjects who reported using marijuana in the past month had lower levels of fasting insulin and HOMA-IR [insulin resistance], as well as smaller waist circumference and higher levels of HDL-C [high-density lipoprotein or 'good' cholesterol]. These associations were not as strong among those who reported using marijuana at least once, but not in the past 30 days—suggesting that the impact of marijuana use on insulin and insulin resistance exists during periods of recent use."</p><p>This association between cannabis use and diabetes was again reaffirmed in a <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/05/21/study-cannabis-use-inversely-associated-with-diabetes">2015 meta-analysis</a> published in the journal <em>Epidemiology</em>, which concluded, “[T]here now is a more stable evidence base for new lines of clinical translational research on a possibly protective...cannabis smoking-diabetes mellitus association suggested in prior research.”</p> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 11:47:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, High Times 1040869 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health pot cannabis marijuana health diabetes obesity You'll Never Believe What Drug a Major Federal Health Official Called 'Safe' with 'No Addictive Effects' http://www.alternet.org/drugs/nida-head-calls-cannabidiol-safe-drug <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Shocking statement by the director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/medical_cannabis_drying.jpg?itok=hAR0u9Op" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Nora Volkow, believes that cannabidiol (CBD) – a nonpsychotropic cannabinoid – is “a safe drug with no addictive effects.” Volkow made the comments in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nora-volkow/cannabidiol_b_7834066.html">an op-ed</a> published by <em>The Huffington Post</em>.<br /><br />Volkow further acknowledged, “[P]reliminary data suggest that it may have therapeutic value for a number of medical conditions.”<br /><br />Preclinical studies have documented CBD to possess <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2008/10/09/is-there-anything-cbd-cant-do-then-why-is-it-illegal">a variety of therapeutic activities</a>, including anti-cancer properties, anti-diabetic properties, and <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/04/02/study-cbd-administration-enhances-skeletal-healing">bone-stimulating activity</a>. Clinical and observational trials have documented the substance to possess <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20829306">anxiolytic</a> , <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2013/12/16/study-cannabidiol-holds-promise-for-treating-psychosis">anti-psychotic</a>, and <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/05/14/study-parents-report-cbd-extracts-reduce-seizures-in-children">anti-seizure activity in humans</a>. Safety trials have further concluded the substance to be “<a href="http://blog.norml.org/2012/09/05/study-non-psychotropic-cannabinoid-proven-to-be-safe-in-humans">safe and well tolerated</a>” when administered to healthy subjects.<br /><br />To date, <a href="http://norml.org/marijuana/medical">15 states</a> have enacted laws specifically permitting the possession of high-CBD formulated extracts for therapeutic purposes, primarily for the treatment of pediatric epilepsy.<br /><br />In a recent <em><a href="http://time.com/3958768/medical-marijuana-research">Time Magazine op-ed</a></em>, Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein (CA) and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley (IA) encouraged the Obama administration to “definitively determine if CBD has scientific and medical benefits,” and to “look at expanding compassionate access programs where possible, to benefit as many children as possible.”<br /><br />Under federal law, CBD — like cannabis — is defined as a <a href="http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml">Schedule I  controlled substance</a> with “a high potential for abuse … no currently accepted medical use, … [and] a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug … under medical supervision.”</p><p> </p> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 10:50:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, NORML 1040154 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics Personal Health cannabidiol CBD medical marijuana Dr. Nora Volkow nida Change in the Air: Liz Warren Leads Group of Senators Pushing for Big Change in Marijuana Research http://www.alternet.org/drugs/change-air-liz-warren-leads-group-senators-pushing-big-change-marijuana-research <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">They&#039;re calling on the DEA to consider the prospect of licensing private manufacturers of cannabis for research purposes.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_126159383.jpg?itok=zMlaGreU" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>For decades federal officials have largely <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/health/policy/19marijuana.html?_r=0">stymied</a> large-scale clinical trial research into marijuana’s therapeutic benefits. Now a coalition of United States Senators is saying it’s time for a change.<br /> <br />Eight Democrat senators, led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, fired off a <a href="http://www.warren.senate.gov/files/documents/HHS_ONDCP_DEA_Marijuana_letter.pdf">letter</a> this month to representatives of the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the US Drug Enforcement Administration demanding to know why the federal government is not doing more to facilitate medical cannabis science.<br /> <br />The letter, which the senators cc-ed to the head of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, states: “Currently, twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing for medical marijuana use, and an additional fifteen states have laws specifically allowing access to cannabidiol (CBD). While the federal government has emphasized research on the potential harms associated with the use of marijuana, there is still very limited research on the potential health benefits of marijuana – despite the fact that millions of Americans are now eligible by state law to use the drug for medical purposes. … With the pool of medical marijuana users growing in the United States, we believe that federal agencies have both an opportunity and a responsibility to craft a sensible research and public health strategy that allows us to generate meaningful data and conclusions from this ongoing natural experiment.”<br /> <br />Specifically, the senators are asking federal health officials to conduct “large-scale clinical trials” involving patients residing in legal medical cannabis states. The senators also request that the feds to provide better support, including financial support, to “independent scientists” who are interested in studying the plant.<br /> <br />Under federal law, all clinical protocols involving cannabis must meet the approval of the FDA, DEA and the NIDA. Until recently, such trials also required the additional approval from the US Public Health Service, but that hurdle was <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2015/06/23/one-barrier-to-cannabis-research-removed-others-remain/">removed</a> by the administration last month. Moreover, all federally approved studies must utilize marijuana grown and provided by the US government’s <a href="http://natmonitor.com/2015/03/25/university-of-mississippi-to-remain-the-sole-federal-source-of-pot/">lone</a>, federally licensed provider, the University of Mississippi. Testifying before Congress in late June, NIDA director Nora Volkow <a href="http://http://blog.norml.org/2015/06/25/nida-acknowledges-drawbacks-to-monopoly-on-marijuana-supply/">acknowledged</a> that this monopoly limits scientists’ access cannabis and hinders research. Her conclusion is similar to that of the DEA’s own administrative law judge Mary Ellen Bittner, who in 2007 <a href="http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/dea-judge-recommends-end-to-government-obstruction-of-medical-marijuana-research-57887132.html">ruled</a> that licensing additional cannabis cultivators “would be in the public interest.” But in 2009 former DEA director Michele Leonhart set aside the ruling. The agency issued its final <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2011/08/29/dea-issues-%E2%80%98final-order%E2%80%99-rejecting-private-production-of-cannabis-for-fda-approved-research/">rejection</a>  in 2011.<br /> <br />As a result, Senator Warren and her colleagues are calling on the DEA and other federal agencies to once again consider the prospect of licensing private manufacturers of cannabis for research purposes.<br /> <br />Their letter concludes: “Many states and localities are moving forward with policies that facilitate the availability of medical marijuana to a greater proportion of the population than ever before. All participants in this important debate will benefit from rigorous, scientific research into the impact of these policies on American public health. Relevant federal agencies must play a leadership role in coordinating and facilitating that research if we are to ensure that public policy in this area is supported by our best science. We look forward to your response on this matter … no later than August 31, 2015.”<br /> <br />Senators Booker (D-NJ), Boxer (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Mikulski (D-MD), and Wyden (D-OR), co-signed the letter. Yet these Senators are not the only ones now publicly pushing for further research, Last week, Senators Diane Feinstien (D-CA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) – two longtime opponents of marijuana a law reform – penned an <a href="http://time.com/3958768/medical-marijuana-research/">op-ed</a> in Time Magazine calling on the Feds to “break down barriers to medical marijuana research.”</p><p>Specifically, the senators called on regulators at the US Department of Justice and HHS to “definitively determine whether CBD has scientific and medical benefits, and if so the proper schedule for it.”<br /> <br />They added: “We need to cut red tape and streamline the licensing and regulatory processes so research can move ahead. In addition, we must also find ways to ensure that researchers have access to the quantity and quality of marijuana that they need. Finally, we need to look at expanding compassionate access programs where possible, to benefit as many children as possible.”<br /> <br />Yet, while lawmakers’ calls for additional research are welcome, it belies the fact that ample scientific evidence already exists – and has for some time -- to validate cannabis’ therapeutic utility and to support its removal from its schedule I classification.<br /> <br />Unlike modern pharmaceuticals, the marijuana plant possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy. Moreover, cannabis and its compounds are among some of the most well studied biologically active substances of modern times. A search on <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gquery/?term=marijuana">PubMed</a>, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term “marijuana” yields more than 21,000 scientific papers referencing the plant and/or its constituents, nearly half of which have been published just within the past decade. While it is true that most of these studies do not fall into the category of gold-standard Phase III placebo-controlled clinical trials, hundreds of methodologically valid <a href="http://norml.org/library/recent-research-on-medical-marijuana">studies</a> assessing cannabis’s safety, efficacy, and mechanism of action exist in the available literature.<br /><br />For instance, there are well over 100 randomized controlled <a href="http://http://www.cannabis-med.org/data/pdf/en_2010_01_special.pdf">studies</a>, involving thousands of subjects, evaluating the relative safety and therapeutic efficacy of either whole-plant cannabis or individual cannabinoids. A <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3358713/">review</a> of a recent series of clinical trials evaluating whole-plant cannabis, sponsored by the University of California, concluded, “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification (for cannabis) is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”<br /><br />Twenty-three states and Washington, DC now permit physicians to recommend marijuana therapy. Some of these state-sanctioned programs have now been in place for nearly two decades. So while more clinical study is welcome, it is not necessary in order to precipitate a change in federal law. We already know enough about cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to allow people the option to consume a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.</p> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 06:19:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1039656 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics marijuana marijuana legalization drugs medical marijuana cannabis dea Why the Media Can't Get Its Story Straight About the Amazing Medical Potential of Cannabis http://www.alternet.org/drugs/why-media-all-over-place-when-it-comes-talking-about-scientific-discoveries-tied-medical <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The press reports on the JAMA meta-analysis of cannabinoid research were all over the place. Most of them missed the story. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/medcannabis_0.jpg?itok=qYRZBWko" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Judging from the disparate media headlines, last week’s meta-analysis of cannabinoid research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) contained something for everyone. </p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p dir="ltr">Here’s a sampling of the mainstream media’s seemingly schizophrenic coverage:</p><p>Toledo Blade: <a href="http://www.toledoblade.com/Medical/2015/06/24/Studies-support-marijuana-s-role-for-medical-needs.html">Studies support marijuana’s role for medical needs</a></p><p dir="ltr">Sun-Journal: <a href="http://www.sunjournal.com/news/0001/11/30/jama-study-finds-scant-evidence-medical-pot-helps-many-illnesses/1731335">JAMA study finds scant evidence that medical pot helps many illnesses</a></p><p>HealthDay: <a href="http://consumer.healthday.com/cancer-information-5/chemotherapy-news-122/evidence-supports-medical-pot-for-some-conditions-not-others-700667.html">Evidence supports medical pot for some conditions, not others</a></p><p>Los Angeles Times: <a href="http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-medical-marijuana-review-20150623-story.html">Most uses of medical marijuana wouldn’t pass FDA review, study finds</a></p><p>Yahoo.com: <a href="https://www.yahoo.com/health/huge-new-review-shows-what-medical-marijuana-may-122209836947.html">Huge review shows what medical marijuana may (and may not) help</a></p><p>So what was the review’s actual takeaway message in regard to the efficacy, or lack thereof, of medical marijuana? That’s hard to say because its authors said little at all about cannabis.</p><p>Of the 79 total randomized controlled trials (involving nearly 6,500 total participants) reviewed by the authors, only two explicitly assessed the safety and efficacy of whole-plant cannabis. By contrast, most of the trials reviewed evaluated the oral administration of a synthetic cannabinoids such as dronabinol (synthetic THC) and nabilone (a synthetic THC derivative that mimics THC). </p><p>But such isolated synthetic compounds are hardly analogous to whole-plant cannabis. Specifically, the marijuana plant contains multiple therapeutic components, many of which are presumed to promote healing in a synergistic manner (the so-called entourage effect). Further, herbal cannabis is typically inhaled, a method that results in rapid onset of drug effect and allows for more precise self-titration. By contrast, oral cannabinoid administration is associated with delayed onset, increased bioavailbility, and a greater likelihood of adverse side- effects such as dysphoria.</p><p>Although researchers distinguished between whole-plant cannabis and man-made, single cannabinoids, most media outlets made no such distinction. They should have. In fact, the authors’ conclusions never speak of medical cannabis. Rather, they conclude, “[T]here was moderate-quality evidence to suggest that cannabinoids may be beneficial for the treatment of chronic neuropathy or cancer pain (smoked THC and nabiximols) and spasticity due to MS (nabiximols, nabilone, THC/CBD capsules, and dronabinol).” (Nabiximols is an oralmuscosal spray, typically marketed under the brand name Sativex, that contains both CBD and THC extracts; its use is approved by prescription in various countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, for treatment of symptoms specific to multiple sclerosis.) </p><p>Researchers were less enthused in regard to the use of synthetic cannabinoids for the treatment of nausea, vomiting, and weight gain citing only “low quality evidence” that cannabinoid administration improved these indications. This finding is perplexing because the FDA has approved both dronabinol (marketed as Marinol) and nabilone (marketed as Cesamet) explicitly for the treatment of these conditions.</p><p>But while it is common for researchers suggest only the most stringent methods (adequately powered, randomized, placebo/active controlled clinical trials) be used to evaluate cannabinoids’ potential health benefits, they do not demand such rigor in regard to evidence of the plant’s supposed deleterious risks. Predictably, an accompanying review in the same issue regurgitates often-repeated, but well-refuted claims that marijuana use lowers IQ and/or “doubles” the risk of motor vehicle accident. Such claims of cannabis’ adverse effects, though disputed (or in some cases, debunked) in the available literature, are nonetheless cited as if they are well-established fact. Scientific studies showing the potential efficacy and relative safety of cannabis are almost never portrayed in such a definitive manner.</p><p><br />Consequently, it comes as little surprise that an accompanying editorial suggests that states’ decision to permit therapeutic cannabis is putting “the cart before the horse.” But it is only because of the rapidly changing political landscape that JAMA and others are even engaging in this discussion.  And it is only because of the rapidly changing political landscape that the federal government is only now beginning to open the door to legitimate research. Nonetheless authors advise, “Since medical marijuana is not a life-saving intervention, it may be prudent to wait.” News flash: patients have been waiting for decades already. And they likely be waiting for decades more if they heed JAMA’s advice.</p><p> </p> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 12:07:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1038456 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Media News & Politics Personal Health medical marijuana cannabinoids media jama cannabis One Barrier to Cannabis Research Removed, Others Remain http://www.alternet.org/drugs/one-barrier-cannabis-research-removed-others-remain <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">HHS&#039;s decision to undo the requirement that marijuana studies undergo a Public Health Service review is a step in the right direction, but only a step.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_science.jpg?itok=64xcuj5U" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Several mainstream media outlets are <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/22/the-obama-administration-just-made-medical-marijuana-research-easier/">reporting</a> that the US Department of Health and Human Services has removed a requirement mandating that all investigative protocols seeking cannabis for clinical study must undergo a Public Health Service review. The review process, which was enacted in 1999 and applied only to clinical studies involving cannabis, was long criticized by advocates as unnecessarily burdensome and time-consuming.</p><p>Commenting on the change, a Health and Human Services spokeswoman <a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/06/22/major-pot-research-barrier-goes-up-in-smoke">said</a>, “The department expects the action announced today will help facilitate further research to advance our understanding about the health risks and any potential benefits of medications using marijuana or its components or derivatives.”</p><p>But as I point out in today’s news wire coverage <a href="http://www.newsnet5.com/decodedc/white-house-eases-restrictions-on-marijuana-research">here</a>, such claims are likely overstated.</p><p>That is because unique hurdles to clinical cannabis research will continue to exist as long as the plant is a) classified as a schedule I controlled substance defined as possessing no medical use and b) the source material for clinical trials must be provided by the US government’s <a href="http://natmonitor.com/2015/03/25/university-of-mississippi-to-remain-the-sole-federal-source-of-pot/">lone supplier</a>, the University of Mississippi (which is overseen by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse).</p><p>Further, despite this announced change, the DEA and NIDA (along with the FDA) still must oversee all clinical marijuana research. One of these agencies (the DEA) is in place to enforce the federal criminal prohibition of marijuana. The other agency (NIDA) exists largely as an outgrowth of marijuana’s schedule I status. It remains highly unlikely that the very agencies in place to oversee and preserve cannabis prohibition would ever permit the type of rational review that would ultimately lead policymakers and the public to question the status quo.</p><p>Finally, it bears repeating that <a href="http://norml.org/library/recent-research-on-medical-marijuana">ample scientific research</a> already exists to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3358713/">contradict</a> cannabis’ federal, schedule I status as a substance without medical utility, lacking acceptable safety, and possessing a high potential of abuse. More clinical research is welcome, but unfortunately science has never driven marijuana policy. If it did, the United States would already have a very different policy in place.</p><p>- See more at: <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2015/06/23/one-barrier-to-cannabis-research-removed-others-remain/#sthash.Awji8mo8.dpuf">http://blog.norml.org/2015/06/23/one-barrier-to-cannabis-research-remove...</a></p><p> </p> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 11:26:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, NORML 1038321 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics Personal Health health and human services marijuana cannabis research Public Health Service Federal Judge Blows the Opportunity to Make Marijuana History http://www.alternet.org/drugs/federal-judge-blows-opportunity-make-marijuana-history <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In a closely watched case, Judge Kimberly Mueller could have challenged the Schedule 1 classification of marijuana, but didn&#039;t.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_126159383.jpg?itok=zMlaGreU" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>A federal judge today <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/16/us/federal-judge-keeps-marijuana-on-list-of-most-dangerous-drugs.html">denied</a> a <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2014/10/20/federal-district-court-judge-asks-should-federal-law-classify-cannabis-as-one-of-the-nations-most-dangerous-drugs/">motion</a> challenging the constitutionality of cannabis’ classification as a <a href="http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml">Schedule I prohibited substance</a> without any accepted medical utility.</p><p>Judge Kimberly J. Mueller of the Federal District Court in Sacramento, California issued her oral ruling during a 15-minute court hearing today. Judge Mueller <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2015/02/12/federal-judge-hears-closing-arguments-in-constitutional-challenge-to-cannabis-schedule-i-status/comment-page-1/">heard closing arguments in the case</a> in early February but had postponed her decision on several occasions. Her written opinion is not yet available but is expected to be posted publicly by week’s end.</p><p>“At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional,” Judge Mueller <a href="http://theleafonline.com/c/politics/2015/04/schedule-constitutional-rules-federal-judge/">said from the bench</a>. “But this is not the court and not the time.”</p><p>Defense counsel intends to appeal the ruling.</p><script type="text/javascript" charset="UTF-8" src="http://www.nbcbayarea.com/portableplayer/?cmsID=300038251&amp;videoID=pGIe_urRjORK&amp;origin=nbcbayarea.com&amp;sec=video&amp;subsec=&amp;width=600&amp;height=360"></script><p>In October, defense counsel and experts <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2014/10/31/federal-evidentiary-hearing-regarding-the-constitutionality-of-cannabis-prohibition-concludes/">presented evidence over a five-day period</a> arguing that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s present categorization. Lawyers for the federal government countered that it is rational for the government to maintain the plant’s prohibitive status as long as there remains any dispute among experts in regard to its safety and efficacy. Defense counsel — attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke of the <a href="http://lawyers.norml.org/">NORML Legal Committee</a> — further contended that the <a href="http://norml.org/news/2014/12/18/president-signs-federal-spending-bill-protecting-state-sanctioned-medical-marijuana-programs">federal law</a> prohibiting Justice Department officials from interfering with the facilitation of the regulated distribution of cannabis in over 20 US states can not be reconciled with the government’s continued insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.</p><p>Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director who served as the principal investigator for defense counsel in this case said: “We applaud Judge Mueller for having the courage to hear this issue and provide it the careful consideration it deserves. While we are disappointed with this ruling, it changes little. We always felt this had to ultimately be decided by the Ninth Circuit and we have an unprecedented record for the court to consider.</p><p>“In the interim, it is our hope that lawmakers move expeditiously to change public policy. Presently, bipartisan <a href="http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15905">legislation is before the House and Senate</a> to recognize cannabis’ therapeutic utility and to reschedule it accordingly and we encourage members of Congress to move forward expeditiously to enact this measure.”</p><p>In a brief filed with the court by the federal government, it contended: “Congress’ decision to treat marijuana as a controlled substance was and remains well within the broad range of permissible legislative choices. Defendants appear to argue that Congress was wrong or incorrectly weighed the evidence. Although they failed to prove even that much, it would be insufficient. Rational basis review does not permit the Court’s to ‘second guess’ Congress’ conclusions, but only to enjoin decisions that are totally irrational or without an ‘imaginable’ basis.”</p><p>They added: “Congress is not required to be ‘right,’ nor does it matter if the basis on which Congress made its decision turns out to be ‘wrong.’ All that is required is that Congress could rationally have believed that its action — banning the production and distribution of marijuana — would advance its indisputably legitimate interests in promoting public health and welfare. Because qualified experts disagree, it is not for the Courts to decide the issue and the statute must be upheld.”</p><p>Said Armentano, “The continued Schedule I classification of cannabis, in 2015, in self-evidently ridiculous. But unfortunately, the law may be ridiculous and still pass constitutional muster.”</p><p>He added, “The judge in this case missed a golden opportunity to demand that federal law comport with available science, public opinion, and common sense.”</p><p><br /><em>Legal briefs in the case, United States v. Schweder, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM, are available online <a href="http://edca.typepad.com/eastern_district_of_calif/medical-marijuana/">here</a>.</em></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:36:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, NORML 1034949 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics Video Kimberly J. Mueller schedule 1 marijuana pot cannabis classification A Marijuana Deficiency Might Be Causing Your Migraines and IBS http://www.alternet.org/drugs/marijuana-deficiency-might-be-causing-your-migraines-and-ibs <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The root cause of conditions such as migraines and irritable bowel syndrome may be endocannabinoid deficiency. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_139577978_1.jpg?itok=_r-nbk9l" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>For several years I have postulated that marijuana is <em>not</em>, in the strict sense of the word, an intoxicant.</p><p>As I wrote in the book <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Marijuana-Safer-Driving-People-Drink/dp/1603581448/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;s=books&amp;qid=1268931058&amp;sr=1-1">Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?</a></em> (Chelsea Green, 2009), the word ‘intoxicant’ is derived from the Latin noun <em>toxicum</em> (poison). It’s an appropriate term for alcohol, as ethanol (the psychoactive ingredient in booze) in moderate to high doses is toxic (read: poisonous) to healthy cells and organs.</p><p>Of course, booze is hardly the only commonly ingested intoxicant. Take the over-the-counter painkiller acetaminophen (Tylenol). According to the <a href="http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec21/ch326/ch326c.html">Merck online medical library</a>, acetaminophen poisoning and overdose is “common,” and can result in gastroenteritis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract) “within hours” and hepatotoxicity (liver damage) “within one to three days after ingestion.” In fact, less than one year ago the U.S. Food and Drug Administration <a href="http://www.usnews.com/health/family-health/pain/articles/2009/05/28/fda-report-urges-tougher-acetaminophen-warning.html">called for tougher standards</a> and warnings governing the drug’s use because “recent studies indicate that unintentional and intentional overdoses leading to severe hepatotoxicity continue to occur.”</p><p>By contrast, the therapeutically active components in marijuana — the cannabinoids — appear to be <a href="http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/68/2/339?maxtoshow=&amp;HITS=10&amp;hits=10&amp;RESULTFORMAT=&amp;fulltext=cannabinoid&amp;searchid=1&amp;FIRSTINDEX=0&amp;resourcetype=HWCIT">remarkably non-toxic</a> to healthy cells and organs. This notable lack of toxicity is arguably because cannabinoids mimic compounds our bodies naturally produce — so-called endocannabinoids — that are pivotal for maintaining proper health and <a href="http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=6706">homeostasis</a>.</p><p>In fact, in recent years scientists have discovered that the production of endocannabinoids (and their interaction with the cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body) play a key role in the regulation of proper <a href="http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=4166">appetite</a>, <a href="http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=7791">anxiety control</a>, <a href="http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=4316">blood pressure</a>, <a href="http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=6780">bone mass</a>, <a href="http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=6965">reproduction</a>, and <a href="http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=3966">motor coordination</a>, among other biological functions.</p><p>Just how important is this system in maintaining our health? Here’s a clue: In studies of mice genetically bred to lack a proper endocannabinoid system the most common result is <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/96/10/5780.abstract">premature death</a>.</p><p>Armed with these findings, a handful of scientists have speculated that the <a href="http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?id=5710&amp;t=CFIDS_FM">root cause</a> of certain disease conditions — including migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other functional conditions alleviated by clinical cannabis — may be an underlying endocannabinoid deficiency.</p><p>Now, much to my pleasant surprise, Fox News Health columnist Chris Kilham has <a href="http://health.blogs.foxnews.com/2010/03/10/are-you-cannabis-deficient/" target="_blank">weighed in</a> on this important theory.</p><blockquote><p>If the idea of having a marijuana deficiency sounds laughable to you, a growing body of science points at exactly such a possibility.</p><p>… [Endocannabinoids] also play a role in proper appetite, feelings of pleasure and well-being, and memory. Interestingly, cannabis also affects these same functions. Cannabis has been used successfully to treat migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and glaucoma. So here is the seventy-four thousand dollar question. Does cannabis simply relieve these diseases to varying degrees, or is cannabis actually a medical replacement in cases of deficient [endocannabinoids]?</p><p>… The idea of clinical cannabinoid deficiency opens the door to cannabis consumption as an effective medical approach to relief of various types of pain, restoration of appetite in cases in which appetite is compromised, improved visual health in cases of glaucoma, and improved sense of well being among patients suffering from a broad variety of mood disorders. As state and local laws mutate and change in favor of greater tolerance, perhaps cannabis will find it’s proper place in the home medicine chest.</p></blockquote><p>Perhaps. Or maybe at the very least society will cease classifying cannabis as a ‘toxic’ substance when its more appropriate role would appear to be more like that of a supplement.</p> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 07:04:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1033674 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs endocannabinoid medical conditions marijuana deficient marijuana illness Nevada First Out of the Gate in 2016 Marijuana Legalization Sweepstakes http://www.alternet.org/drugs/nevada-first-2016-marijuana-legalization-sweepstakes <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s already a done deal. A pot legalization initiative will go before the voters in the November 2016 election. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_3.jpg?itok=PACGolZB" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Nevada voters will <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2015/03/14/first-marijuana-legalization-ballot-measure-set-for-2016-advocates-say/">decide</a> next November on ballot language that seeks to regulate the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Lawmakers had until late last week to act on the initiative petition, filed by the <a href="http://www.mpp.org/">Marijuana Policy Project</a> (MPP), but <a href="http://blog.mpp.org/tax-and-regulate/nevada-assembly-misses-historic-opportunity-to-end-marijuana-prohibition/03132015/">failed to do so</a> – thus placing the measure on the 2016 electoral ballot.</p><p>Proponents of the measure, “<a href="http://nvsos.gov/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=3294">The Initiative to Tax and Regulate Marijuana</a>,” turned in over 200,000 signatures from registered Nevada voters in December to <a href="http://www.regulatemarijuanainnevada.org/about/">qualify</a> it for the ballot.</p><p>The ballot language permits adults to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce and/or six plants) for non-commercial purposes. The measure also regulates and taxes the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis.</p><p>It states, “The People of the State of Nevada find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older, and its cultivation and sale should be regulated similar to other businesses.”</p><p>Similar ballot measures are likely to be decided in 2016 in several other states, including Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Missouri.</p><p><em>For more information on this campaign, please visit: <a href="http://www.regulatemarijuanainnevada.org/">http://www.regulatemarijuanainnevada.org/</a>.</em></p><p> </p><p> </p> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 12:36:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, NORML 1033527 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics nevada marijuana legalization marijuana policy project Texas GOPer's Surprise: God Didn't Make a Mistake When He Made Marijuana, So Legalize It http://www.alternet.org/drugs/texas-christian-conservative-makes-case-ending-pot-prohibition <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Rep. David SImpson makes a surprising case for ending prohibition. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_24.jpg?itok=RPz3KZOu" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Texas Republican and State Rep. David Simpson believes that it is an inappropriate use of government power to arrest people for their use of cannabis – so much so he has pre-filed legislation repealing marijuana-related offenses from the Texas criminal code.<br /><br /><a href="http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/84R/billtext/pdf/HB02165I.pdf#navpanes=0&gt;">House Bill 2165</a> is noteworthy for its simplicity; it removes references to marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia offenses from the criminal statute. <br /><br />“Nearly a century ago, the Texas legislature made a mistake in judgment based on misinformation and unfortunate motivations, Rep. Simpson said in letter to lawmakers urging them to co-sponsor his legislation. “Due to this mistake a relatively benign plant was made illegal to grow, possess, and sell in Texas.”<br /><br />Passage of Rep. Simpson’s bill would end each of these marijuana-related prosecutions in the Lone Star State. “Repealing prohibition of the plant will result in savings of millions of dollars currently being spent in the name of the war on drugs,” Simpson said. “[It] will end the destruction and disruption of thousands of lives caused by the heavy penalties for those who use the plant, and will restore freedom and dignity to all Texans.”<br /><br />But House Bill 2165 isn’t just noteworthy because of its language or intent. It’s also newsworthy because of its <a href="http://davidsimpson.com/">sponsor</a>. He is a devout Christian conservative. Yet, it is the lawmaker’s spiritual faith and belief in limited government that is leading him to call for an end to cannabis criminalization.<br /><br />“I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix,” <a href="http://tribtalk.org/2015/03/02/the-christian-case-for-drug-law-reform/">he wrote</a> in a recent op/ed entitled “The Christian case for drug law reform.”<br /><br />He adds, “Should we be concerned for our friends and neighbors who abuse a substance or activity? Yes, we should help them through sincere and voluntary engagement, but not with force and violence. … Civil government should value everything God made and leave people alone unless they meddle with their neighbor.”<br /><br />While passage of HB 2165 is a long-shot for sure, its intended purpose is arguably to stimulate a discussion among Texas lawmakers. And it already has. Media coverage of Rep. Simpson’s stance has not only received statewide attention, but <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-03-04/texas-republican-mounts-pro-marijuana-campaign-bible-in-hand">national attention</a>. <br /><br />In Texas, the conversation is long overdue. A review of state-by-state marijuana possession arrest data by the ACLU reports that some 75,000 Texans are arrested annually for pot possession violations – the second highest total of any state in the nation. <br /><br />“Prohibition has encouraged countless steps away from the freedom, dignity, and sanctity of the individual and their home in the name of prohibiting this simple plant,” Rep. Simpson says. “We can’t fix all of the past wrongs caused by prohibition, but at least we can stop perpetuating them.”<br /><br />Will Rep. Simpson’s Christian conservative arguments gain traction in a state long known for its tough-on-pot stance and Republican stripes? Perhaps. A 2013 statewide <a href="http://www.mpp.org/assets/pdfs/states/PPP-Texas-Poll-2013.pdf">Public Policy Polling survey</a> reported higher than expected levels of public support for marijuana policy reform — with over 60 percent of Texans endorsing decriminalizing pot possession offenses (<a href="http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15309">Separate legislation</a> to enact this change has also been filed in the Texas House of Representatives) and 58 percent approving of legalizing and regulating the plant’s retail production and sale. Moreover, a new <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/28/republican-millennials-marijuana_n_6775674.html">Pew Research poll</a> reports that younger, self-identified Republicans are strong supporters of legalizing pot. Strong majorities of older Republicans, however, are still largely in favor of prohibiting the plant.<br /><br />Texas is one of nearly <a href="http://norml.org/act">20 US states</a> -- including Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island debating marijuana legalization legislation this year.<br /> </p><p> </p> Tue, 10 Mar 2015 10:55:00 -0700 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1033064 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics marijuana marijuana legalization god david simpson texas Politicians Across the US Are Pushing Medical Marijuana Smoking Bans -- Here's Why They Are Dead Wrong http://www.alternet.org/drugs/why-medical-marijuana-smoking-bans-bad-patients <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Another knee-jerk bad idea.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/903450bdaeaca6e45f4c6391a8308e71b2a10e22.jpg?itok=hkS46nGV" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>State lawmakers are moving ahead with legislative efforts to allow for the limited use of medical ‘cannabis’ while simultaneously forbidding anyone from either inhaling the herb or possessing its flowers</p><p>Many medical marijuana advocates cheered the news this week that members of the Utah Senate gave <a href="http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865623368/Utah-Senate-narrowly-endorses-medical-marijuana-bill.html">preliminary approval</a> to legislation to permit the use of medical cannabis preparations for qualified patients. No doubt the vote marked a significant change in attitude for lawmakers in the heavily Mormon state. But while the vote marked a ‘first’ for Utah, lawmakers’ decision to prohibit patients from legally possessing, inhaling, or vaporizing actual cannabis is part of a growing, and problematic, national trend.</p><p>While no state legislature has approved a law permitting medi-pot patients to grow their own medicine since New Jersey lawmakers banned the practice in 2012, few if any politicians sought to altogether prohibit patients from accessing cannabis flowers (where the majority of pot’s therapeutically active constituents are located) until Minnesota lawmakers addressed the issue last year. In a legislative compromise to appease the state’s Governor, <a href="///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/%3c%20http:/blog.norml.org/2014/05/19/minnesota-lawmakers-approve-medical-marijuana-compromise-measure">House and Senate lawmakers agreed</a> to amended legislation that, for the first time, mandated patients only be permitted to possess cannabis in non-smoked preparations such as pills or extracted oils (the latter of which could arguably still be vaporized). One month later, <a href="http://norml.org/news/2014/06/26/new-york-lawmakers-approve-medical-marijuana-compromise-measure">New York lawmakers enacted similar legislation</a> restricting the dispensing of medical cannabis only to non-smokeable formulations. And so the trend began.</p><p>This legislative session, lawmakers in several states – including <a href="http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2015/02/non-smokable_medical_marijuana_bill_filed_in_florida_house_by_two_republica.php">Florida</a>, <a href="http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/health/2015/03/02/senator-joe-bolkcom-medical-marijuana-cannabis-bill/24296225">Iowa</a>, <a href="http://www.mpp.org/states/kentucky">Kentucky</a>, <a href="http://www.buckslocalnews.com/articles/2015/03/04/bucks_news/doc54ee5e5608857211434936.txt">Pennsylvania</a>, and <a href="http://www.thespectrum.com/story/opinion/2015/03/03/view-medical-marijuana/24347197">Utah</a> are contemplating similar bans on patients’ access to whole plant cannabis and/or their ability to inhale cannabinoid preparations. Of these measures, the proposed Pennsylvania and Utah bills are the most restrictive. They bar patients from possessing cannabis flowers and further prohibit patients from smoking or vaporizing approved medical marijuana preparations. (Under <a href="http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&amp;sessYr=2015&amp;sessInd=0&amp;billBody=S&amp;billTyp=B&amp;billNbr=0003&amp;pn=0224">the Pennsylvania plan</a>, cannabis plants must be processed by state-licensed facilities into oils, tinctures, edible products, or ointments before they may be dispensed to qualified patients; <a href="http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0259.html">Utah’s proposal</a> similarly mandates dispensaries to only provide orally ingestible cannabis preparations to patients.)</p><p>Setting aside the practical matter of whether the enforcement of these proposed smoking bans are even feasible, the larger question remains. Is banning flowers in lieu of orally ingested cannabis preparations in the best interest of patients? Here is why it is not.</p><p><strong>Oral preparations not fast acting</strong></p><p>Patients seeking immediate symptomatic relief from medical cannabis, such as those suffering from conditions associated with migraine, severe nausea, or spasms, are unlikely to find non-inhalable forms of cannabis particularly effective. That is because orally consumed cannabinoids possess a significantly delayed onset of effect compared to inhaled cannabis.</p><p>When cannabis buds are inhaled – either via smoking or vaporization – the plant’s biologically active ingredients travel almost immediately from the lungs to the blood stream. They then quickly cross the blood brain barrier and are disseminated throughout the body – where they act on <a href="http://norml.org/library/item/introduction-to-the-endocannabinoid-system">endogenous cannabinoid receptors</a>. This is why subjects that inhale cannabis begin to feel its effects within minutes.</p><p>By contrast, cannabinoids present in orally consumed products must first be pass through the stomach and then be metabolized by the liver before ever reaching the blood stream – a biological process that may take some 20 to 30-minutes after the consumption of cannabis tinctures and as long as 60 to 90-minutes following the ingestion of cannabis edibles.</p><p><strong>Ingestible preparations are harder to self-regulate</strong></p><p>Because of the delayed onset inherent to orally ingested cannabis products, patients have a much more difficult time adequately regulating the substance’s dosing. Patients may wait well over an hour only to discover that they have taken an insufficient dose to provide effective relief. Or, conversely, they may discover that they have consumed a far greater dose than necessary – resulting in prolonged periods of dysphoria. (Orally consumed pot products are also associated with far longer duration of effect as compared to inhaled marijuana.) Proper titration is more readily achieved following inhalation because this administrative route results in the rapid onset of drug effect.</p><p><strong>Oral pot preparations possess significant bioavailability</strong></p><p>Bioavailability refers to the percentage of an active drug that is absorbed into the body following administration. This percentage is typically influenced by the chosen route of administration. The oral administration of ingestible cannabis products is associated with significantly greater bioavailability than is inhalation – resulting in more pronounced variation in drug effect from dose to dose (even in cases where the dose is standardized). Further, the liver typically converts significant quantities of orally consumed THC to the byproduct11-hydroxy-THC – a psychoactive metabolite that is often associated with increased psychotropic (and sometimes unpleasant) effects. By comparison, inhaled THC is associated with the production of only nominal quantities of 11-hydroxy-THC.</p><p><strong>But isn’t inhaling cannabis smoke as dangerous as exposure to tobacco smoke?</strong></p><p>Claims that the trend toward medi-pot ingestibles and away from flowers is necessary to address health concerns associated with smoking fail to hold up under scientific scrutiny. For example, <a href="http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/2/1/21">a 2005 review</a> published in the Harm Reduction Journal explains that although tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke possess some similar chemical properties, the two substances have different pharmacological activities and are not equally carcinogenic. Specifically, the paper affirms that marijuana smoke contains multiple cannabinoids – <a href="http://norml.org/library/item/gliomascancer">many of which possess anti-cancer activity</a> – and therefore likely exert “a protective effect against pro-carcinogens that require activation.” The author concludes, “Components of cannabis smoke minimize some carcinogenic pathways whereas tobacco smoke enhances some.” This conclusion was recently substantiated by <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24947688">a recent review</a> of several large-scale case-control studies published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2014. That paper concluded, "Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers.”</p><p>Other recent scientific assessments of marijuana smoke exposure further report that the two substances possess substantially different effects on pulmonary function. Both <a href="///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/%3c%20http:/jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1104848">a 2012 study</a> published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25521349">a 2015 study</a> published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society report that the daily inhalation of pot smoke  over long-term periods of time is not associated with the sort of adverse effects on the lungs commonly associated with tobacco smoking. “[T]he pattern of marijuana's effects seems to be distinctly different when compared to that of tobacco use," <a href="http://norml.org/news/2015/01/15/study-long-term-cannabis-exposure-not-associated-with-significant-effects-on-lung-function">Emory University researchers acknowledged</a> earlier this year.</p><p>While tobacco smoking is recognized as a major risk factor for the development of COPD – a chronic inflammation of the airways that may ultimately result in premature death – marijuana smoke exposure (absent concurrent tobacco smoke exposure) appears to present little COPD risk. Writing in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society in 2013, <a href="http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201302-034ED#.VMm6OCjnCB8">McGill University professor and physician Mark Ware concluded</a>: “Cannabis smoking does not seem to increase risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or airway cancers… Efforts to develop cleaner cannabinoid delivery systems can and should continue, but at least for now, (those) who smoke small amounts of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes can breathe a little bit easier.”</p><p><strong>Banning vaporization is irrational</strong></p><p>For those patients seeking the rapid onset of cannabinoid effect but who remain cautious about the potential consequences of cannabis combustion, vaporization is an alternate delivery device that has been proven to mitigate smoke exposure. Vaporization heats cannabis flowers or oils to a point where cannabinoid vapors form, but below the point of combustion – thereby reducing consumer’s intake of combustive smoke or other pollutants. Observational studies show that vaporization allows subjects to experience the rapid onset of effect while <a href="///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/%3c%20http:/www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/4/1/11/abstract">avoiding many of the associated respiratory hazards associated with smoking</a> – such as coughing, wheezing, or chronic bronchitis. Clinical trials also report that vaporization results in the delivery of higher plasma concentrations of THC (and likely other cannabinoids) compared to smoked cannabis – making it a far more efficient delivery method than either smoking or oral consumption. As a result, <a href="http://www.cmcr.ucsd.edu/">scientists affiliated with the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research</a> and <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16637053">elsewhere</a> now acknowledge that vaporizers provide a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17429350">“safe and effective”</a> way to for consumers to inhale herbal cannabis.</p><p><strong>Science, Not False Assumptions, Should Guide Medi-Pot Policy</strong></p><p>Lawmakers’ instincts to demand that medical marijuana be presented and administered in a manner similar to conventional therapeutics may be politically expedient, but is also troublingly naïve. Based on the available scientific record, it makes little sense for lawmakers to promote legislative bans on the possession or inhalation of cannabis flowers. Rather than addressing patients’ needs, these bans unnecessarily limit patients’ choices and deny them the ability to obtain rapid relief from whole-plant cannabis in a manner that has reliably proven to be relatively safe and effective.</p><p> </p> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 11:09:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1032834 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics Personal Health medical marijuana smoking vaping marijuana edibles Debunking the Latest Pathetic Fear Smear Campaign Against Marijuana http://www.alternet.org/drugs/debunking-latest-pathetic-fear-smear-campaign-against-marijuana <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">No, smoking pot likely will not make you psychotic. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_157734158_2.jpg?itok=4BZdZ75F" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The mainstream media was abuzz this week promoting an age-old claim: Smoking marijuana makes you crazy. </p><p>“Psychosis five times more likely for cannabis users: study,” a <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/psychosis-five-times-more-likely-cannabis-users-study-005717669.html">wire story</a> from Agence France-Presse declared. The UK Mail on Sunday <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2953915/Scientists-cannabis-TRIPLES-psychosis-risk-Groundbreaking-research-blames-skunk-1-4-new-mental-disorders.html">expressed</a> similar alarm, declaring, “Scientists show cannabis TRIPLES psychosis risk.” Somewhat surprisingly, it was Fox News that took the most reserved approach, <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/02/17/smoking-high-potency-marijuana-may-cause-psychiatric-disorders/">announcing</a> “Smoking high-potency marijuana may cause psychiatric disorders.”</p><p>So what was the source of this latest round of sensational headlines? Writing in the February 18 edition of the British journal The Lancet Psychiatry, investigators <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/pb/assets/raw/Lancet/pdfs/14TLP0454_Di%20Forti.pdf">assessed</a> rates of cannabis use in a cohort of South London first-episode psychosis patients versus pot use frequency in a similar group selected from the general population. Authors reported that subjects with psychosis were more likely to recall having used “skunk-like cannabis” daily as compared to controls, whereas those participants who reported primarily consuming hashish possessed <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/science/sifting-the-evidence/2015/feb/16/does-smoking-skunk-cause-psychosis-but-milder-cannabis-doesnt?CMP=share_btn_tw">no elevated risk</a><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/science/sifting-the-evidence/2015/feb/16/does-smoking-skunk-cause-psychosis-but-milder-cannabis-doesnt?CMP=share_btn_tw"> </a>of having such a diagnosis. (Researchers defined so-called skunk marijuana as cannabis possessing THC concentrations above 15 percent. Of course, since cannabis is illegal in Britain and the weed obtained on the black market is not subject to analytical potency testing, it is unclear how subjects in the study—or its authors—knew whether participants were consuming supposed "high-potency" herb or just regular, plain old weed.)</p><p>Authors also acknowledged that nearly half of patients with first-episode psychosis reported having smoked 100 cigarettes or more. These patients were also more likely to be black and were less likely to have completed high school compared to controls, though, predictably, none of these observed associations triggered international headlines.</p><p>“This paper suggests that we could prevent almost one-quarter of cases of psychosis if no one smoked high-potency cannabis,” senior researcher Sir Robin Murray, a psychiatric research professor at King’s College, <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/02/17/smoking-high-potency-marijuana-may-cause-psychiatric-disorders/">said</a> in the news release accompanying the paper’s publication. Murray’s statement, publicized widely by the mainstream media, was not only hyperbolic, but it also showed an apparent willful disregard for the scientific rule: association does not equal causation. In fact, patients with a variety of psychiatric disorders tend to consume numerous intoxicants, including pot but also <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizophrenia_and_smoking">tobacco</a>, at elevated rates compared to the general population – many of whom are likely engaging in this behavior as a form of self-medication. But this overlap is hardly evidence that one behavior causes the other.</p><p>What’s Old Is New Again</p><p>Think you have heard these pot-drives-you-insane claims before? You have. In 2007, The Lancet published a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17662880">meta-analysis</a> similarly <a href="http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20070726/pot-now-psychotic-later">alleging</a>, “People who have ever used cannabis, on average, have about a 40 percent increased risk of developing psychotic illness later in life compared with people who have never used cannabis." That the study’s authors cautioned that such an association "does not necessarily reflect a causal relation" between pot smoking and mental illness went largely unreported. </p><p>Yet, in the following years since, numerous (though far less publicized) studies have come to light downplaying the likelihood that cannabis use is a direct cause of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. Specifically, a 2009 paper in the journal Schizophrenia Research compared trends in marijuana use and incidences of schizophrenia in the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2005. Authors <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19560900">reported</a> that "incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining" during this period, even though pot use among the general population was rising. They concluded: "This study does not therefore support the specific causal link between cannabis use and incidence of psychotic disorders. ... This concurs with other reports indicating that increases in population cannabis use have not been followed by increases in psychotic incidence."</p><p>Similarly, a 2010 review paper published by a pair of British scientists in the journal Addiction <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02846.x/abstract">reported</a> that clinical evidence indicating that use of the herb may be casually linked to incidences of schizophrenia or other psychological harms is not persuasive. Authors wrote: "We continue to take the view that the evidence that cannabis use causes schizophrenia is neither very new, nor by normal criteria, particularly compelling. ... For example, our recent modeling suggests that we would need to prevent between 3000 and 5000 cases of heavy cannabis use among young men and women to prevent one case of schizophrenia, and that four or five times more young people would need to avoid light cannabis use to prevent a single schizophrenia case. ... We conclude that the strongest evidence of a possible causal relation between cannabis use and schizophrenia emerged more than 20 years ago and that the strength of more recent evidence may have been overstated."</p><p>More recently, researchers at Harvard University released a <a href="http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/10/harvard-marijuana-doesnt-cause-schizophrenia/63148.html">study</a> further rebutting this allegation. Writing in 2013 in Schizophrenia Research, investigators compared the family histories of 108 schizophrenia patients and 171 individuals without schizophrenia to assess whether youth cannabis consumption was an independent factor in developing the disorder. Researchers reported that a family history of schizophrenia increased the risk of developing the disease, regardless of whether or not subjects consumed weed as adolescents. They <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24309013">concluded</a>: “The results of the current study, both when analyzed using morbid risk and family frequency calculations, suggest that having an increased familial risk for schizophrenia is the underlying basis for schizophrenia in these samples and not the cannabis use.  While cannabis may have an effect on the age of onset of schizophrenia it is unlikely to be the cause of illness.”</p><p>In fact, some researchers speculate that specific cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), may even be efficacious in treating symptoms of psychosis. According to a <a href="http://cannabisclinicians.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/CBD-psychosis-2013.pdf">review</a> published in the January 2014 issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology: “CBD has some potential as an antipsychotic treatment. … Given the high tolerability and superior cost-effectiveness, CBD may prove to be an attractive alternative to current antipsychotic treatment.” Specifically, a 2012 double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled <a href="http://www.nature.com/tp/journal/v2/n3/full/tp201215a.html">trial</a> assessing the administration of CBD versus the prescription anti-psychotic drug amisulpride in 42 subjects with schizophrenia and acute paranoia concluded that two substances provided similar levels of improvement, but that cannabidiol did so with far fewer adverse side effects. </p><p>Case reports in the scientific literature also indicate that some patients turn to cannabis for subjective <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20420097">benefits</a>, though other studies indicate that pot use may <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25654244">exacerbate</a> certain symptoms in patients with psychiatric disorders. Nonetheless, even a recent <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.12703/abstract">paper</a> summarizing the “adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use” acknowledges, “It is difficult to decide whether cannabis use has had any effects on psychosis incidence, because even if a relationship were to be causal, cannabis use would produce a very modest increase in incidence.”</p><p>The Bottom Line? Mental Health Concerns Don’t Justify Criminalization</p><p>Is it possible that the habitual use of high-potency cannabis may potentially aggravate or even trigger psychiatric episodes in subjects predisposed to certain mental illnesses? Yes. However, such concerns are not persuasive justifications for continuing cannabis criminalization. Just the opposite holds true. There are numerous adverse health consequences associated with alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs, all of which are far more dangerous and costlier to society than cannabis. It is precisely because of these consequences that these products are legally regulated and their consumption is restricted to specified setting and to certain consumers (the most vulnerable of which, such as pregnant women, are often explicitly warned of the drug’s potential adverse effects in this population). It is time to once and for all ended society’s nearly century-long love affair with reefer madness and applied these same common sense principles to cannabis.</p> Sun, 22 Feb 2015 13:23:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1032265 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Media Personal Health marijuana psychosis mainstream media mental health Major New Study: Consuming Alcohol Poses a Much Larger Risk for Driving Accidents Than Cannabis http://www.alternet.org/drugs/major-new-study-consuming-alcohol-poses-much-larger-risk-driving-accidents-cannabis <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Drivers who test positive for the presence of THC in blood are no more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes than are drug-free drivers.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_162873131-edited.jpg?itok=ZpeVkf4Q" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Drivers who test positive for the presence of THC in blood <a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/232086-feds-find-no-link-between-pot-use-and-car-crashes">are no more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes</a> than are drug-free drivers, according to a federally sponsored case-control <a href="http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/2015/nhtsa-releases-2-impaired-driving-studies-02-2015">study</a> involving some 9,000 participants. The study, published Friday by the United States National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), is the first large-scale case-control study ever conducted in the United States to assess the crash risk associated with both drugs and alcohol use by drivers.</p><p>Authors reported that drivers who tested positive for any amount of THC possessed an unadjusted, elevated risk of accident of 25 percent (Odds Ratio=1.25) compared to controls (drivers who tested negative for any drug or alcohol). However, this elevated risk became insignificant (OR=1.05) after investigators adjusted for demographic variables, such as the drivers’ age and gender. After researchers controlled for both demographic variables and the presence of alcohol, THC-positive drivers’ elevated risk of accident was zero (OR=1).</p><p>By contrast, researchers reported that drivers who tested positive for low levels of alcohol possessed a statistically significant risk of accident, even after controlling for demographic variables (e.g., Drivers with a BAC of 0.03 possessed a 20 percent greater risk of motor vehicle accident [OR=1.20] compared to controls). Drivers with BAC levels of 0.05 possessed a greater than two-fold risk of accident (OR=2.07) while motorists with BAC levels of 0.08 possessed a nearly four-fold risk of accident (OR=3.93).</p><p>Researchers did not analyze drivers’ THC levels to similarly estimate whether higher or lower THC levels may impact crash risk in a dose-dependent manner, as has been <a href="http://www.bmj.com/content/331/7529/1371">previously reported</a> in some separate analyses of fatal crash data.</p><p>Authors concluded, “This finding indicates that these other variables (age, gender, ethnicity, and alcohol use) were highly correlated with drug use and account for much of the increased (crash) risk associated with the use of illegal drugs and THC.”</p><p>The study’s finding contradict allegations by NIDA and others that “<a href="http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana">marijuana use more than doubles a driver’s risk of being in an accident</a>,” but are largely consistent with those of a 2013 <a href="http://norml.org/news/2012/07/26/cannabis-other-illicit-drugs-associated-with-small-or-moderate-increases-in-accident-risk-study-says">literature review</a> published in the journal <em>Accident Analysis and Prevention</em> which reported that cannabis-positive drivers did not possess a statistically significant risk of a either fatal accident or a motor vehicle accident causing injury.</p><p><em>See NORML’s white paper on cannabis and psychomotor performance <a href="http://norml.org/library/item/cannabis-and-driving-a-scientific-and-rational-review?category_id=617">here</a>.</em></p><p> </p> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 12:15:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, NORML 1031659 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs thc cannabis driving alcohol crashes 5 Amazing New Discoveries About the Potential of Marijuana That You Won't Hear in the Corporate Media http://www.alternet.org/drugs/latest-cannabis-science-need-know <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Five new cannabis-centric studies warrant major attention.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/mimi-marijuana.png?itok=EUxYDKoq" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Scientific discoveries are published almost daily in regard to the healing properties of the cannabis. But most of these findings appear solely in subscription-only peer-reviewed journals and, therefore, <a href="http://www.alternet.org/drugs/latest-cannabis-science-mainstream-media-doesnt-want-you-know" target="_blank">go largely unnoticed</a> by the mainstream media and by the public. Here are five just-published cannabis-centric studies that warrant attention. </p><p><em><strong>Men Who Smoke Pot Possess a Reduced Risk of Bladder Cancer</strong></em><br /> <br />Is cannabis use protective against the development of certain types of cancer? The findings of <a href="http://http://www.goldjournal.net/article/S0090-4295(14)01206-0/abstract" target="_blank">a just released study</a> in the journal Urology imply that it might be. <br /> <br />Investigators at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, Department of Neurology assessed the association of cannabis use and tobacco smoking on the risk of bladder cancer in a multiethnic cohort of more than 80,000 men aged 45 to 69 years old over an 11-year period. The results? While men who smoked cigarettes possessed a 1.5-fold increased risk of cancer, those who only smoked pot possessed a 45 percent reduced risk of being diagnosed with the disease. <br /> <br />“After adjusting for age, race or ethnicity, and body mass index, using tobacco only was associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer (hazard regression 1.52) whereas cannabis use was only associated with a 45 percent reduction in bladder cancer incidence (HR 0.55),” investigators reported.<br /> <br />The study is not the first time that researchers have identified an inverse association between marijuana use and the development of cancer. In 2009, Brown University researchers <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19638490" target="_blank">similarly reported</a> that the moderate long-term use of marijuana was associated with a reduced risk of head and neck cancers in a multi-center cohort involving over 1,000 subjects. In addition, <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17035389" target="_blank">the largest case-controlled study</a> ever to investigate the respiratory effects of marijuana smoking found no positive association between inhaling pot and lung cancer risk. “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” pulmonologist Dr. Donald Tashkin, Professor Emeritus at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA told <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/25/AR2006052501729.html" target="_blank">The Washington Post</a>. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.</p><p><em><strong>Long-Term Pot Exposure Isn't Damaging to Lung Health</strong></em></p><p>All smoke is not created equal. <br /> <br />Unlike tobacco smoking, the inhalation of marijuana cigarettes – even long-term -- is not associated with significant adverse changes in pulmonary health, according to data published online in December in the journal <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25521349" target="_blank">Annals of the American Thoracic Society</a>.<br /><br />Investigators at Emory University in Atlanta assessed marijuana smoke exposure and lung health in a large representative sample of US adults age 18 to 59. Researchers reported that cannabis exposure was not associated with FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) decline or deleterious change in spirometric values of small airways disease. They further reported that marijuana smoke exposure may be associated with some protective lung effects among long-term smokers of tobacco, acknowledging, "[T]he pattern of marijuana's effects seems to be distinctly different when compared to that of tobacco use."<br /> <br />Their findings are similar to those of <a href="http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201212-127FR?journalCode=annalsats#.VNU33yjnCB8" target="_blank">a 2013 literature review</a>, published in the same journal, which concluded: "[H]abitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function. Findings from a limited number of well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use. ... Overall, the risks of pulmonary complications of regular use of marijuana appear to be relatively small and far lower than those of tobacco smoking."</p><p><em><strong>Alcohol, Not Pot, Alters the Brain</strong></em><br /> <br />It was less than a year ago when the mainstream media was chock-full of headlines like this one: ‘<a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140415181156.htm" target="_blank">Brain changes associated with casual marijuana use in young adults, study finds</a>.’ But a funny thing happened when a team of scientists from the University of Colorado and the University of Kentucky tried to replicate these results in a larger, more well-controlled cohort of subjects. <br /> <br /><a href="http://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/4/1505.short" target="_blank">They couldn’t</a>.<br /><br />“We acquired high-resolution MRI scans, and investigated group differences in gray matter using voxel-based morphometry, surface-based morphometry, and shape analysis in structures suggested to be associated with marijuana use, as follows: the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus, and cerebellum,” researchers summarized in the January 28 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience. “No statistically significant differences were found between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest. Effect sizes suggest that the failure to find differences was not due to a lack of statistical power, but rather was due to the lack of even a modest effect.”<br /> <br />They concluded, “In sum, the results indicate that, when carefully controlling for alcohol use, gender, age, and other variables, there is no association between marijuana use and standard volumetric or shape measurements of subcortical structures. … [I]t seems unlikely that marijuana use has the same level of long-term deleterious effects on brain morphology as other drugs like alcohol.”<br /> <br /><strong>Marijuana Use Doesn’t Lead to Depression</strong><br /><br />“Regular use of marijuana has also been linked to depression, anxiety, and a loss of drive or motivation.” So says the online publication, ‘<a href="http://http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-teens/want-to-know-more-some-faqs-about-marijuana" target="_blank">Marijuana: Facts for Teens</a>,’ published by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse. But is this claim true? No, according to <a href="http://http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25451420" target="_blank">longitudinal data</a> published online ahead of print in the Journal of Affective Disorders, which reports that future incidences of major depression are not higher among cannabis users compared to nonusers.<br /> <br />Investigators concluded, "Our results do not support a longitudinal association between cannabis use and increased incidence of MDD (major depressive disorder); rather, they indicate an inverse relationship between the two, which may be attributed to self-medication factors."<br /> <br />Previous studies have <a href="http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/195/6/492.full" target="_blank">similarly dismissed</a> the notion that pot use is associated with increased suicide risk. Specifically, <a href="http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2013.301612" target="_blank">a 2013 study</a> published in the American Journal of Public Health reported a drop in suicide rates in states that had legalized marijuana compared to those that had not, finding: “Suicides among men aged 20 through 39 years fell after medical marijuana legalization compared with those in states that did not legalize. The negative relationship between legalization and suicides among young men is consistent with the hypothesis that marijuana can be used to cope with stressful life events.”<br /><br /><strong>Marijuana Possesses a Unique Margin of Safety Compared to Other legal and Illegal Drugs</strong><br /> <br />Despite the US federal government’s <a href="http://blog.norml.org/2011/07/08/federal-government-reaffirms-flat-earth-position-regarding-medical-cannabis" target="_blank">ongoing insistence</a> that pot is one of the most dangerous substances known to man, an objective review of the plant’s safety profile finds that it is comparably safer than most other drugs, particularly alcohol. <br /> <br />Writing in <a href="http://nature.com/" target="_blank">Nature.com</a> this past January, an international team of German and Canadian researchers published <a href="http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150130/srep08126/full/srep08126.html" target="_blank">a comparative risk assessment</a> of the toxicity of tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis. Their evaluation concluded that the risks of cannabis have likely been “overestimated” while the dangers associated with booze “have been commonly underestimated.”<br /> <br />They concluded: “[Our] results point to risk management prioritization toward alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs. … [and] suggest a strict legal regulatory approach [for cannabis] rather than the current prohibition approach.”<br /> </p> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 10:12:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1031584 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health cannabis marijuana cancer lungs depression 5 Things the Media and Government Are Not Telling You About Marijuana http://www.alternet.org/drugs/5-things-media-and-government-are-not-telling-you-about-marijuana <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">News outlets continue to ignore research that belies government anti-pot propaganda.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_162873131-edited.jpg?itok=ZpeVkf4Q" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Previously, I penned an <a href="http://www.alternet.org/drugs/142815">essay</a> for Alternet titled "Five Things the Corporate Media Don’t Want You to Know About Cannabis." In it I proposed, “[N]ews outlets continue to, at best, underreport the publication of scientific studies that undermine the federal government's longstanding pot propaganda and, at worst, ignore them all together.” Little has changed since that piece was published.<br /><br />Here are five additional stories the mainstream media doesn't want you to know about cannabis.<br /><br /><strong>1. Long-term marijuana use is associated with lower risks of certain cancers, including head and neck cancer.</strong><br /><br />The moderate long-term use of marijuana is associated with a reduced risk of head and neck cancers, according to the results of a population-based case-control <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19638490">study</a>conducted by investigators at Rhode Island's Brown University and published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.<br /><br />Authors of the study reported, "After adjusting for potential confounders (including smoking and alcohol drinking), 10 to 20 years of marijuana use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma” compared to subjects who never used pot.<br /><br />Researchers further reported that subjects who smoked marijuana and consumed alcohol and tobacco (two conclusive high risk factors for head and neck cancers) also experienced a reduced cancer risk compared to non-cannabis users. “[W]e observed that marijuana use modified the interaction between alcohol and cigarette smoking, resulting in a decreased (cancer) risk among moderate smokers and light drinkers, and attenuated risk among the heaviest smokers and drinkers.<br /><br />"Our study suggests that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma,” investigators concluded.<br /><br />Similarly, a 2006 UCLA <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/25/AR2006052501729.html">study</a>of more than 2,200 subjects reported that marijuana smoking was not positively associated with cancers of the lung or upper aerodigestive tract – even among individuals who reported smoking more than 22,000 joints during their lifetime. Researchers further noted that among some users of the drug, cannabis smoking appeared to have a cancer preventive effect.<br /><br />Nevertheless, mainstream U.S. media outlets exhibited little-to-no interest in reporting on the Brown University findings, which failed to even garner a mention locally in the Providence Journal. One month following the study’s publication, international media wire service Reuters did devote some half-hearted coverage, which it published under the overtly skeptical headline “Could smoking pot cut risk of head, neck cancer?”<br /><br /><strong>2. Most Americans acknowledge that pot is safer than booze.</strong></p><p>Despite over 70 years of government propaganda alleging that cannabis is far more dangerous than alcohol, the reality is that few Americans believe it. Nor should they.<br /><br />According to an August 2010 national Rasmussen<a href="http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/lifestyle/general_lifestyle/july_2010/adults_see_alcohol_cigarettes_riskier_than_marijuana">poll,</a>  fewer than one in five Americans believe that consuming pot is more dangerous than drinking alcohol. By contrast, fifty percent of respondents, including the majority of those who said that they drank alcohol, rated the use of marijuana to be less dangerous than booze.<br /><br />By all objective measures the<a href="http://www.alternet.org/drugs/147392">majority</a> is correct. According to a 2009<a href="http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/publications/cannabis/bck/7">report</a>by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (which, not surprisingly, also went unreported by the mainstream press), health-related costs per user are eight times higher for drinkers than they are for those who use cannabis, and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers. It stated, "In terms of (health-related) costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user."<br /><br />A previous <a href="http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/general/who-conclusions.htm">analysis</a>  commissioned by The World Health Organization agreed, stating, “On existing patterns of use, cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies." So then why is the federal government still insisting on arresting and criminally prosecuting adults who consume pot in the privacy of their own homes? And why hasn’t the corporate media ever demanded that our elected leaders answer this question?<br /><br /><strong>3. The enforcement of marijuana laws is racially discriminatory.</strong></p><p>Minorities, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, disproportionately bear the brunt of marijuana arrests despite using cannabis at rates similar to – or in some cases, less frequently – than whites.<br /><br />For example, an <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/docUploads/Targeting_Blacks_for_Marijuana_06_29_10.pdf">August 2010 study (PDF)</a>commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance reported that African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession offenses in California at more than twice the rate of Caucasians. Authors determined: "Young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than young whites. Yet from 2004 through 2008, in every one of the 25 largest counties in California, blacks were arrested for marijuana possession at higher rates than whites, typically at double, triple or even quadruple the rate of whites.”<br /><br />The study concluded, "[B]acks were arrested for simple marijuana possession far out of proportion to their percentage in the total population of the counties. In the 25 largest counties as a whole, blacks are 7% of the population but 20% of the people arrested for possessing marijuana.”<br /><br />Arrest figures from New York City, the <a href="http://thesocietypages.org/graphicsociology/2009/02/18/marijuana-arrests-in-new-york-city/">marijuana arrest capitol</a>of the world, tell a similar tale. In 2009, New York City police made 46,400 lowest level marijuana possession arrests (NY State Penal Law 221.10) involving cases where cannabis was either used or, more often than not, possessed in public. Of those arrested, 54 percent were African American, 33 percent were Hispanic, and only ten percent were Caucasian. (Blacks and Hispanics together comprise approximately half of the city's population.)<br /><br />Nationally, the black arrest rate for marijuana offenses is 2.5 times the arrest rate for whites, according to a NORML commissioned study <a href="http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=5328 ">from 2000</a>. Yet it wasn’t until this year that civil rights organizations like the California chapter of the<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alice-huffman/marijuana-law-reform-is-a_b_637001.html ">NAACP</a>and the Latino Voters League finally began talking about the racially motivated nature of marijuana law enforcement. For the most part, editors and reporters for the MSM have still yet to notice.<br /><br /><strong>4. Marijuana may be helpful, not harmful, to people with schizophrenia.</strong><br /><br />For years now the mainstream media has run rampant with reports that smoking cannabis <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6201LW20100301">causes</a> or exacerbates mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. Yet several overlooked studies published earlier this year indicate that pot may actually be helpful to some patients with the disease. For example, in May a team of researchers writing in the Canadian Journal of Nursing Research<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20420097">reported</a> male schizophrenic subjects consumed marijuana "as a means of satisfying the schizophrenia-related need for relaxation, sense of self-worth, and distraction." (Survey data <a href="http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=7681">published</a> in 2008 in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing also reported that many schizophrenic patients obtain relief from cannabis, finding that subjects consumed cannabis to reduce anxiety, mitigate memories of childhood trauma, enhance cognition, and "improve their mental state.")<br /><br />A separate assessment of schizophrenic patients published in June in the journal Schizophrenia Research<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20483565">found</a>that subjects with a history of cannabis use demonstrate higher levels of cognitive performance compared to patients who had never used the drug.<br /><br />Investigators at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, the Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Princeton University compared the neurocognitive skills of 175 schizophrenics with a history of cannabis use with 280 subjects with no history of illegal drug use. Researchers reported that cannabis users demonstrated "significantly better performance" compared to nonusers on measures of processing speed, verbal fluency, verbal learning, and memory. Marijuana use was also associated with better over all GAF (Global Assessment Functioning) scores.<br /><br />Authors concluded: "The results of the present analysis suggest that (cannabis use) in patients with SZ (schizophrenia) is associated with better performance on measures of processing speed and verbal skills. These data are consistent with prior reports indicating that SZ patients with a history of (cannabis use) have less severe cognitive deficits than SZ patients without comorbid (cannabis use). ... The present findings also suggest that cannabis use in patients with SZ may not differentially affect the severity of illness as measured by clinical symptomatology."<br /><br />A second study published in 2010 by this same research team also questioned the media’s often repeated claim that pot use is a root cause of the illness, finding that cannabis use is not independently associated with the onset of psychosis in first-episode schizophrenia patients. The researchers <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20471224">concluded:</a>  "Although cannabis use precedes the onset of illness in most patients, there was no significant association between onset of illness and (cannabis use) that was not accounted for by demographic and clinical variables. ... Previous studies implicating cannabis use disorders in schizophrenia may need to more comprehensively assess the relationship between cannabis use disorders and schizophrenia."<br /><br />Other than this single story by <a href="http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2005559,00.html">Time Magazine’s Maia Szalavitz,</a> no other media outlets made mention of any of the above studies, and most continue to promote the federal government’s<a href="http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20050503/federal-report-marijuana-causes-mental-illness?src=rss_foxnews">specious allegation</a> that pot use causes depression, schizophrenia, and suicide.<br /><br /><strong>5. Workplace drug testing programs don’t identify impaired employees or reduce on-the-job accidents.</strong></p><p>Workplace urine testing programs are an inadequate method for identifying employees who are under the influence, and do not significantly reduce job accident rates, according to a completely ignored <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20402984">study</a>published this past March in the scientific journal Addiction.<br /><br />Investigators at the University of Victoria in British Columbia reviewed 20 years of published literature pertaining to the efficacy of workplace drug testing, with a special emphasis on marijuana – the most commonly detected drug. Researchers found: "[I]t is not clear that heavy cannabis users represent a meaningful job safety risk unless using before work or on the job; urine tests have poor validity and low sensitivity to detect employees who represent a safety risk; drug testing is related to reductions in the prevalence of cannabis positive tests among employees, but this might not translate into fewer cannabis users; and urinalysis has not been shown to have a meaningful impact on job injury/accident rates."<br /><br />Authors concluded, "Urinalysis testing is not recommended as a diagnostic tool to identify employees who represent a job safety risk from cannabis use."<br /><br />Not recommended but prevalent nonetheless. Many public employees in the United States are now mandated to submit to drug testing under federal workplace guidelines. And many private companies are no better. According to a 2006 <a href="http://www.theledger.com/article/20070206/NEWS/702060387">survey</a> conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 84 percent of employers required new hires to pass drug screenings, and 39 percent randomly tested employees after they were hired.<br /><br />Apparently corporate America, much like the corporate media, just hasn’t heard the news.</p> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 11:48:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, AlterNet 1031328 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Media marijuana alcohol legalization pot schizophrenia proposition 19 Major Health Study: Long-Time Pot Smokers Face Little Damage to Their Lungs http://www.alternet.org/drugs/pot-not-bad-your-lungs <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Some coughing, maybe; but serious issues, no. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_5.jpg?itok=tIJ4oAkG" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The inhalation of one marijuana cigarette per day over a 20-year period is not associated with adverse changes in lung health, according to <a href="http://Study: Long Term Cannabis Exposure “Not Associated With Significant Effects On Lung Function” by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 14, 2015 The inhalation of one marijuana cigarette per day over a 20-year period is not associated with adverse changes in lung health, according to data&lt;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25521349&gt; published online ahead of print in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society. Investigators at Emory University in Atlanta assessed marijuana smoke exposure and lung health in a large representative sample of US adults age 18 to 59. Researchers reported that cannabis exposure was not associated with FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) decline or deleterious change in spirometric values of small airways disease. Authors further reported that marijuana smoke exposure may even be associated with some protective lung effects among long-term smokers of tobacco. Investigators acknowledged, “[T]he pattern of marijuana’s effects seems to be distinctly different when compared to that of tobacco use.” Researchers also acknowledged that habitual cannabis consumers were more likely to self-report increased symptoms of bronchitis, a finding that is consistent with previous literature. Separate studies indicate&lt;http://norml.org/news/2012/04/19/cessation-of-cannabis-smoking-associated-with-declines-in-chronic-respiratory-symptoms&gt; that subjects who vaporize cannabis report fewer adverse respiratory symptoms than do those who inhale combustive marijuana smoke. Authors concluded, “[I]n a large representative sample of US adults, ongoing use of marijuana is associated with increased respiratory symptoms of bronchitis without a significant functional abnormality in spirometry, and cumulative marijuana use under 20 joint-years is not associated significant effects on lung function.” This study is the largest cross-sectional analysis to date examining the relationship between marijuana use and spirometric parameters of lung health. A separate study&lt;http://norml.org/news/2012/01/12/jama-long-term-exposure-to-cannabis-smoke-not-associated-with-adverse-effects-on-pulmonary-function&gt; published in 2012 in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) similarly reported that cumulative marijuana smoke exposure over a period of up to 7 joint-years (the equivalent of up to one marijuana cigarette per day for seven years) was not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function. A 2013 review&lt;http://norml.org/news/2013/07/11/study-marijuana-smoking-poses-relatively-small-risk-to-lungs-associated-with-far-fewer-adverse-effects-than-tobacco&gt; also published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society acknowledged that marijuana a smoke exposure was not positively associated with the development of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, or bullous lung disease. It concluded: “[H]abitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function. Findings from a limited number of well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use. … Overall, the risks of pulmonary complications of regular use of marijuana appear to be relatively small and far lower than those of tobacco smoking.” You may view an abstract of the study, “Effects of marijuana exposure on expiratory airflow: A study of adults who participated in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Study,” here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25521349.">data</a><a href="http://Study: Long Term Cannabis Exposure “Not Associated With Significant Effects On Lung Function” by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 14, 2015 The inhalation of one marijuana cigarette per day over a 20-year period is not associated with adverse changes in lung health, according to data&lt;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25521349&gt; published online ahead of print in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society. Investigators at Emory University in Atlanta assessed marijuana smoke exposure and lung health in a large representative sample of US adults age 18 to 59. Researchers reported that cannabis exposure was not associated with FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) decline or deleterious change in spirometric values of small airways disease. Authors further reported that marijuana smoke exposure may even be associated with some protective lung effects among long-term smokers of tobacco. Investigators acknowledged, “[T]he pattern of marijuana’s effects seems to be distinctly different when compared to that of tobacco use.” Researchers also acknowledged that habitual cannabis consumers were more likely to self-report increased symptoms of bronchitis, a finding that is consistent with previous literature. Separate studies indicate&lt;http://norml.org/news/2012/04/19/cessation-of-cannabis-smoking-associated-with-declines-in-chronic-respiratory-symptoms&gt; that subjects who vaporize cannabis report fewer adverse respiratory symptoms than do those who inhale combustive marijuana smoke. Authors concluded, “[I]n a large representative sample of US adults, ongoing use of marijuana is associated with increased respiratory symptoms of bronchitis without a significant functional abnormality in spirometry, and cumulative marijuana use under 20 joint-years is not associated significant effects on lung function.” This study is the largest cross-sectional analysis to date examining the relationship between marijuana use and spirometric parameters of lung health. A separate study&lt;http://norml.org/news/2012/01/12/jama-long-term-exposure-to-cannabis-smoke-not-associated-with-adverse-effects-on-pulmonary-function&gt; published in 2012 in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) similarly reported that cumulative marijuana smoke exposure over a period of up to 7 joint-years (the equivalent of up to one marijuana cigarette per day for seven years) was not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function. A 2013 review&lt;http://norml.org/news/2013/07/11/study-marijuana-smoking-poses-relatively-small-risk-to-lungs-associated-with-far-fewer-adverse-effects-than-tobacco&gt; also published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society acknowledged that marijuana a smoke exposure was not positively associated with the development of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, or bullous lung disease. It concluded: “[H]abitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function. Findings from a limited number of well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use. … Overall, the risks of pulmonary complications of regular use of marijuana appear to be relatively small and far lower than those of tobacco smoking.” You may view an abstract of the study, “Effects of marijuana exposure on expiratory airflow: A study of adults who participated in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Study,” here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25521349."> published online</a> ahead of print in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society.<br /><br />Investigators at Emory University in Atlanta assessed marijuana smoke exposure and lung health in a large representative sample of US adults age 18 to 59. Researchers reported that cannabis exposure was not associated with FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) decline or deleterious change in spirometric values of small airways disease.<br /><br />Authors further reported that marijuana smoke exposure may even be associated with some protective lung effects among long-term smokers of tobacco. Investigators acknowledged, “[T]he pattern of marijuana’s effects seems to be distinctly different when compared to that of tobacco use.”<br /><br />Researchers also acknowledged that habitual cannabis consumers were more likely to self-report increased symptoms of bronchitis, a finding that is consistent with previous literature. <a href="http://norml.org/news/2012/04/19/cessation-of-cannabis-smoking-associated-with-declines-in-chronic-respiratory-symptoms">Separate studies</a> indicate that subjects who vaporize cannabis report fewer adverse respiratory symptoms than do those who inhale combustive marijuana smoke.<br /><br />Authors concluded, “[I]n a large representative sample of US adults, ongoing use of marijuana is associated with increased respiratory symptoms of bronchitis without a significant functional abnormality in spirometry, and cumulative marijuana use under 20 joint-years is not associated significant effects on lung function.”<br /><br />This study is the largest cross-sectional analysis to date examining the relationship between marijuana use and spirometric parameters of lung health.<br /><br />A <a href="http://norml.org/news/2012/01/12/jama-long-term-exposure-to-cannabis-smoke-not-associated-with-adverse-effects-on-pulmonary-function">separate study</a> published in 2012 in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) similarly reported that cumulative marijuana smoke exposure over a period of up to 7 joint-years (the equivalent of up to one marijuana cigarette per day for seven years) was not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function.<br /><br />A <a href="http://norml.org/news/2013/07/11/study-marijuana-smoking-poses-relatively-small-risk-to-lungs-associated-with-far-fewer-adverse-effects-than-tobacco">2013 review</a> also published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society acknowledged that marijuana a smoke exposure was not positively associated with the development of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, or bullous lung disease. It concluded: “[H]abitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function. Findings from a limited number of well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use. … Overall, the risks of pulmonary complications of regular use of marijuana appear to be relatively small and far lower than those of tobacco smoking.”</p><p>You may view an abstract of this latest study, “Effects of marijuana exposure on expiratory airflow: A study of adults who participated in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Study,” <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25521349">here</a>.</p> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 09:24:00 -0800 Paul Armentano, NORML 1030328 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Personal Health marijuana lungs pulmonary function tobacco smoking