Nevada regulators have approved rules to allow for the expedited sales of cannabis to adults.
Members of the Nevada Tax Commission voted 6 to 1 on Monday to license select medical dispensaries to engage in retail sales of non-medical cannabis. Dispensaries in good standing with the state will be able to apply for “early start” licenses on May 15. Those facilities who are approved by state regulators will be able to engage in adult use marijuana sales on July 1.
Record numbers of voters support regulating the marijuana market and oppose federal efforts to interfere or undermine state laws permitting the plant’s use or sale, according to nationwide polling data released last Friday by Quinnipiac University.
Ninety-three percent of voters — including 96 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans — support “allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes,” the highest total ever reported in a national poll. Among those respondents older than 65 years of age, 92 percent endorsed legalizing medical marijuana.
Fifty-nine percent of voters similarly support making the adult use of marijuana legal in the United States. That total is in line with recent polling data compiled by Gallup in 2016 which reported that 60 percent of US adults support legalization — a historic high. Respondents who identified as Democrats (72 percent) were most likely to support legalization. Fifty-eight percent of Independents also expressed support, but only 35 percent of Republicans did so. Among the various age groups polled, only those over the age of 65 failed to express majority support for legalization.
Finally, 71 percent of respondents say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.” This percentage is the highest level of support ever reported with regard to limiting the federal government from interfering in states’ marijuana policies.
The rising support may provide a boost for pending federal legislation, HR 975: The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which prevents the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana. You can urge your members of Congress to support this act by clicking here.
The Quinnipiac University poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.
Maine has become the eighth state to eliminate criminal penalties specific to the adult possession and personal use of cannabis.
Language in Question 1: 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 medical cannabis program to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and/or the harvest of up to six mature plants.
Public use of marijuana is a civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine.
Maine voters narrowly passed Question 1 on Election Day.
In response to Question 1, Maine lawmakers passed separate legislation, LD 88, 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.
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.
JUST IN: Sessions Evades Firm Answer on State Marijuana Laws, Leaves Door Open for Federal Enforcement
During his confirmation for the position of Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions dodged giving a straight answer on how he will handle states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. Unfortunately, his answers did little to clear up his position.
After undergoing hours of questioning, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked Senator Sessions about how he would handle marijuana policy:
Senator Leahy: “Would you use our federal resources to investigate and prosecute sick people using marijuana in accordance with state law even though it might violate federal law?”
Senator Sessions: “I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law, Senator Leahy, but absolutely it is a problem of resources for the federal government. The Department of Justice under Lynch and Holder set forth some policies that they thought were appropriate to define what cases should be prosecuted in states that have legalized, at least in some fashion marijuana, some parts of marijuana.”
Senator Leahy: “Do you agree with those guidelines?”
Senator Sessions: “I think some of them are truly valuable in evaluating cases, but the fundamentally the criticism I think that is legitimate is that they may not have been followed. Using good judgement on how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine I know it wont be an easy decision but i will try to do my duty in a fair and just way
Senator Leahy: “The reason I mention this, is because you have some very strong views, you even mandated the death penalty for second offense on drug trafficking, including marijuana, even though mandatory death penalties are of course unconstitutional.
Senator Sessions: “Well I’m not sure under what circumstances i said that, but i don’t think…”
Senator Leahy: “Would you say its not your view today?”
Senator Sessions: “(laughs) It is not my view today.”
After that exchange, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) followed up with questions regarding how marijuana policy factors into federalism and asked if the way the Obama Administration has handled marijuana laws created any issues with separation of powers and states rights. Sessions replied that, “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act. If that's something thats not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule, it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”
So, after finally being put on the spot and questioned on the issue, we are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday. If anything, his comments are a cause for concern and can be interpreted as leaving the door open for enforcing federal law in legalized states. If Sessions wants to be an Attorney General for ALL Americans, he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population and support allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention.
In keeping with President-Elect Trump’s message of economic growth, the marijuana advocacy groups wrote: “Voters are less and less convinced that cannabis is a criminal problem and no longer want their hard earned tax dollars used to arrest and prosecute non-violent users or entrepreneurs and employees of state licensed cannabis businesses.”
Political leaders in several states are threatening to thwart the implementation of voter-approved initiatives specific to the regulation of marijuana.
In Massachusetts, where voters decided 54 percent to 46 percent on election day to legalize the cultivation, use, and retail sale of cannabis by adults, politicians have suggested amending the law and delaying its implementation. Specifically, lawmakers have called for pushing back 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 said in regard to the proposed changes.
In Maine, where voters narrowly approved 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 adamantly opposed the measure, said 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.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson made similar statements following voters’ decision to legalize 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 said. “This does not call for a state-by-state solution, it calls for … a national solution.”
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 less clear 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, stating in April, “[M]arijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”
In 2013, the Obama administration issued a memorandum 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 pollsters, nearly two-thirds of Americans support allowing states to decide their own cannabis policies.
Voters in eight states – Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota – approved statewide ballot measures this November regulating marijuana for either medicinal or social use.
With the 2016 election only days away, NORML is pleased today to release of our first ever Gubernatorial Scorecard Inspired by NORML's Congressional Scorecard, this extensive database assigns a letter grade 'A' through 'F' to every state governor based upon his or her comments and voting records specific to matters of marijuana policy.
Public opinion in support of marijuana law reform is at an all-time high. Nonetheless, few federal lawmakers are espousing views on cannabis policy that comport with those of the majority of their constituents. As a result, most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy is taking place at the state level. America's governors are our nation's most powerful, state-elected officials and they therefore play a key role in this ongoing legislative debate. NORML’s new Scorecard provides voters in all 50 states with pertinent information regarding where their governor stands on issues surrounding cannabis policy.
- 28 US governors received a passing grade of 'C' or higher (17 Democrats and 11 Republicans)
- Of these, only two US governors, both Democrats, received an 'A' grade
- 17 governors received a 'B' grade (11 Democrats and 6 Republicans)
- Nine governors received a 'C' grade (5 Republicans and 4 Democrats)
- 13 governors received a 'D' grade (All Republicans)
- Seven governors received a failing 'F' grade (All Republicans)
- Two governors received no grade because of insufficient data
- Of the 31 Republican US governors currently in office, 11 of them received a passing grade of 'C' or higher (35 percent)
- Of the 18 Democratic US governors currently in office, 17 of them received a passing grade of 'C' or higher (94 percent)
Similar to the findings of NORML's Congressional Scorecard, this gubernatorial analysis affirms that voters' views on marijuana policy are typically more progressive than the views held by the highest elected officials in their states -- 56 percent of whom received a passing grade from NORML. For example, while sixty percent of Americans support legalizing the use and sale of cannabis for adults, only four percent of state governors voice support for this position. Governors overall are also far less supportive of legislation to legalize the medical use of cannabis than are their constituents - approximately 80 percent of whom back these type of reform measures.
Also evident is that gubernatorial support for marijuana law reform falls primarily upon partisan lines. While over 94 percent of Democratic governors received a passing grade of 'C' or higher (one Democrat received no grade), fewer than 40 percent of Republican governors did so. Further, all of the governors who received either a 'D' or a failing grade from NORML are Republicans. Conversely, both of the governors who received a 'A' grade from NORML are Democrats. This partisanship lies largely in contrast to voters' sentiments, as the public tends to view many aspects of marijuana law reform, such as the regulation of medicinal cannabis, as non-partisan issues.
Commenting on the report’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “It is apparent that voters' views regarding marijuana policy have evolved significantly over the past decades. Yet, the positions of their governors have not progressed in a similar manner. Constituents ought to demand that their lawmakers legislate on behalf of policies that more closely reflect marijuana's rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”
To read how NORML’s grades were calculated and to review the individual profiles for the governors of all 50 states, please visit:http://norml.org/us-governors.
Rates of prescription opioid abuse are significantly lower in jurisdictions that permit medical marijuana access, according to data reported by Castlight Health, an employee health benefits platform provider.
Investigators assessed anonymous prescription reporting data from over one million employees between the years 2011 and 2015.
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.
The findings are similar to those reported by the RAND Corporation in 2015, which determined, “[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”
Data published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine also reported that the enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, finding, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”
Full text of the new study, “The opioid crisis in America’s workforce,” appears online here.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is pleased to present its 2016 Congressional Scorecard. The Scorecard is an all-encompassing database that assigns a letter grade 'A' through 'F' to members of Congress based on their marijuana-related comments and voting records.
THE TIME IS NOW
Now more than ever there exists majority public support for ending America's nearly century-long experiment with cannabis prohibition and replacing it with a taxed and regulated adult marketplace. Sixty-one percent of American adults believe that "the use of marijuana should be made legal," according to nationwide polling data provided by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Four in five US adults (81 percent) favor legalizing cannabis as a therapeutic treatment option, according to a 2015 nationwide Harris Poll, and 67 percent of voters believe that states, not the federal government, ought to be the ultimate arbiters of marijuana regulatory policy.
A majority of states have now parted ways with the federal government on marijuana policy. Twenty-six states classify low-THC strains of cannabis (hemp) as an agricultural crop, not as a controlled substance. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia permit the physician-supervised use of cannabis therapy for qualified patients. Sixteen states exempt the marijuana plant constituent cannabidiol (CBD) from the definition of cannabis and permit its use among qualified patients.
Four states – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington – have enacted regulations governing the adult use of cannabis, and permitting the plant's commercial production and retail sale. This November, voters in at least five states are anticipated to decide on similar legalization measures, while voters in three states will decide on medicinal marijuana ballot initiatives.
Members of Congress are increasingly becoming aware of this changing public and political sentiment. Over a dozen federal pieces of legislation are pending in Congress to amend federal marijuana policy. These include proposals to reclassify cannabis as a schedule II controlled substance, to limit the government's ability to interfere in the implementation of state marijuana laws, and to expand cannabis commerce. Nonetheless, federal leadership on the issue of marijuana law reform is still sorely lacking.
While states continue moving forward and pioneering reforms, the federal government still largely remains an obstruction to progress. The ongoing conflict between state and federal cannabis policy remains an unnecessary impediment to those jurisdictions wishing to fully explore the wide range of regulatory options before them. Ultimately, this is a conflict that can only be resolved by Congress, who possesses the authority to amend federal law.
HOW NORML'S CONGRESSIONAL SCORECARD WAS CALCULATED
The Congressional Scorecard grades members of the United States House and Senate on a simplified 'A' to 'F' scale.
An 'A' letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adults.
A 'B' letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the ability of a state to move forward with cannabis law reform policies free from federal interference.
A 'C' letter grade indicates that this member supports policies specific to the legalization of medical cannabis and/or the decriminalization of cannabis.
A 'D' letter grade indicates that this member has expressed no support for any significant marijuana law reform
An 'F' letter grade indicates that this member expresses significant and vocal opposition to marijuana law reform
Grading is based upon members' 2015 voting records, whether or not a member has sponsored or cosponsored legislation specific to federal marijuana law reform, whether or not a member has sponsored marijuana-related amendments, and/or their public statements or testimony. Those members with no voting record or comments on the topic received no grade.
Despite a number of marijuana--related measures pending before the 114th Congress, no bill has yet to receive a vote in committee or on the floor. By contrast, members of both chambers have decided on several cannabis-specific amendments attached to various appropriations bills.
NORML weighed the following votes when determining our grades for US Representatives:
The 2015 McClintock/Polis Amendment: This language, which was defeated by the House, sought to prohibit the Department of Justice from interfering with state-specific, adult use marijuana laws.
The 2015 Rohrabacher/Farr Amendment: This language, which was passed by the House, prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering with state-specific medical marijuana programs that license the production and dispensing of cannabis to qualified patients.
The 2015 Blumenauer Amendment: This language, which was defeated by the House, sought to permit physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use.
NORML weighed the following amendment votes when determining our grades for US Senators:
The 2015 Daines/Merkley Amendment: This language, which was passed by the Senate but later defeated in conference with the House, sought to permit physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use.
The 2015 Mikulski Amendment: This language, which was passed by the Senate, prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering with state-specific medical marijuana programs that license the production and dispensing of cannabis to qualified patients
The 2015 Merkley Amendment: This language, which was passed by the Senate but later defeated in conference with the House, sought to prohibit the US Treasury Department from using federal funds to take punitive actions against banks and other financial institutions that provide services to marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under state laws.
Below are NORML's key findings. Among the 535 members of the 114th Congress:
312 members (58 percent) received a passing grade of 'C' or higher (258 Representatives and 54 Senators)
Of these, 19 members (4%) received a grade of 'A' (17 Representatives and 2 Senators);
221 members (41%) received a 'B' grade (193 Representatives and 28 Senators);
72 members (13%) received a 'C' grade (48 Representatives and 24 Senators)
170 members (32%) received a 'D' grade (150 Representatives and 20 Senators)
37 members (7%) received failing grade (20 Representatives and 17 Senators)
54 Senators (54%) received a passing grade of a C or higher. (Two A's, 28 B's, and 24 C's)
258 Representatives (59%) received a passing grade of a C or higher. (17 A's, 193 B's, and 48 C's)
Of the 233 Democrats in Congress, 208 members (89%) received a passing grade of a 'C' or higher.
Of the 302 Republicans in Congress, 102 members (34%) received a passing grade of a 'C' or higher.
It is clear from this analysis that support for substantive marijuana law reform is far less pronounced among elected officials than it is among the voters they represent. While greater than 6 in 10 American adults believe that "the use of marijuana should be made legal," only 3.6 percent of Congressional members received an 'A' grade based upon their voting record and/or public statements. Similarly, while 67 percent of voters believe Congress should act to provide states that have legalized marijuana "a safe haven from federal marijuana laws," fewer than 45 percent of Congressional members espouse this position.
Regionally, it is clear that the southern United States possesses the least amount of support for marijuana law reform among federally elected politicians. Of the 37 members who received an 'F' grade, 17 of them (about 46 percent) represent states in the Southern region of the nation.
It is clear that voters' opinions with regard to cannabis policy are well ahead of that of their elected officials. While many advocates have been working tirelessly to amend their local and state marijuana, proponents must also engage in concerted efforts to educate federally elected officials. Here's how:
Become an engaged voter. Know who your federally elected officials are and where they stand on the issue of marijuana law reform. NORML's Congressional Scorecard can help you get started.
Urge your elected officials to take action. Use NORML's #TakeAction Center to stay up to date on pending federal legislation and use our pre-written letters to contact your members and urge their support. Visitors to NORML's #TakeAction Center have sent over 47,000 letter to members of Congress in the past year.
Team up with other advocates. Coordinating with local advocates through a NORML Chapter makes federally elected officials aware that voters are organizing in their district. Organizing locally also helps advocates build a consistent message.
Stay up to date on national lobbying events. NORML's 2016 Congressional Lobby Day is scheduled for May 23rd and 24th this year. Consider travelling to Washington D.C. to meet advocates from across the country and to lobby Capitol Hill together.
NORML is excited to share with you the results of its 2016 Congressional Scorecard. The full report will be released on 4/20. The information provided in the scorecard will periodically be updated as needed. Any questions, comments, or concerns specific to the scorecard are welcome and can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
**Important and timely publications such as this are only made possible when concerned citizens become involved with NORML. Please consider making a donation of at least $4.20 so we may continue to work towards legalization and providing you the tools necessary to be an informed voter**
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).
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?
Marijuana Smoke vs. Tobacco Smoke
Writing in the Harm Reduction Journal in 2005, noted cannabis researcher Robert Melamede explainedthat 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 anti-cancer activity – 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.”
Marijuana Smoke and Cancer
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 study 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, concluded: “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.”
A meta-analysis 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 studydetermined 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.
Marijuana Smoke and Pulmonary Function
According to a 2015 study 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.
Marijuana Smoke and COPD
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 wrote 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.”
Mitigating Marijuana Smoke Exposure
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.
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 avoiding many of the associated respiratory hazards associated with smoking – 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. As a result, the authors affiliated with the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research and elsewhere now acknowledge that vaporizers provide a “safe and effective” way to for consumers to inhale herbal cannabis.
The Bottom Line
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 Minnesota and New York and which are now being proposed in several other states (e.g., Georgia and Pennsylvania). Oral cannabis preparations, such as capsules and edibles, possess delayed onset 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.
- See more at: http://blog.norml.org/#sthash.6jA0sJiF.dpuf
Is There a Link Between Consuming Marijuana and Decreased Obesity Rates? New Study Shows a Connection
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 data published online ahead of print in the journal Health Economics.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
The abstract of the study, “The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Body Weight,” appears online here.
Scientific discoveries are published almost daily rebuking 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.
Early Onset Pot Use Isn’t Associated With Adverse Outcomes in Adulthood
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 prospectively examined 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.”
A separate evaluation of this same cohort published in August in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 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."
Providing Medical Cannabis Access Reduces Opioid Abuses
Is legalized pot a gateway to fewer opioid-related deaths? The data says ‘yes.’ According to findings 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.
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.”
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 Journal of the American Medical Association in 2014 also concluded, "States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws."
Pot Is a Frequent Substitute For Alcohol, Other Drugs
Legalized pot isn’t just associated with the less frequent use of opiates. Data published this month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review 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, Canadian researchers reported, “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.
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.”
Forget ‘The Munchies’ – Pot Consumers Are Less Likely to Be Obese
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 Obesity.
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."
While these latest findings run counter to stoner stereotypes, they are hardly novel. Observational trial data published in 2012 in the British Medical Journal reported 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 American Journal of Epidemiology similarly reported that the prevalence of obesity in the general population is sharply lower among those who consume the herb compared to those who do not.
Despite Legalization, Teens Aren’t Using More Pot (But They Are Consuming Far Less Alcohol and Tobacco)
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 time after time – they simply lie about it.
Nonetheless, the evidence is clear. According to the federal government’s own 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health report, 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.
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.
Separate data published by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin further reports that a greater proportion of younger adolescents are now acknowledging “strong disapproval” of marijuana use.
In short, more teens are not turning to pot. But they are turning away from more dangerous substances like alcohol and tobacco like never before.
Republican Presidential Candidates Engage In A Serious Discussion About Marijuana Policy - It’s A Start
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 who spoke on the issue during tonight’s Presidential debate.
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 The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act to strengthen statewide medical marijuana protections and impose various changes to federal law.
By contrast, Gov. Christie reaffirmed 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.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who shares Gov. Christie’s position, did not comment.
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 poll, 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 Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, report even greater voter sentiment in favor of this position.
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.
National polls 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.
You'll Never Believe What Drug a Major Federal Health Official Called 'Safe' with 'No Addictive Effects'
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 an op-ed published by The Huffington Post.
Volkow further acknowledged, “[P]reliminary data suggest that it may have therapeutic value for a number of medical conditions.”
Preclinical studies have documented CBD to possess a variety of therapeutic activities, including anti-cancer properties, anti-diabetic properties, and bone-stimulating activity. Clinical and observational trials have documented the substance to possess anxiolytic , anti-psychotic, and anti-seizure activity in humans. Safety trials have further concluded the substance to be “safe and well tolerated” when administered to healthy subjects.
To date, 15 states have enacted laws specifically permitting the possession of high-CBD formulated extracts for therapeutic purposes, primarily for the treatment of pediatric epilepsy.
In a recent Time Magazine op-ed, 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.”
Under federal law, CBD — like cannabis — is defined as a Schedule I controlled substance 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.”