Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2017

mj_researchRepresentatives Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD-01), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19) introduced H.R. 3391: The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2017.

This Act amends the federal law to facilitate clinical investigations involving the use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products.

As you may know, there are many benefits to medical cannabis. Those suffering from PTSD, Tourette’s Syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, and many other debilitating conditions have found relief because of medical marijuana.  

But, despite the fact that over 200 million Americans now have legal access to some form of medical marijuana, present regulations make clinical investigations involving cannabis needlessly onerous. Passage of this measure would expedite federal reviews of clinical protocols, provide greater access to scientists who wish to study the drug, and mandate an FDA review of the relevant science.

Please click HERE to contact your Representative and urge him/her to support this important measure.

 

Setting the Record Straight

HumboldtOne of NORML’s primary missions is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults. One of the ways we successfully achieve this goal is by debunking marijuana myths and half-truths via the publication of timely op-eds in online and print media. Since the mainstream media seldom casts a critical eye toward many of the more over-the-top claims about cannabis, we take it upon ourselves to set the record straight.

The majority of NORML’s rebuttals are penned by Deputy Director Paul Armentano. In the past few weeks, he has published numerous op-eds rebuking a litany of popular, but altogether specious claims about the cannabis plant – including the contentions that cannabis consumption is linked to heart attacks, psychosis, violence, and a rise in emergency room visits and traffic fatalities, among other allegations.

Below are links to a sampling of his recent columns.:

Blowing up the big marijuana IQ myth — The science points to zero effect on your smarts

Blowing the lid off the ‘marijuana treatment’ racket

The five biggest marijuana myths and how to debunk them

It took just one distorted study for the media to freak out over health risks marijuana

Cannabis mitigates opioid abuse — the science says so

Three new marijuana myth-busting studies that the mainstream media isn’t picking up on

For a broader sampling of NORML-centric columns and media hits, please visit NORML’s ‘In the Media’ archive here.

If you see the importance of NORML’s educational and media outreach efforts, please feel free to show your support by making a contribution here.

Study: History Of Marijuana Use Associated With Decreased In-Hospital Mortality In Trauma Patients

thumbs_upTrauma patients who test positive for marijuana upon their admission to the intensive care unit are less likely to die during hospitalization than are age-matched controls, according to data published online ahead of print in The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.

A team of researchers from the University of Arizona analyzed the in-hospital mortality rates of adults admitted into the ICU over a five-year period, of which 2,678 were matched (1,339: marijuana positive, 1,339 marijuana negative).

Authors concluded: “Patients with a positive marijuana screen had a lower mortality rate (5.3 percent versus 8.9 percent) compared to patients with a negative marijuana screen. … Prospective studies with long-term follow up will be useful in answering many of the remaining questions surrounding the specific impact of marijuana on outcomes after trauma.”

Prior studies have similarly reported greater survival rates among marijuana-positive patients hospitalized for traumatic brain injuries and heart attacks as compared to matched controls.

An abstract of the study, “How does marijuana effect outcomes after trauma in ICU patients? A propensity matched analysis,” appears online here.

Yet Another Study Finds That Cannabis Use Is Not Independently Linked With IQ Decline

Marijuana researchCannabis use by teens is not independently linked with adverse changes in intelligence quotient or executive functioning, according to longitudinal data published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.

A team of investigators from the United States and the United Kingdom evaluated whether marijuana use is directly associated with changes over time in neuropsychological performance in a nationally representative cohort of adolescent twins. Authors reported that “family background factors,” but not the use of cannabis negatively impacted adolescents’ cognitive performance.

They wrote: “[W]e found that youth who used cannabis … had lower IQ at age 18, but there was little evidence that cannabis use was associated with IQ decline from age 12 to 18. Moreover, although cannabis use was associated with lower IQ and poorer executive functions at age 18, these associations were generally not apparent within pairs of twins from the same family, suggesting that family background factors explain why adolescents who use cannabis perform worse on IQ and executive function tests.”

Investigators concluded, “Short-term cannabis use in adolescence does not appear to cause IQ decline or impair executive functions, even when cannabis use reaches the level of dependence.”

Their findings are consistent with those of several other studies – including those here, here, here, and here – finding that cannabis use alone during adolescence does not appear to have a significant, direct adverse effect on intelligence quotient.

widely publicized and still often cited New Zealand study published in 2012 in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that the persistent use of cannabis from adolescence to adulthood was associated with slightly lower IQ by age 38. However, a follow up review of the data published later in the same journal suggested that the observed changes were likely due to socioeconomic differences, not the subjects’ use of cannabis. A later study by the initial paper’s lead investigator further reported that the effects of persistent adolescent cannabis use on academic performance are “non-significant after controlling for persistent alcohol and tobacco use.”

Muted stress response linked to long-term cannabis use

A new study reveals a dampened physiological response to stress in chronic cannabis users. This is the first study to examine the effects of acute stress on salivary cortisol levels in chronic cannabis users compared to non-users.

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its euphoric effects, but it also has anti-inflammatory benefits. A new study in animal tissue reveals the cascade of chemical reactions that convert omega-3 fatty acids into cannabinoids that have anti-inflammatory benefits – but without the psychotropic high.

Depression among young teens linked to cannabis use at 18

Young people with chronic or severe forms of depression were at elevated risk for developing a problem with cannabis in later adolescence, found a study looking at the cumulative effects of depression in youth.

Analysis: Criminal Justice Referrals Driving Youth Marijuana Treatment Admissions

arrestedOver half of all young people entered into drug treatment for marijuana are placed there by the criminal justice system and this percentage is increasing, according to data published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.

A team of researchers from Binghamton University in New York and the University of Iowa reviewed youth marijuana treatment admission data (TEDS-A) during the years 1995 to 2012.

Investigators reported that youth admissions for cannabis rose 65 percent during the study period – from 52,894 annual admissions in 1995 to 87,528 in 2012. Admissions rose most precipitously among Latinos (an increase of 256 percent since 1995) and African American youth (an increase of 86 percent). Criminal justice system referrals rose 70 percent during this same period, and now account for 54 percent of all substance abuse admissions by young people.

Among those in treatment, half exhibited little if any evidence of suffering from marijuana dependence. Specifically, 30 percent of all young people admitted into marijuana treatment since 2008 had no record of having consumed cannabis in the 30 days prior to their admittance. Another 20 percent of those entered into treatment had use cannabis three times or fewer in the month prior to their admission. Prior evaluations of TEDS data among adults have yielded similar results.

“Our findings indicate that the severity of drug use involved in those admissions has decreased,” authors concluded. “This study highlights the importance of identifying youth in actual need of treatment services.”

Since the late 1990s, both youth use of marijuana and the prevalence of so-called ‘cannabis use disorder’ by young people have declined significantly.

An abstract of the study, “Trends in youth marijuana treatment admissions: Increasing admissions contrasted with decreasing drug involvement,” is online here. My commentary about the data, “Blowing the lid off the marijuana treatment racket,” appears on Alternet.org here.

Study: No Increase In Problematic Cannabis Use By Young People Following Changes In Marijuana’s Legal Status

no_marijuanaYet another study has once again affirmed that the regulation of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes is not associated with increases in problematic cannabis use by young people.

Writing in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, federal investigators from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration evaluated marijuana use rates among young people (ages 12 to 17) between the years 2002 and 2014.

Researchers reported that the prevalence of past-year cannabis use by youth fell 17 percent during this time period. The prevalence of problematic use by young people fell by 25 percent – with a downward trend starting in 2011.

“In the United States, compared to 2002, even after adjusting for covariates, cannabis use decreased among youth during 2005-2014, and cannabis use disorder declined among youth cannabis users during 2013-2014,” authors concluded.

The study’s findings are consistent with those of numerous other papers reporting no uptick in youth marijuana use or abuse following the enactment of marijuana regulation, including those here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

An abstract of the study, “Cannabis use and cannabis use disorders in the United States, 2002-2014,” appears online here.

Study: Alcohol Use, But Not Cannabis, Associated With Changes In Brain Structure

marijuana_seedlingAlcohol consumption is associated with negative changes in gray matter volume and in white matter integrity, while cannabis use is not, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.

Investigators from the University of Colorado, Boulder and the Oregon Health & Science University evaluated neuroimaging data among adults (ages 18 to 55) and adolescents (ages 14 to 18). Authors identified an association between alcohol use and negative changes in brain structure, but identified no such association with cannabis.

“Alcohol use severity is associated with widespread lower gray matter volume and white matter integrity in adults, and with lower gray matter volume in adolescents,” they concluded. By contrast, “No associations were observed between structural measures and past 30-day cannabis use in adults or adolescents.”

Researchers acknowledged that their findings were similar to those of prior studies “suggesting that regionally specific differences between cannabis users and non-users are often inconsistent across studies and that some of the observed associations may actually be related to comorbid alcohol use.”

A 2015 brain imaging study published in The Journal of Neuroscience similarly reported that cannabis use was not positively associated with adverse changes in the brain, but that alcohol “has been unequivocally associated with deleterious effects on brain morphology and cognition in both adults and adolescents.”

Longitudinal data published in June in the British Medical Journal reported, “Alcohol consumption, even at moderate levels, is associated with adverse brain outcomes including hippocampal atrophy.”

An abstract of the study, “Structural Neuroimaging Correlates of Alcohol and Cannabis Use in Adolescents and Adults,” appears online here.

Closing medical marijuana dispensaries increases crime, according to new study

Contrary to popular belief, medical marijuana dispensaries (MMDs) reduce crime in their immediate areas, suggests a new report.

Study: Crimes Spike Following Closing of Dispensaries

3410000930_95fc2866fa_zThe closure of medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with an increase in larceny, property crimes, and other criminal activities, according to data published in the Journal of Urban Economics.

Researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Irvine assessed the impact of dispensary closures on neighborhood crimes rates in the city of Los Angeles. Investigators analyzed crime data in the days immediately prior to and then immediately after the city ordered several hundred operators to be closed. Authors reported an immediate increase in criminal activity – particularly property crime, larceny, and auto break ins – in the areas where dispensary operations were forced to close as compared to those neighborhoods were dispensaries remained open.

“[W]e find no evidence that closures decreased crime,” authors wrote. “Instead, we find a significant relative increase in crime around closed dispensaries.” Specifically, researchers estimated that “an open dispensary provides over $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented.”

They concluded, “Contrary to popular wisdom, we find an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open. The increase is specific to the type of crime most plausibly deterred by bystanders, and is correlated with neighborhood walkability. … A likely … mechanism is that ‘eyes upon the street’ deter some types of crime.”

The findings are consistent with those of prior studies determining that dispensary operations are not associated with ‘spillover effects’ in local communities, such as increased teen use or increased criminality.

An abstract of the study, “Going to pot? The impact of dispensary closures on crime,” appears online here.

Study: Cannabinoids Reduce Migraine Frequency

mj_researchThe prolonged daily administration of cannabinoids is associated with a reduction in migraine headache frequency, according to clinical trial data presented at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology.

Italian researchers compared the efficacy of oral cannabinoid treatments versus amitriptyline – an anti-depressant commonly prescribed for migraines – in 79 chronic migraine patients over a period of three months. Subjects treated daily with a 200mg dose of a combination of THC and CBD achieved a 40 percent reduction in migraine frequency – a result that was similar to the efficacy of amitriptyline therapy.

Subjects also reported that cannabinoid therapy significantly reduced acute migraine pain, but only when taken at doses above 100mg. Oral cannabinoid treatment was less effective among patients suffering from cluster headaches.

“We were able to demonstrate that cannabinoids are an alternative to established treatments in migraine prevention,” researchers concluded.

Some five million Americans are estimated to experience at least one migraine attack per month, and the condition is the 19th leading cause of disability worldwide.

According to retrospective data published last year in the journal Pharmacotherapy, medical cannabis consumption is often associated with a significant decrease in migraine frequency, and may even abort migraine onset in some patients.

A just published review of several studies and case-reports specific to the use of cannabis and cannabinoids in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research concludes: “[I]t appears likely that cannabis will emerge as a potential treatment for some headache sufferers.”

An abstract of the study, “Cannabinoids suitable for migraine prevention,” appears online here.

Study: Patients Report Substituting Cannabis For Opioids, Other Pain Medications

medical_mj_shelfPain patients report successfully substituting cannabis for opioids and other analgesics, according to data published online in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Kent State University in Ohio assessed survey data from a cohort of 2,897 self-identified medical cannabis patients.

Among those who acknowledged having used opioid-based pain medication within the past six months, 97 percent agreed that they were able to decrease their opiate intake with cannabis. Moreover, 92 percent of respondents said that cannabis possessed fewer adverse side-effects than opioids. Eighty percent of respondents said that the use of medical cannabis alone provided greater symptom management than did their use of opioids.

Among those respondents who acknowledged having recently taken nonopioid-based pain medications, 96 percent said that having access to cannabis reduced their conventional drug intake. Ninety-two percent of these respondents opined that medical cannabis was more effective at treating their condition than traditional analgesics.

Authors concluded: “[M]ore people are looking at cannabis as a viable treatment for everyday ailments such as muscle soreness and inflammation. … [T]his study can conclude that medical cannabis patients report successfully using cannabis along with or as a substitute for opioid-based pain medication.”

The study’s conclusions are similar to those of several others, such as these herehereherehere, and here, finding reduced prescription drug use and spending by those with access to cannabis. Separate studies report an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid-related abuse, hospitalizations, traffic fatalities, and overdose deaths.

Full text of the study, “Cannabis as substitute for opioid-based pain medication: patient self-report,” appears online here.

Legal cannabis laws impact teen use

A new study has found that adolescents living in medical marijuana states with a plethora of dispensaries are more likely to have tried new methods of cannabis use, such as edibles and vaping, at a younger age than those living in states with fewer dispensaries.

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